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The Meaning of “Family”

The family is the most important unit of love in the world. The "ideal," or traditional, family contains everything needed for a harmonic home — the steadiness of the father, the nurturing of the mother, and children born of them, to lift each other up and grow in God’s glory. But what happens if someone is born into a life where they do not have a traditional family, or what if they started out in one, but then it went sour? What if someone has no family, but plenty of close friends? Are these different kinds of familial love any less worthy?

This was a question that puzzled me for many years. I always knew that love came in many forms. Still, it was confusing to hear that the family that contains the father, mother, and children in the home is the best one of all. I didn’t doubt it, of course. But I did wonder about different kinds of families. Single fathers, single mothers, siblings who stepped into the role of a parent, friends, and adoption entered my head. Surely, I thought, the Lord would not exclude them in the family plan. Sometimes families come in different shapes and sizes. It’s the way of the world. God would not forget them, would He? After long periods of prayer and asking questions, I think I know the answer to that: A man marrying a woman and the two of them having many children together is the ideal. It is what we as humans were built to do. But, sometimes, things don’t work out that way. External circumstances beyond one’s control can make it so that a child does not have that kind of family in this life, or, in sadder cases, any family at all. Does God count these different kinds of families as less worthy?

No. Not even close.

My best friend in elementary school had divorced parents. In spite of their situation, they worked together to give their children plenty of love and support, even if their home was no longer whole. They are a family. In another example, when their family fell apart, my aunt and uncle stepped up to the plate and made themselves responsible for all their young siblings, including my mother. Without them, I doubt she would be the woman she is today, and then she would never have met my dad and had me and my siblings. My aunt and uncle and their siblings are a family, a family held together through great sacrifices of love. And, while I can't speak for others, who have had only friends and no family, I know what it’s like to have wonderful friends and an amazing best friend! Through her, I have become a better person, and I couldn't imagine life without her and her endless kindness and patience. Where there is sacrificial love, there is the true love of Christ. So, while the ideal traditional family is the thing to strive for, if there are other kinds of families and other kinds of parents, then they can be just as worthy. As a believer of Jesus Christ, I believe that He knows every one one of us, and He knows we will not all have the same experiences. He knows that love is not bound to one single dynamic, but is divine and everlasting no matter who or where we are.

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