Maybe you have heard someone say something to the effect that “there’s nothing more important than family.” Maybe that line comes when someone must set priorities . . . or maybe a family member is going through trying times, and everyone is thinking about family loyalty. Priorities and loyalties are good, yet family will let you down sometimes, so there is another side of this coin.
I’m actually not sure I know what a close earthly family looks like. Last week, some correspondence from a friend got me thinking about non-family family. . . .
My wife’s extended family has a proclivity for calling everyone “aunt this” and “uncle that,” but I didn’t grow up in that familial climate. There were on the other hand two very special people in our lives that my sisters and I grew up calling “Uncle Paul and Aunt Doris,” and when Aunt Doris died a couple years ago, it felt like a family event even though we haven’t lived in the same locality for 30+ years. In more recent years, we have three times visited UP and AD and their daughter. They are still “family” to us.
I’m now wondering whether we should encourage our son to call a few very special people “Uncle ___ and Aunt ___” Based on facets of certain long-term friendships, e.g., with the friend who wrote, this “familializing” might or might not be expected. Whereas some of our “blood” extended family really isn’t anymore,¹ some dear friends have proven to be more like family than most family, if you know what I mean.
Second—the mortgage company was down wid dat
Once upon a time, when applying for a mortgage, I wanted to keep the payment lower, so I was looking for some additional down payment money—a “gift” that I would repay anyway. The rule was that any such money had to be a gift from family, or it would be considered a debt, changing the debt coverage ratio. In my case, the only viable blood-family source of funds was unwilling, so I asked some spiritual siblings, and they were willing. The mortgage company had probably never before encountered someone like me who would go to some length to help myself financially without lying about it. They went for it when they heard my biblically based explanation of how I viewed that Christian relationship as more significant than physical family.
Third: those Mennonites “get it”
Another friend recently commented on my account of a visit with some Mennonites, explaining why nuclear families do not sit together “at church” in many Anabaptist traditions:
Another possible reason (as I’ve heard from some people) is to separate families. In a church setting, families sitting together may create unnecessary barriers or distinctions between groups, when we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. The church family is higher than the nuclear family. That isn’t to say the nuclear family is bad, just of lesser importance when compared to the bride of Christ.
I thought that wonderful explanation was worthy of repeating here.
¹ I’m not happy about the choices a few extended family members have made—or about the relational distance on several main branches of our family tree. It’s the way things are, though, and I’ve mostly moved on.