As I sat beside my grandparents on my last visit home, the questions I had for them came to my heart as steady as they always have, but this time were met by remnants of a stroke and waves of dementia.
I asked my grandfather a detail about his first year in America, and he good-naturedly put some words together before resigning in frustration with his inability to express himself fully.
I asked my grandmother about when she learned to crochet. Her sparkly eyes shone brighter as her memory ebbed into her childhood … and then forgetting what I had asked, the details receded entirely.
The season for asking questions is fading. So we held hands a lot on that visit, and I ladled sweet words over them that made their eyes twinkle. I grieved this new reality, but the love we shared was still strong. There was power in just being present with my love.
When people ask me if I miss California, I generally respond, “I miss my family.” I do miss California, but for all her stunning beaches, sparkling skyscrapers, endless things to do and beautiful tapestry of diverse people, she cannot outshine my family.
I miss the wisdom of aunties, the encouragement of uncles, the sheer joy of cousins, and the tender love and prayers of grandparents.
I miss touch. I miss kisses on the cheek when you say hello, and little ones who know you are theirs and snuggle in beside you wherever you are.
I miss Spanish. I miss our collective of recipes, and since it’s summer, I miss perpetual backyard barbecues, picnics in the park, and family movies at the local blueberry farm.
I miss who I am with them.
It isn’t all bliss. My family has its fair share of pain and strain, but I was meant to uniquely bear the burdens and share the joys of this particular bunch, and I love belonging to them.
I feel undeniably called to my family, yet since graduating from college, God has routinely called me away from them. Each time was hard, but each time He made it clear that He was beckoning me away for a specific purpose.
I am grateful for a supportive family who celebrates opportunities in my life. “We raised you to fly, “ Mama and Daddy like to say. And then Mama reminds me that I “nest in her heart “ no matter how far away I go.
Few reminders have helped me as I reconcile this calling to my family while also being called away from them.
God is trustworthy
I am not unique. Each disciple of Jesus is eventually called into the unknown or uncomfortable. And the gospels have plenty of examples of those who didn’t quite make the ranks of discipleship because of their inability to follow Christ’s lead. I want to be found responding rightly to Jesus’ invitations in my life. I want my life to resound with trust.
For some, trusting Jesus will mean serving in remote villages across the globe, and for others it may mean not leaving at all, but serving faithfully in small hometowns. Whatever the case, following Jesus is not about geography, but about obedience wherever the Savior calls us.
The beauty in obedience is that it leads us through the gateway of experiencing God’s precious faithfulness tangibly: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11, ESV).
Though the path of obedience brings me to tears at the airport when leaving home, it also is leads me to unspeakable joy.
Better off without me
Two simple lines in the song “Faith My Eyes” by Caedmon’s Call have been used to challenge my heart when leaving family, “But if a must go. Things I trust will be better off without me.”
That’s it. Sometimes, we family-oriented people forget that while we are uniquely called to one another, God doesn’t actually need us to accomplish His purposes in our families. This shouldn’t inspire apathy or irresponsibility, but simply a sense of freedom. God is at work, and if He has called me away, it is for my good and the good of the family I so love. It has been so rewarding to see how God has used my time away from family to build something in me and to open doors for my family members that otherwise would not be open.
Forever called to family
As young adults living our own lives, it is easy to get in the zone wherever we are — be it in college or our first job in the big city.
Reading the gospels, one might think that our individual call to Jesus is license to disengage from our families.
While Christ had some radical things to say to expose the hearts of those who used family as an excuse to not follow Him (Luke 14:26), Jesus came to fulfill the law, not abolish it. Therefore following Jesus includes the Old Testament command to honor our father and our mother. As Jesus hung on the cross in obedience to the Father, taking upon the sins of the world, Jesus did not check out. With some of His last few words, He turned to John and entrusted His mother into His beloved disciple’s care (John 19:25-27). Our love of family must flow from our love for God.
Our families are powerful because family is the language of God (Ephesians 2:19). By it we are to grasp the vision for how the body of Christ is to operate.
I know that family isn’t a beautiful, safe place for everyone. I understand that families are probably the greatest sources of pain and dysfunction for most of us. But the pain affirms that we are hardwired to know that family was designed for our good. The enemy of our souls would like to diminish the value of our families or use them against us. Let’s not let him.
Let us ask God, who gives wisdom generously, to show us what it means to exhibit faithfulness as a member of our families and ultimately as a member of His and to show us how to be present with our love no matter how far away we may find ourselves.
Called to share
I hope that one day I will have the opportunity to live beside my family again, but it’s all in the unknown future. Until then, God has pressed upon my heart to honor my family by sharing what they have sown in my life with those around me.
So I share the advice of my wise aunts. I share my mama’s recipes. I share my heritage. And as I share, I bring my family to me, and where I am begins to feel like a little more like home.