Last week, my family got together for a family reunion. But this was no ordinary get-together. It was extraordinary because all 31 in my family were there — my parents, their five kids and spouses, and all the grandkids and great-grandkids. And it was even cooler because of the reason we gathered: to celebrate my parents’ 60th anniversary.
It was a fun weekend. The food was good; the weather was nice; and my team even won the Ultimate Frisbee game we played. But more importantly, this was the first time all 31 of us had been in the same place at the same time. And it was obviously the first time my mom and dad had a chance to celebrate 60 years of marriage.
I love getting together with my family, for special occasions or for just run-of-the-mill visits. And as I reflect on why I love (and need) family, five things come to mind:
- We are family, no matter what. Family is a place of love, no matter what we face — for family is the place where we are meant to face whatever we face, together. Is this always easy? No. Does it sometimes require hard choices? Absolutely. But family should always be the one place (even if it’s the only place) where I can be loved. No matter what.
- What unites us as a family is more important than what divides us. As I think about all the people in my family, there are some noticeable differences. Some worship at churches very different than what I am used to. Others look at life differently, or have everyday lives very different than mine. But what holds us together is not that we agree on everything; it’s that we are family. No matter what.
- It’s really cool watching my family grow. When we gathered, I got to meet my six-month-old great-nephew, Hudson, for the first time. And see his big brother Caleb for only the second time. Wow, had he changed! Is there any better place than family to watch others grow — physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Day after day, year after year, decade after decade — it is in family that we get to watch growth, and walk together through the growth that comes through the long journey of life.
- Life is better with others you love. Need I say more?
- Laughter and joy should come naturally. And in family they do. It was fun watching my kids laugh with their cousins at our family reunion. I loved seeing my dad tease my children — and having them see that my sense of humor is a genetic condition. It was cool watching the grandkids reenact how my parents met and got married. And I loved hearing my six-year-old great nephew tell me repeatedly how great it was that our team won the game of Ultimate Frisbee. Life is meant to be joyful. Sure it has its times of sadness, grief, anguish. The wise person doesn’t overlook those. But joy says there is something deeper, something more meaningful than our deepest pain. An insightful person once said that at the heart of the universe is laughter — the laughter of a God whose crazy, extravagant love meets us where we need it most. And oftentimes, the place we see this most clearly, is in family — when we share the joy of the journey with each other.
So, even when my family faces challenges (as they all do), I want to remember these five things. How about you?