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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.
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--Ivette such a beautiful post :) all the points hit the nail right on the head. I share your emotions as I am far away from home but knowing God and his love and living in obedience to his call is such a blessing. I loved how you said we share our families values, warmth and love with people who are around us where we are now, so true its a great treasure to be shared. Thank you.
I graduated college last year and ended up having to move back to my parents' home, which is far away from where I grew up. I miss having friends and opportunities. I am now a lone wolf in an unfamiliar city, and I feel so lonely and helpless. I just wish that I could go back, even though I have no family there now.
--Unless God specifically calls a person to a place I personally think it is morally wrong to live far away from one's family. Everyone has a moral duty to take care of their elders, and Christians especially need to model this.
My maternal grandmother is in Australia, my paternal grandmother is in New Zealand, and I live with my family in Vancouver. It just doesn't feel right that I'm not there to take care of them.
While there are godly reasons for a person to leave thier family I don't believe young people should move away simply for career ambitions.
--Ivette, I love your writing! I can definitely relate to what you're saying, too. I'm getting ready to head overseas for a second year, and it's definitely so hard to say goodbye to family. Because I feel out of control, and can't be physically there for my family, I've realized how important prayer is. Not that I can control anything if I'm in the same state as them anyway, but I've just had to rely more on God. Funny how that happens.
--"I personally think it is morally wrong to live far away from one's family. Everyone has a moral duty to take care of their elders, and Christians especially need to model this."
Yes, but they may not need help for a long time. My grandmother lived by herself up into her late eighties. Of course, the family visited her and brought her favorite foods, but she did not need to be taken care of until the last few years of her life. I will take care of my parents when they are old, but until then there is not much I could do, except housework perhaps. Even when they are old, my parents are strongly against accepting money from me because of 1 Cor 12:14 "...children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children." They are financially providing for a grandparent right now, so they're not using that as an excuse to avoid responsibility, but they do not want to burden me unnecessarily. Even though I would be more than happy to give them money or anything else they needed since they've given me so much.
Also, there are times when one's duty to one's parents and one's spouse and children will conflict. For instance, what if the wife's family and the husband's family live far apart? Surely it is not healthy for the spouses to live separately so they can personally care for both sets of parents. That would be the opposite of "leaving and cleaving." One spouse may need to provide financially for nurses or other expenses, call regularly, and visit occasionally while the siblings who live in town may have to do most of the hands-on care-taking. What if the adult child is a missionary? Neither of those situations are remotely ideal, but the adult child is still taking care of his parents financially and keeping in touch.
--I forgot to add, I could not live with my parents because their city has an extremely high unemployment rate, and it would be nearly impossible for me to get a job. The rest of the state isn't doing so hot either. Living off of them until marriage (if that happens) would not be a good way to take care of them. :) Down the road, I will have more job experience, maybe the economy will improve, and maybe I will move closer, but until then I have long Skype conversations with them regularly. If possible, I definitely want to live close if they need care-taking in their old age and if I have kids.
--"Unless God specifically calls a person to a place I personally think it is morally wrong to live far away from one's family."
This is probably going to come across as incredibly sarcastic, but aren't you really just saying, "If you feel called to an action, do it, but if you feel like God calls you not to do it, don't do it,"? There are general principles we can apply across the board, but individual decisions are going to look different for a lot of people across the board, and following God is going to look different for different people.
It's basically the same thing we ran into on the early marriage discussion. When it comes to women choosing a career or education path, or when it comes to deciding when to get married to the person you're dating, pray, seek wise counsel, and do what God is leading you to do.
There is no better place to be than the place that God has you, even if it may not make sense to everyone else.
Keith Jul 24, 2013 1:39 AM
--Unless God specifically calls a person to a place I personally think it is morally wrong to live far away from one's family. Everyone has a moral duty to take care of their elders, and Christians especially need to model this."
Don't forget that sometimes it is the elders who move away. This is the situation in my family at the moment: I have an elderly family member who is getting to the point where he needs more care, but he moved far away from the rest of the family thirty years ago with his wife who has since died. We're in the process of supporting him to move back closer to us all because it's the only way we can make sure he gets the care he needs, but it's far from easy when his whole life is somewhere else.
