About 5 years ago, I stood in a musty basement of a Baptist church, joining hands with a group of about 40 people, and decided to step out in faith to become part of a new family. The pastor of our small church had just given a sermon about the passage in Matthew 19 where Jesus is talking to His disciples right after telling them the story of the rich young ruler or, the rich young man.
The rich young man had an interaction with Jesus where he was asked to sell everything he had, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus. He turned it down, but after hearing this story, the disciples were a tad confused because, they had given up everything to follow him. EVERYTHING. Family, jobs, money, homes, everything.
The passage goes like this...
" 27 Then Peter said (in reply), “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life." ( Matthew 19:27-29)
That evening at church, God told me that this would be my new family. At the time, I was living with my parents, whom I love, and I had about 4 or 5 friends up in Thousand Oaks, where I lived, who shared my faith and who I saw pretty regularly. I was comfortable. That was my home. That was my family. That's all I had known my whole life. I didn't go away for college, I didn't move out when I was 18. To be honest, I was scared to leave that nest! I didn't even like L.A.!
I took a risk after I heard that word from God and moved to Santa Monica. I barely knew the folks at Risen Church and I was scared I wouldn't fit in and find friends... but God was clear. I'm not one of those people who says that lightly and easily. When I've heard from God its been unmistakable... And now, 5 years later, I see He wasn't kidding.
The past few days I've shared some personal things in this blog that have lead to bigger, more generalized lessons. Today, I simply want to pause in gratitude for God's faithfulness to His promise that day.
Hear me when I say that I love my biological family. They are hilarious, warm, imperfect but wonderful people and I love them and value my history with them.
But in His body, in His church, God has given me new and overwhelming family. That's how Jesus described the church in scripture... as family. I've come to really know that in my life and I'm kind of blown away by it.
For example, lets talk about my week so far. Monday I woke up, read a book I'm sharing with our pastor and my good friend Leah, our administrative genius on staff, walked to Leah's place, had a cup of coffee and chatted about church business and what God's doing with those two, walked home, cruised to another friend's home where I had fun working out then breaking bread with 4 friends from our church family. Then today, I woke up and went to Disneyland for a few hours with a beloved sister from our community while a brother came and checked on our dog, then I came home and prepared dinner with my husband for a dear friend from church who is moving away this week. She asked us what we were learning right now in our marriage, we sipped tasty wine, and prayed over one another to part.
Now, for me, that actually feels a tad mellow for my normal weekdays. Day in and day out, I'm used to sharing time, meals, coffee, wine and good conversation with numerous folks in our community. We take care of one another. As blessed as I've been by biological family, God has given me family in these people in this place.
This family, this new band of brothers and sisters, is bound not by genetics. We don't have one another's noses and facial traits. But we were all adopted into this family by the blood of Christ, and we partake in the same grace, the same hope, the same love. The same Spirit moves and lives in our hearts. We get to point one another towards Him in our peaks and valleys...
I'm so thankful to have been adopted into the family of Christ, and to find it so richly here in Santa Monica. I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to seek out the kind of friendships that feel like family. Jon and I are blessed to have it in multiple places. In Santa Monica, Seattle, Anaheim, Thousand Oaks, Marina, New York, Tennessee, Wales, and beyond.
Today was just one of those days where I'm left standing amazed by the grace of God as I feel so surrounded and known. Five years ago I left my nuclear family to move here... and He has given me family tenfold. He is faithful. He didn't let me down.
Thanks be to God
Carly Calmes the First