Updated: Feb 12, 2019
There are so many different versions of family. Some have two parents, and some have one parent. Some have one child, and some have fifteen. Some have half siblings and step parents, and some children are cared for by grandparents. Some families are related by blood, and some families are formed through adoption or friendship. Some families are close and inseparable, and some no longer talk to each other. And unfortunately, some families have caused great damage to one another. Regardless of what your family looks like, what we all have in common is a degree of imperfection. When I became a parent, I learned that for many of us, we learn this whole parenting thing as we go. We screw up, and we try again. (I call my first-born my guinea pig.) My husband and I do the best we can, but we’re guaranteed to still leave our children with some unintended baggage. Even the best intentioned parents pass on their bad habits, yell sometimes, forget to follow through with punishments, allow too much screen-time, roll their eyes and sigh audibly, allow an occasional all-cookies lunch, and many times they wish bedtime would arrive quicker.
No matter what degree of imperfection infiltrates your family, you have an invitation to become part of God’s family. This isn’t just a formality or a title, it is an actual adoption into God’s family as his child. It is an invitation to have a perfect parent who never takes a misstep, and an invitation to learn and take on the culture of your new family. In John 3:1-21, Jesus talks to Nicodemus, a Pharisee. Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to be a part of God’s kingdom, he needed to be born again. (This phrase is one that is used heavily in church, and many of you have probably heard it before. But imagine hearing it for the very first time and how strange the idea would be.) Nicodemus got a little stuck in the land of the literal and imagined himself crawling back into his mother’s womb. Jesus explained that while humans give birth to human life, it is the Holy Spirit that gives birth to spiritual life. He explained that he was sent here by God so that we could live forever with him. He said that there is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. We often hear this story and are taught about how being born again gives us freedom from our sin, which it does. We know that by walking with God, we are lessening sin’s grip on our lives while being guided towards better actions. But what we forget is that we are also part of a new family. Families have their own culture, inside jokes, and their own traditions. The only way to acquire these from our new Heavenly family is to grow closer in relationship to our new parent.
This isn’t just a formality or a title, it is an actual adoption into God’s family as his child.
I think we may be doing ourselves a bit of a disservice by continuing to call God our “Heavenly Father.” He is indeed Heavenly, he is our new Father once we are born again, and he so deserves the respect and reverence that such a title delivers. However, on our end, it separates him, putting him so far away and foreign to us. Maybe you call your biological dad, “Father,” but if I ever called my dad this, it would only make us wet our pants from laughter at the formality. I call him “Dad” or sometimes, ”Fasha,” in reference to the ever-so-relevant “Austin Powers in Goldmember." (Am I losing my credibility yet?) He also greets me with, “Ahoy-hoy!” every time we talk on the phone as an active rebellion against Thomas Edison’s preferred, “Hello.” My point is, because I love my dad, I call him nicknames that have the implication of closeness, and we revel in the inside jokes we share. Imagine having that kind of relaxed closeness and easy comfort with God.
If you are meeting a close family member (or close friend) for lunch, how do you greet them? Do you greet them with their formal title (i.e. Sister, Aunt, Father) and start reading off a list of things you need them to do for you? I sure hope not. No, we hug each other, we share what’s going on in our lives, we laugh, and we enjoy each other’s company. But what do we do when we spend time with God? We address him with a well-meaning, honorable title, then we begin to tell him all the things we need him to do and why. God is not a mystical tool we use just to better ourselves. He created us for relationship with him. When we grow closer to him, he begins to transform us into who he created us to be. He is our protector: he loves us and wants us to do well. When we are scared, sad, depressed, or distressed, he doesn’t require a formal prayer where we plead our case to him. We can just say his name and feel his embrace and comfort. Even when we screw up, he will hug/comfort us first and teach later.
God is not a mystical tool we use just to better ourselves.
I once talked to my young daughter about what Heaven was like. I told her that the best part is that we get to be with God. “You mean see him?” she asked, excitedly. I said, “Yes! What do you think you’ll ask God when you see him?”She paused and eventually said, “ I can’t say anything but ‘I love you, I love you, I love you!’”
This is why Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children when it comes to their faith and relationship with him. (Mark 10:13-16) Kids just get it. My daughter doesn't have a list of questions she wants to ask, seeking to gain knowledge from God. She just wants to love him like she loves her biological dad. She wants to sit on his lap and exchange stories, enjoy his company, occasionally ask for cookies, and just love him. This is what loving families do.
In the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was teaching a crowd. His mother and brothers came to see him, but couldn't get to him because there were too many people. Someone told Jesus his family was there, but he replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35) This isn't a demonstration of how little Jesus respects or values his family. It is a demonstration of how much he values us. Jesus loves his followers as if they were equal to his own biological family. When we are born again, we are born into Jesus’ immediate family. How great is that?!
This isn't a demonstration of how little Jesus respects or values his family. It is a demonstration of how much he values us.
“You parents - if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him” Matthew 7:9-11
Whether you come from a happy family or a family that you’re forced to recover from, we really can’t fully understand just how vast God’s love for us is. But as you begin to grow in relationship with Jesus, it becomes clearer and clearer. God’s faithfulness will show up in places you never expected. He is the perfect parent. Allow him to adopt you into his family, and you can begin to approach him as you would the relative/friend with whom you’re most comfortable. Enjoy God’s company. Don’t view time with God as a box on a checklist that you have to finish. Grab a coffee, laugh together, tell him your stories, and tell him you love him. You’ll soon begin to feel his warm embrace.
If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ve probably noticed music really speaks to me. I find my best conversations with God begin with music. If you’re like me in this respect, here’s two songs you can listen to to reinforce this week’s message on being a part of God’s family. See you next week!
...We are, we are, we are, we are
Renamed, adopted in
We are, we are, we are, we are
Kings in a kingdom with no end
We are, we are, we are, we are
Crowned in dignity
We are, we are, we are, we are
Heirs to majesty
We're made for victory
We're given authority
To reign like kings and queens
...In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
I am chosen
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am...
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