--I love this, because for the first time ever in my life I have also lived this year away from my family. I can completely relate to what you're saying. I didn't expect it to be so meaningful to me, but I definitely shed some tears at Christmas time when I wasn't nearby to hear my grandfather read the Christmas story out of Luke, and wasn't able to simply come downstairs and eat breakfast that morning with my Mom, Dad and sister.
I love how my understanding and appreciation of my family has evolved over time. How my parents fought for me while I was clawing to get away, and how I came to understand that obedience, honor, love and respect are very different. I am so thankful for my family.
But living apart from them has, in its own way, made me appreciate and love them more. I think that it is good that we have seasons of closeness and togetherness since they help us to grow our relationships in new ways that might not be possible if we were next to each other all the time. There is goodness in closeness and there is goodness in distance. :) I think that in time, home is where you make it.
--Both the article and several of the comments here lead me to ask what I so often wonder -- what do people mean by God's "call"?
They obviously don't mean it in the Biblical sense. In the Bible, when God called, He was clear and unmistakable, and usually used an angel. You know what He NEVER used, ever, in all of the thousands of years recorded in Scripture? People's own vague thoughts and feelings. That is not God's calling, that is just what you want to do.
Now there is nothing wrong with making decisions ourselves (indeed, that is how Scripture portrays believers normally living). But I get incredibly frustrated with how common it is to claim that something someone feels like doing is God's specific calling, because He "laid it on my heart". That is just not a Biblical concept, it is a crutch people use to avoid accepting full moral responsibility for their choices, and it trivializes the ACTUAL callings of God, which are incredibly rare and significant in Scripture.
--@PricklyPete, most of the Bible is Old Testament and even in the New Testament, up until Acts, people hadn't been given the Holy Spirit. Additionally, if God doesn't communicate with us, what role do you see prayer having?
--G&B: I don't think that Pete is discounting the ability of God to influence people, I think he just takes umbrage at the modern(ish) embrace of "vocation" and "calling" being synonymous rather than distinctive concepts. A lot of people are doing what they feel God woud have them to do and honoring God in their daily lives -- vocation. Comparatively few people have a very distinct and specific mission to accomplish that they have been appointed to by God (calling). It's the difference between the sweet, fatherly deacon at your church and Billy Graham.
;) In the words of Syndrome, "When everyone is special, no one is."
--When I first moved out of home, I moved over 10 000 miles away (to the other side of the planet). It was incredibly tough but incredibly rewarding.
I'm blessed that I can visit my family on a regular basis (I'm now 'only' 7300 miles away). But I do feel a lot of guilt that I'm not there when they need help. e.g. If someone moves, or someone needs a babysitter. Thankfully my parents are still reasonably young and healthy but there will come a time when they need me more and I expect to return to my home city.
I wish I could help out my family more. I do feel selfish for having moved away because I was pursuing my own dreams - but at the same time, I felt so stifled and trapped when I lived in my home city. Was that God calling me elsewhere or my own selfish desires? Several years on, I still can't answer that!
--@MrsAshleyTOF, I can really only speak from my own experience, and in my experience, God is usually pretty vocal in my prayer life, even in "non-spiritual" things like cars and jobs. There are multiple uses of the word, "calling," but just because God isn't calling someone to be the next Charles Spurgeon doesn't mean that God doesn't direct and order specific events in "normal" individuals lives.
--G&B: I don't disagree. Just trying to throw some potential for common ground out there before the whole thread gets hijacked (just in case you forgot, It's about family, peeps! ;D). ;) Personally, I believe that God is sovereign and ultimately has control, in some way that is utterly beyond my comprehension, over everything. I don't doubt that God's hand is at play in much of our day to day decision making, and I would say that the strongest Biblical case for this is the book of Esther, where God's hand (and Esther's "calling"!) is clearly evidenced, even though "God" does not appear even a single time.
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