I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be family, or to be friends. What is the difference really? Usually, from the point-of-view of the world, family are those people we are related to by blood, while friends are the ones we choose to surround ourselves with that are not related but we have a relationship with. Websters 1828 Dictionary puts it this way…
FAM’ILY, n. [L. familia.]
1. The collective body of persons who live in one house and under one head or manager; a household, including parents, children and servants, and as the case may be, lodgers or boarders.
2. Those who descend from one common progenitor; a tribe or race; kindred; lineage. Thus the Israelites were a branch of the family of Abraham; and the descendants of Reuben, of Manasseh, &c., were called their families. The whole human race are the family of Adam, the human family.
3. Course of descent; genealogy; line of ancestors.
Go and complain thy family is young.
4. Honorable descent; noble or respectable stock. He is a man of family.
5. A collection or union of nations or states.
The states of Europe were, by the prevailing maxims of its policy, closely united in one family.
6. In popular language, an order, class or genus of animals or of other natural productions, having something in common, by which they are distinguished from others; as, quadrupeds constitute a family of animals, and we speak of the family or families of plants.
FRIEND, n. frend.
1. One who is attached to another by affection; one who entertains for another sentiments of esteem, respect and affection, which lead him to desire his company, and to seek to promote his happiness and prosperity; opposed to foe or enemy.
A friend loveth at all times. Prov 17.
2. One not hostile; opposed to an enemy in war.
3. One reconciled after enmity. Let us be friends again.
4. An attendant; a companion.
5. A favorer; one who is propitious; as a friend to commerce; a friend to poetry; a friend to charitable institution.
6. A favorite. Hushai was David’s friend.
7. A term of salutation; a familiar compellation.
Friend, how camest thou in hither? Mat 22.
So Christ calls Judas his friend, though a traitor.
8. Formerly, a paramour.
9. A friend at court, one who has sufficient interest to serve another.
FRIEND, v.t. frend. To favor; to countenance; to befriend; to support or aid. [But we now use befriend.]
I like the older dictionaries, such as Webster’s 1828, because they aren’t biased and prejudiced by modern political correctness. By the way, that was not my original idea, I heard someone say it once, but I don’t remember where, and it stuck with me. ;o) Anyway, back to my original train of thought, what do we do with these definitions? I also like the 1828 because it goes and refers back to the Bible, where all truth comes from.
So, now we know the definition of friend and family, what next? Where am I going with all this. Well… stick with me.
If you’ve read my blog before (and if you haven’t, go back and check out some of the past posts), you know that my family is somewhat, shall we say, “dysfunctional,” to say the least. ;o) That’s not to say that we are bad people, gosh, some of the most dysfunctional families ever are told about in the Bible. Think of the Patriarchs, multiple wives, jealous kids, favoritism, etc. Sometimes the Bible reads like a soap opera, seriously! That is just testament to us that even though we are all messed up, so were they, and look what has been accomplished by God through them!!!
In the past couple of years, my family, which used to be so close, has drifted apart. People just aren’t caring for one another like we used to. I know that a big part of my disconnect is that I’m 2 states away now. I’m not pointing fingers here, I’m just as responsible as anyone else. I don’t call as much as I would like to, I don’t always send letters or cards or e-mails like I should. My life is very different from my family’s life. We’ve all made different choices and that causes distance, not just they physical kind. It saddens me. I remember when I was a little girl, we were always together for holidays and just for the heck of it. I am much younger than my sister, brothers, and cousins. Maybe it just seemed different to me then because I was so much younger. I am jealous for that for my kids. Not jealous of it, but jealous for it. I wish that they had that type of relationship with my family, or with an extended family. I’ve said and done some things that people in my family don’t like or agree with. This blog is apparently one of them. At least, when I talk about family stuff it is. I’ve been encouraged and backed up for posting about my previous marriage, my hobbies, my battle with depression, and my son’s battle with bipolar. One post though really riled some people up it appears. I don’t know if it was everyone, but at least one person in my family “unfriended” me on Facebook and sent me a very nasty e-mail/comment about airing things in such a public forum. It hurt. No one is perfect, none. I do not claim to be, I’ve made mistake after mistake, and I probably will continue to do so. I’m human. It hurts so much though, that the people who are “supposed” to love us the most, our family, can be so mean when we are just being honest about our feelings and thoughts.
That brings me to my other thought, what about friends? I think that God puts certain people into our lives to become our friends, but they really become our family.
In Mark 3:31-35 it says, “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mar 3:31-35)
Not to discount the traditional sense of family, but truly, the ones who are loving us as God does, are our family. Not everyone who says they are our friend truly is though, and this is so sad. For someone to be a friend it’s not all about what you can do for them, or what I can do for you. It’s about doing for one another. Calling, asking how you are, listening to how they are, being there for them. Letting go of ourselves and our own wants/needs/feelings long enough to see the wants/needs/feelings of our friend.
It has to be a two-way street, any relationship does. I can’t go into my relationship with Christ and say, “ok Jesus, what have you done for me today?” That’s not right! Yes, He has done amazing things for me, but what can I do for Him? When I speak with my true friends, it’s not a one way conversation. We ask about each other, we listen to each other, we cry and laugh with each other. If I were to call someone and say, “how are you?” and then when they answer go into a diatribe about how horrible things are for me, well, I’m not being a very good friend am I? There has to be giving from both sides of the relationship, otherwise, well, it doesn’t work. That’s so sad.
I love it when God brings people into my life who I just click with. Who I know, in my human heart, I am going to be friends forever with (bff’s if you will). Sadly though, it doesn’t always work. One gives more, one takes more, and soon, the relationship isn’t relational at all, it’s tiring, it’s hurtful, and it ends. I don’t like it when that happens, it makes me sad.
I’ve recently *lost* some friends. We all have things going on in our lives that we don’t share. It’s that transparency thing I’ve talked about before. We don’t know what other people are going through, or what challenges they are facing. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our own hurts and pains, living our own lives, that we lose sight of that. The people we claim to love need us just as much as we need them.
I know that when Donovan was in the hospital last year, there were a handful of people who called, came by, wrote, e-mailed, etc. on a daily basis. They called to ask how I was, how he was, how the kids were, what they could do. Those people are my family, whether “related” or not. Some people I thought were family didn’t call very much at all, and when they did, it was a quick, “how are you,” and then on to rant about what was going on in their lives and how horrible things were for them. It hurt, but I told myself, they just have a lot going on, and it’s ok, we are still family. Recently though, those same people it seems, have written me off because I can’t do something for them that they want/need me to do. I’ve been hurt by this, but it’s ok. I know that there are still things going on in their lives that I don’t know about, and probably never will. How they choose to react to each situation and trial they face is something they have to choose based on their needs/wants at the time, and how they follow and walk with God.
I can’t control that though. I cannot control what other people do or think, anymore than Jesus could (well, perhaps He could have, but He didn’t.) He did not come here and control the disciples, He did not make them do anything, they chose to serve Him, because of who He is. They became family, which is what true friends do. Through the tough times, through the hurts, through this thing called life, we do it together, even when it hurts.
So, what is family? For me, I think family is the people who have surrounded me in my life, who love me because I am, not because of who I am, or what I can give or do for them, but just because I’m me. Tricia, fearfully and wonderfully made by God.