Note: I wrote this about a month ago, and I chose not to post it because I was not sure on how it would be received. I should have posted it; and now I regret not doing so. I haven’t really completed another post since. God was waiting on me. So. Here it is.
I have a complicated history with my biological father’s side of the family. Most of my siblings and I share a father, which means that we didn’t all live in the same place. Maybe I was the farthest away for a while? My paternal grandmother Earnestine was the consolidating factor; but when she died (I was pretty young, maybe 9-10?) all my efforts to stay connected were…rebuffed. All my father’s children, my cousins, aunts, uncles–my father himself–all have relationships with each other. I am forever the odd man out.
Over the last 5 years, I have reconnected with everyone that I could–mostly because my siblings and cousins were looking for me even when the adults did not. They have all been warm and loving and welcoming; yet it is awkward for me not because they aren’t being loving but because I have no relationship with them, no connecting memories. When they tell stories to me, freely painting pictures of their lives, I appreciate it. I really do. But I am also hyperaware that I exist in none of those stories. I have no pictures to post of us together making moments to capture. I am a spectator in a life I will never be completely grafted into. And the only way to overcome that sensation of family as spectator sport is the making of memories together.
God understands this dynamic.
When you enter into a relationship with God, God immediately begins to make memories with you, to show up in ways that give you a story to tell “about the time that God…” Because God knows that relationships that have the anchor of memory and experiences last when things get harder. When times are tough, what cleaves us to Him is our testimony.
If you belong to a ministry or church, you’re job isn’t just to make folks who are looking for Jesus feel welcome. You welcome guests and strangers. No, your goal should be to make people feel like family. And that means sometimes putting away your inside jokes and to stop dwelling on “remember whens” while new people are around. It makes them feel as though they are imposing, encroaching on your private spaces when that space–the church family–should be for all.
Stay present for new souls led to fellowship with you. And by that I mean what I said: stay out of your past, and focus on ways to include the new people into the family of Christ. To make people feel wanted is to guarantee that the sheep will actually beget sheep.