On Defining Home & Family
written by Kate Gray
Imagine a scenario with me. You are standing at a crossroads, a place where several roads diverge. To your left and right are paths that continue to twist and fork further down the line, while the road in front of you is straight and long. There are no signs, no visible markers to distinguish one direction from another. The sun has set a while ago, and thick, grey clouds block out the moon. All you have with you is a dimly lit lantern. How would you know which path to take? The unknowing traveler might choose the center path, the straight, and simple. What they do not realize is that the easy path is not often the right one. Which path would you choose? How do you know that is the right one to follow?
As many of my newly graduated friends and I are discovering, we often come to a point in our lives where we do not know how to proceed. Maybe you’re like me and have been allowed to choose your career. Maybe you’re trying to decide what to major in, or maybe you just feel burned out in your current way of life. Some of us feel like there’s a mountain of a roadblock in our path. No matter who you are, what age, whether you’re female or male, and no matter what your previous life experiences have led you to, we all eventually come to the same crossroads. This divergence is where you ask yourself the following two questions: Where am I headed? Where is my home?
Where you are headed defines your trajectory. This is where you are going in life. To define your trajectory is to define where you are being called. As I have learned many times, the Lord does not call you to go when you think you’re ready. He calls you to go when He knows you are ready. Most of the time, you’ll think that you aren’t. You’ll come up with a million excuses of why you can’t do that, why you can’t go, and it becomes your Nineveh. (Read Jonah 1-4 in the Bible if you are unfamiliar with the story of Jonah and Nineveh). When you cast aside the word of God, you are casting aside His vision for you and your calling. He cannot guide you and speak life into you when you are not on the path He has set for you.
Now as I mentioned earlier, I have been in this situation many times. My father has worked in churches since before I can remember. After four or five years of building into a particular church, my parents would be called to a different church. My family had done all they could do for the ministry and the congregation. Their influence completely rewrote how that church chose to operate in some ways. In other ways, they left their fingerprints all over the church and its inner workings. So much so that at the last church he worked at, after he was fired they still continuously called him because they needed his help. My Dad, not one to be petty, chose to help them despite the hard feelings between them because my Dad knew that his being fired was not an end, but a beginning. My parents had known for several months at that point that their time working at that church was coming to a close. They were anxious to see what the Lord had planned for us. We were all asking ourselves “Where would we be going next?” My dad had interviews at churches in Minnesota, Georgia, even churches we’d never heard of had found out about the work my dad had been doing and wanted him to work for them.
Eventually, after what felt like years of interviews, dozens of phone calls, and zoom meetings, we found our family being called to Ohio to work at a church there. With the addition of Ohio in December of 2016, I have grown up in four states across the country. Going from Kentucky to Arkansas to Texas and then to Ohio. We almost made a loop! I have lived in Ohio the longest out of the three, but the timing was set up by the Lord so that when we had lived in Ohio for over five years, instead of moving to a new state, I would be graduating. This in and of itself is an end to a time, and as my younger sister put it somewhat morbidly: “Graduation is the death of your childhood.” I completely agree. From here on out, as a young adult, I am on my own to choose my next path. The Lord my compass guides my hand and my decisions and it is up to me to follow His directions or go my own way. I now get to choose where I am going next.
Homes are like churches; the building itself is not what matters. In today’s society, there are online churches, home churches, and super-churches. Why should homes be so easily defined? As previously mentioned, I have lived in a total of four houses, but I have grown up in too many homes to count. My neighbor's house in Arkansas, my uncle and aunt’s house there too. The hallways of the churches I grew up in were my homes too, and backstage was my playground. I grew up with my cousins who I wasn’t biologically related to because family is more than blood. Of my immediate family, I have three but of my family in Christ, I have more people to lean on than I can count. No matter the type of church, the church name, or least of all the political views of these people, they were all my family at some point in time, and I still consider many of them to be.
Thinking about it this way, who do you consider your family? Is it only the people you are related to through marriage? Is it those who you know through blood? Or is it more than that? I have sisters across the United States and cousins in Tajikistan. I have more family in Mexico and I have brothers where I work as well as in Texas and Louisiana. If I had a family reunion of all the people who I love and care about and consider my family, the only people in the room who I am biologically related to would be my mom, my sister, and my dad. Everyone else is not lesser than them, they are not ‘family,’ but they are not people who I will forget about in ten years. All my life I have been breaking definitions of who I am, and what ‘a lady’ and a daughter of God should be, so why should I not break the definition of what a family is too? Furthermore, what is stopping you from doing the same?
Definitions prohibit change. Do not limit yourself to only what people tell you you are, or even who you think that you are in this moment because who you consider yourself will undoubtedly change. God knows who you are, and he knows when you are trying to be someone you are not. So stop focusing on what is popular, stop making yourself smaller to fit into other people’s definitions of you. Stop choosing your paths because they are easy or ‘just what everyone else is doing. Let the Lord continue to guide you through the journey of your life, not just when things are easy but when they are difficult too. If you use Christ as your compass, there is nowhere far enough from Him that you can stray where He cannot find you (as Jonah learned when he tried to avoid going to Nineveh), and nowhere you can go that does not have a way back to Him. With the Lord as your compass, you can trust Him to guide you in the right direction. He is not your map, His role is to tell you which direction is which, not which one to take, that is up to you. Choose your family, not by blood, choose your paths not by what others choose, and choose to define yourself by who you believe you are, not by who people say you should be.
To bring us to a close, I want you to think about the following questions as you go about your week:
Does my family extend past those I'm related to? If so, who do I consider my family? Write it down! Reference this list when you need people to talk to, feel lonely, or need to be reminded of how loved you are. Read Matthew 12:46-50
Where is my home at the moment? Write this one down too! If you cannot think of what your calling is at the moment I encourage you to pray about it and ask the Lord. Remember, your home is not the building you sleep in, It is wherever you feel safe and protected and where you find rest. Some examples from my own life are when I am reading the word and spending time with the Lord, when I spend time with my boyfriend and his family, and whenever I am outdoors in nature. Read Isaiah 32:16-20
Where am I being called at this stage of my life? Write this down as well, even if it isn’t a cohesive thought. Think about what we talked about earlier. Ask yourself, “where am I going next?” Do not limit this to physical destinations, this could be a job title, a career path, even what major you’re choosing. Ask yourself what your Nineveh is, maybe your calling is something that you’ve been avoiding. Read Ephesians 4:1-16 and Jonah 1-4
How do I choose to define myself? Think of everything you’ve ever been told you are. Is it smart, funny, beautiful? Is it Daughter of God or a hard worker? Maybe it’s things that you wish you weren’t: damaged, broken, hurtful, harsh. Maybe it's “sinner.” The amazing thing is you get to choose what you define yourself as. Throw away all of the negative words and choose to use positive ones instead. If people still try to fit you into the box they’ve categorized you in then stand up for yourself and do not believe those lies. Have people called you loud and annoying? Maybe you’re just passionate. The devil is a liar and will use the people around you to tear you down. Stand in his way and speak truth into your life instead. Read 1 Samuel 16:7