Jonathan David Helser says,
‘The more Heaven comes to earth, the more earth looks like family.’
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34-35
Family, the climax of Heaven revealed in creation – love. Yet somehow the deep affection the Father desired His people to have for one another has been skewed, distorted and tainted. We’ve been taught that we need to have boundaries around our hearts to protect us from what could happen, ‘I wouldn’t want my brother to get the wrong idea’ or ‘what if I cause my sister to stumble? Or even ‘What if we fall into sin?’ Yet – that belief system by default implies that we are not assuming the people around us are walking in righteousness or their God-given nature!
We have been created with this innate desire for family – to know, and be known, to love without reserve or fear. Whether it’s acknowledged, or if it’s pushed down in an attempt to ‘be ok without it’ we have all been created for family because we’ve been created in the image of our Heavenly Father. We long to know the answer to the question ‘Do you really want to know me? Do you value me for who I am, or just what I can do for you? Do you really want to know me? If I open up and show you my heart, will you receive me? Or will you run away?’
I am a youth worker, and part of my job is walking with the young people to help them carry out community service orders. The amount of times I’ve had conversations with them where they’ve revealed ‘I just wish Mum or Dad had more time for me..’ is heartbreaking. I’ve watched as a young man has been devastated for a mothers’ lack of being present, asking the question ‘why can’t you just be a better Mum?’. The Fathers design for humanity was always to be loved and adopted into family, and so fairly, this is the one area I see the enemy going after more fiercely than any other.
I’ve always been one to love deeply and quickly, I was the kid who ran to the side of the friend who’d fallen and skinned his knee, the one who stopped for the lonely or left out. Yet somehow over time, I learned that loving deeply can hurt – I mean really hurt, and more than just a skinned knee.
I was told ‘Chantelle, you need to protect your heart, otherwise you’ll always get hurt!’ and so I began to build walls, not realizing that in protecting myself, I was also keeping love out.
Someone who quickly became family is my little sister, Areta. A beautiful creative, a compassionate friend who snuck past my walls and showed me what family could be. We met in Indonesia when I was on the mission field serving in a high school. The only Aussie there who understood my humour and laughed at all my jokes when no one else ‘got it.’ We went through life together. We would laugh uncontrollably, dance like lunatics in the shops, see movies every weekend, pray and debrief about life. She knew what would make me cry, what got me ticking, what was important to me, and I knew the same for her. I would lay down my life for her still today, because she is buried deep within my heart.
This past weekend, I got to witness a dream come true for her – competing in the Australian Hip Hop International competition which would send her and the crew to world’s if they won. I knew she would smash the choreography and ‘wow’ the judges, but what I didn’t expect to witness was the depth of family that’s been cultivated within her crew and the entire dance community.
Before the performance, I met individuals, her friends, people who are important to her in this season of her life; but what I witnessed after blew me away. Her crew ‘Kingdom Culture’ laid it all out there and didn’t just dance, but left their hearts on the stage with many weeping at the end of the performance.
I came outside to meet them afterwards and walked over to a dance circle where they were just having fun –celebrating each other, loving each other. One would jump in the middle and pour out their heart through dance – movement, and the entire family would celebrate them for who they are and what they bring. The whole crew would cheer, shout and holler at their family member who was given permission to shine. There was no competition for they understood, we are family and we’re all needed. Once one had finished dancing, the whole circle would move and surround another family member, celebrating them and encouraging them to step out and shine. It was beautiful. They see each other. They know each other – deeply, and despite the risk of pain, they choose to stay connected, they choose relationship, they choose love.
They choose family.
I walked away profoundly impacted – seeing the desire of the Fathers heart for his family, his kids. Which leaves a heart provoking question – what about us? In our busy western culture, I’ve noticed we’ve sacrificed family to the demands of work / ministry life. But what if this was never meant to be? What if we were created to do life together, to know and be known by the people around us? To boldly open our hearts to one another, as the righteousness of Christ – without it being tainted by the world’s view of ‘love’?
In my own life, as I’ve begun to understand the high value of family in the Kingdom of God, I’ve seen that I am the best version of Chantelle when my heart is open and close with my family. I need them, so much. Over the past year I have intentionally cultivated a deeper relationship with my earthly father and this has directly impacted my emotional + spiritual health and growth as well.
While it’s not possible for everyone to have this kind of relationship with their natural parents, it highlights the need for spiritual family in the church! We need you! We need what you carry, we need to know the miles your feet have walked and how you’ve become the woman or man of God you are today! We need spiritual Mothers and Fathers to adopt us and bring us into family so we can all experience the richness of pure love within the Kingdom – so we can love you back, and bury you within our hearts!
I believe there is a level of love – the Fathers heart – that can only be experienced within the paradigm of family. What if, instead of building walls ‘just in-case’ the one we are loving ‘misinterprets’ our love, we chose to believe that we are in-fact righteous. That there really isn’t anything impure left in the hearts of our brothers and sisters that we need protection from? What if we began to open our hearts with holiness – trusting the God in us, and the God in each other?
This kind of life has the power to bring out the best in the people around us, this kind of love causes others to begin to see themselves for their God given, created value and not what the world has told them they are. What if, like Kingdom Culture, we celebrated one another and encouraged each other to step out and shine?
Its time we stop shying away from cultivating deep relationships for fear of pain or rejection. It’s time we know each other – deeply, and despite the risk of pain, choose to stay connected, choose relationship and choose love.
It’s time the world knows us for our love. (John 13:34-35)