What is summer without a family reunion or a family get-together sprinkled with lively children, frisky dogs, and ice cream? In my book, that’s part of the quintessential definition of summer. My childhood summers always included the mandatory grandparent/aunt/uncle/cousin get-together, a dining table ladened with tender roast beef, fried corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, and garden-fresh sliced tomatoes. (The cousins were relegated to the “children’s table” in the kitchen where we could talk, laugh, and play with our food to our hearts’ content.) After meals, we’d play in the attic and parade about wearing dresses from our aunt’s college days and then tumble outside to run here and there to the tune of twittering birds and droning cicadas amidst glittering lightening bugs. Happy times.
Just the other weekend, we enjoyed a small semblance of those times. There were aunts and an uncle. There were cousins. Little children were missing, but a frisky puppy made his appearance. The dining table was full with food and family faces once again and although the roast beef gave way to sweet potato burritos and guacamole, there were still garden-fresh sliced tomatoes. (And this time, all the cousins were grown, so we were all at the dining table!) We enjoyed walks through our shady neighborhood, stopping here and there when the puppy decided to sit down or tangled his leash around a bush. And in the evening, we relaxed in our small screened-in porch, once again lulled by twittering birds and droning cicadas, and reveling in the wonder of God’s creative handiwork of each glittering lightening bug we spotted.
After we all attended worship the next morning, we went to lunch together. Leaving the restaurant, my cousin whispered in my ear, “What a great family,” and I couldn’t help but agree with a thankful, wiser heart.
Looking back, it’s funny, how you view things when you’re very young. My daughter, at age 5, used to think that whatever was playing on our car stereo was playing in all the other cars around us. She’d see someone smiling in another car and attribute that to the fact that we were playing John Lithgow’s uproarious “Singin’ in the Bathtub”. Then she’d see someone looking serious and attribute that to the classical music we were playing! Growing up myself, I thought every family was the same as mine: lots of stories, lots of laughter, playing games, and worshipping together.
Now in her early twenties, our daughter laughs over that instance of a young, self-absorbed world view. And now, since knowing many more families myself, I’ve realized my perspective was a bit naive, as well. Yes, we have a great family and now I realize it’s a great blessing as well, but many people–people I love and care for and people I don’t even know–have families with lots of contention, lots of disappointment, playing around, and discounting God. And some families have a mixed bag, a little of both worlds.
In the end, however, it really doesn’t matter what your family here on earth was or is like. Whether it’s out of a storybook or a nightmare–or somewhere in between–that doesn’t matter at all. Because, even if Aunt Ruby said that we were “the sweetest thing ever” for as long as we can remember, we are all broken sinners, in need of a savior.
Which brings me to a different kind of family. It’s the family spoken of in John 1:12:
“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
We read in that first chapter of John that God has given us the “right to become children of God.” It’s not automatic. It’s an opportunity, a choice we are capable of making. We have the opportunity, the invitation. And if you realize (along with Aunt Ruby) that,
you are a broken sinner in need of a savior, and
you believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, and
that He died for your sins on the cross
was buried in a tomb,
rose to life after 3 days,
and will come again to call you home,
God has called you into a new family:
And you’re in God’s family!
“See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are!” 1 John 3:1, 2
You’re a child of God! Isn’t that wonderful news, dear sister and brother?!
Now let’s fast-forward to another family reunion.
When our time on earth has reached the fullness God has ordained for each of us, He will call us home. And what a family reunion that will be, complete with the wedding feast of the Lamb, of Christ!
Will we hear stories from our favorite Bible characters? Will Noah share a funny story about the peacocks and the crocodiles? Will Paul recount his shipwrecks? Will we be in awe, gazing at the reunion of the disciples, at unexpected surprises, at sights too beautiful for words and sounds of angels too glorious for recognition, and at the face of our Savior? Yes!
That’s going to be a family reunion like no other. I’m eager to be there; aren’t you?
Remember, Christ is ever with us, ordering our steps (Psalm 31:15), numbering our days, and–when time reaches fullness–we will all be truly home. What a joy it will be to see you there, my brother and sister, and what a reunion time we will have!
Until then, grace and peace and joy!