Choosing Family Beyond Blood and Bonds
I once heard that true family is by choice not blood. Although I strongly believe in the importance of a strong nuclear family, I cannot deny the beauty of choosing family beyond blood and bonds either. Both my wife and I found ourselves in need of foster families at the age of 17. For both of us, those families turned out to be huge blessings.
The Importance of a Strong Nuclear Family
As I said, I cannot emphasize the importance of the nuclear family. Black conservative commentator, Candace Owens, places the blame for much of the plight of black communities on the breakdown of the nuclear family, especially in inner-city black communities. Studies have shown that children who grow up in single-family homes have a higher rate of being incarcerated and a lower chance of graduating college, whether they were white or black.
The Influence of Healthy Mother and Father Figures
I believe strongly that both girls and boys need the influence of healthy mother and father figures in their lives. Modeling, or teaching by doing, teaches girls what to look for in men and teaches boys how to treat women. Healthy examples breed healthy adults as a rule, for example.
Learning from Positive Examples Through Choosing Family Beyond Blood and Bonds
I can’t say that I had healthy examples to learn from at home. When I was in high school, a family that allowed me to be around frequently, even recently telling me that they thought of me as one of their kids, was a wonder to me because I got to see what family looked like. Then, when I was overseas and needed a family to step up and take me in, I spent a year being included as part of a family, and my new parents were often transparent with me, talking about the struggles and opportunities of married life. So, when it came time to act in my own life, I was able to choose which example to follow.
Choosing Family Beyond Blood and Bonds: Redefining ‘Family’
Much like the family that had treated me as one of their own when I was in high school, my wife and I have taken in many that we thought of as ‘our kids’ over the years. Some lived with us. In other cases, the parents of these young people knew that when their children needed sanctuary, they were welcome in our home. The young man I proudly call my son once said, “You collect kids like Pokemon!”
Cherishing Unique Relationships
I still call my “parents” every year on Christmas Eve, and my daughter calls two people who are completely unrelated by blood her Grammy and Grampy. These relationships are incredibly important, as they are the only people that my wife and I have to lean on as parents. And my wife and I thought it was critical that our daughter have grandparents.
The young man that I call my son recently went through some things in his life where he turned to me and said, “You and Mom are all that I have left.” He ends every phone call with, “I love you.” Though we are not related by blood or court documents, and I didn’t meet him until he was 19, he is my son, and I am proud of the man he is becoming. Of course, I still butt in with unsolicited advice whenever I find it warranted.
Biblical Perspective on Relationships
Colossians 3:1-17 is largely about behavior. It’s easy to miss that verse 1 says, “If you have been raised up with Christ….” In verses 10-11, Paul says that whoever puts on the new self is becoming a new person, no matter their race or creed. Again, in verse 12, he says, “So as those who have been chosen by God, holy and beloved….”
Similarly, in Romans 9:25-26, Paul says, “As He says also in Hosea, ‘I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’ And her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’” 26 “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
The Commandment of Honor and Love
Yes, God plainly instructed us in the fifth commandment to honor our parents (Exodus 20:12). And we should honor them. That does not mean that we cannot strive for healthy relationships. As a matter of fact, the Bible plainly calls us to learn and grow together, as a church we are supposed to be a family, helping each other along the way. In all cases, the central theme is love.
As I mention in my book “How to be a Christian in Today’s World: Shame or Fear of Failure vs. Living Confidently in God’s Love,” it is being loved that helps to enable us to love ourselves.