The Promise I Thought God Forgot


Of all the metaphors God uses to describe His people, "family" is one of the most important. If you're bound by the traditional meaning of the word, perhaps it's time to change your definition.

Maybe it was just one of those mornings, or a touch of the post-holiday blues. Or maybe my coffee hadn't had time to do its magic yet. But for whatever reason, when I read a certain verse recently, it just rubbed me the wrong way.

On any given day, if you asked me if I believe the Word of God, I'd say yes. And if you asked me if I love the Word of God, affirmative again. But when I hit verse 6 of Psalm 68, I got stuck. I just wasn't feeling it. I didn't see how it was true in my life. And to be honest, I felt a little gypped by God. I thought maybe someone should remind him of his promise, and I figured I might as well be the one to do it.

Here's the line that tripped me up: "God places the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6).

Ever since I was a girl, I dreamed about the family I'd be placed into someday. I'd marry a dashingly handsome man and have two charming kids (and yes, I already had their first and middle names picked out). Thus far, my life hasn't taken that course … which is probably just as well, since the names I picked out at age nine would have inflicted torture on helpless children. Still, the truth remains that I haven't been placed in the kind of family I conjure up when I read that line in the Psalms.

For some reason, the no-family hole seems particularly gaping around the recent holiday season. Maybe it's because of those ubiquitous diamond jewelry commercials that make you feel like everyone else has someone to love. Or those holiday parties where all the other guests leave arm-in-arm with a special somebody while you head home solo to a dark, empty house. Or maybe it's those family get-togethers where the relatives rib you yet again about your lack of someone to stand under the mistletoe with. Or maybe it's just the general coziness of the twinkly lights and the coupley lyrics of "Let It Snow." In any case, I feel my family-less state even more keenly around the holidays and during the post-holiday lull we're in right now.

But as I was reminding God (not so subtly) of his promise to put us in families, I sensed he wanted to open my eyes to something I'd been overlooking for quite some time. Something so obvious I'd fairly been tripping over it. Maybe, God seemed to be pointing out to me, his definition of family means more than a husband, 2.3 kids, a dog, and a house with a real Christmas tree in the picture window. Maybe family is something more messy and complicated that the sugar-plum vision in my head—but ultimately even more beautiful.

Is it possible I've been experiencing the gift of family all along but haven't recognized it because it didn't come in the packaging I expected? Maybe family is being invited to my godson's birthday party, or going on the occasional road trip with my college roommate and her husband. Maybe family is the group of seven women that meets weekly over our lunch break to pray together. Maybe family is having dinner with my aunt and uncle and letting them fix my broken chair for me. Maybe family is gathering my fellow dateless coworkers and carpooling to the company Christmas party together. Maybe family is finding a handful of people to sit with at church every week. Maybe family is calling Mom several times during my cookie-baking session for her help deciphering the recipe. Maybe family is my monthly gatherings with my book club friends as we peel back layers of stories and ourselves. Maybe it's all of these rolled together somehow to form a bigger family than I'd imagined.

This revelation shouldn't come as such a surprise to me, since of all the metaphors God uses to describe his people, family is one of the most prominent. He describes himself as our Father, which makes all of his children brothers and sisters. And even more incredibly, Jesus himself came to earth so he could be our brother: "So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters" (Hebrews 2:11).

I'm sure I'll still have occasional pangs of longing for a family according to my traditional definition. But underneath that, I want to hang on to God's promise—the one it turns out he's been faithful in fulfilling all along. He does put the lonely in families. His family.

Written by Stephanie Voiland

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