There is the body of Christ, the fellowship of the believers, the church as the bride, but my favorite analogy that is used to describe followers of Jesus is FAMILY. God is our Father, He has adopted us as sons and daughters, and we have to love and forgive our brothers and sisters. We respect the older ones and help teach the younger ones. Family is always family no matter what. You appreciate when family functions as it should, when everyone pitches in and everyone loves with grace and mercy, when they drop what is important to them, because, well, family. When it doesn’t, when family is cruel or selfish, when family hurts or even just when family annoys, they are still family. They will always be family.
It seems that we are always in transition here on campus. Students come and go – sometimes for a year or two, sometimes for a week or two. Those who don’t stay long maybe are looking for someone or something else. Maybe those that are Christians are looking for a group where they fit in ‘better’ or that offers something different than what we have to ‘offer’. Whatever it is, we are committed to loving them, serving them, and championing them at whatever stage they are in and for however long they will stay.
Some of these students might not even know that they will be a part of the family in due time, a great big imperfect, dysfunctional, selfish but repentant, learning, and loving family. These are some of my favorite students. I love seeing them learning about Christ and I love seeing our Christ-filled family members learn how to love and lead them.
This is part of the reason that we have events in our home. We invite them to dinners, backyard potlucks, movie nights, etc. I can’t tell you how many students have thanked us for letting them come to our house. They have shared how being around our table almost made the weep, because they never sat around the table with their family. They have shared how their family isn’t close, or encouraging, or life-giving. Some of them feel misunderstood at home. Others are simply away from home (or trying to distance themselves from home in an I’m-growing-up-but-I-still-need-family-time kind of way) and find some peace being with their Christ family in ours.
Every other week, instead of our normal bible study, the XA women have a fellowship night. Tonight we watched the UofA v Oregon game at our house. It was a great game, peppered with great conversation. I love these ladies and I love living life with them.
The week before last, it was also at our house. I got to teach the ladies how to make dumplings, something that I grew up making and eating with my own family.
Some of them gathered around the table to chat and prepare dumplings. This is Tara, a sophomore. She is part Asian and was very excited to be learning something Asian! :)
Others gathered in the adjacent living room to get to know one another. One of the students’ favorite pastimes is to get our kids to warm up to them. This is Deanna, a sophomore, making friends with Jovie. Our kids are notoriously picky about whom they will smile at, high-five, or even acknowledge. It is quite funny! Some students have spent years building up their rapport with them. Others, for some reason, break through the barrier quite easily. What I love about it is that having kids around relaxes people and gives them the opportunity to be a part of the family, to just be themselves.
I have recently been more aware of how frightened students are to come to a Christian group. They’ve admitted that they don’t want to come because they don’t know anyone there or they’re afraid everyone will see how ‘bad’ they are or they think that everyone else knows all this stuff about God that they don’t. It pains me to hear it, but I understand it completely. I think that what they need to experience is that Christians, and this Christian family, is just as human, real, broken, and earthy as any other group. The difference is just that we have Christ, who is available to all. He is the one who takes our brokenness and makes us whole, he is the one who takes what is earthy and makes it holy. Our hope is that some of these family times will help students feel more comfortable and introduce them to our Christ family in a relaxed way. Because that is just what we are – a family.