Over the last few weeks, I’ve come to the point of reevaluating the concept of family. I was raised being told that family members are the people who love you most. This was a very hard idea for me to process. After being told I was worthless and many other things growing up, this thought made me feel like I must be a very unlovable person.
As an adult, I added more family that also made it clear that I was “not enough” and not loved. This compounded my belief that I was unlovable. If these were the people who were supposed to love me most, then I was meant to never know real love. Don’t get me wrong, there are those in my family who I’ve never doubted their love for me. They’ve shown it over and over. I love them as well. I also love the ones who haven’t been that kind of family to me. I would never want anything bad to happen to them. However, I also know that I had the clear leading to walk away from them. Loving others doesn’t mean you have to have a relationship with them, just like forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to reconcile with them.
Even though I know these things, it is hard for me to know there are those in my family and extended family who don’t love me. They have either not liked me from the beginning, they didn’t like that I refused to agree with everything they did and said or they were upset with my walking away. After being told family was the best that love could give, I have viewed love in a very skewed way. I actually have approached it as something from which I needed to be protected.
So, is my concept of love the problem or the concept of family? When I think it through, I’m tempted to think that maybe I’m just completely clueless of what love is and maybe this is what it really looks like. Then, as I contemplate it more, I realize that I do know what love is – both in what it feels like to be loved and how to show love. I have people in my life who have been there for me through thick and thin, the good and the bad, the disagreements and the laughter. I have come to the point where I call one of my friends my “twin” brother and I have two girlfriends that I think of as my sisters. I refer to one as my sister friend and my other is a friend from college where our families have grown together and we have always gotten together on a regular basis. I think of all of their families as my family, too – their kids are my nieces and nephews as far as I’m concerned.
Yet, I still struggle and still feel like I am “less than” because some members of my blood and extended family didn’t and don’t love me. One of the roughest things I’ve struggled with is the feeling that I am someone who is easy to walk away from or abandon. This was only solidified when the one I loved committed suicide. However, these people who I have taken on as my family stand by me and I with them through thick and thin. But they’re my friends, not my family, right?
As I was struggling with this recently, my sister friend reminded me that even Jesus had family who didn’t follow Him and stood against Him. Jesus gave a new definition of family. He said that those who follow His Father in Heaven are our family (Mark 12:48-50). Family doesn’t have to be related by blood or legally in any way. Family members are those people who love you no matter what. They support you through everything and don’t let rough times fester but, instead, talk them through because the other person matters.
I guess, then, that the idea I was told so often is true – family members are the people who love you most. And when that love comes wrapped in God’s love, it is strong. The thing is, it’s up to you to decide. Who is your family?
~ Joanna Lynn