Family Religion

Friday, January 15, 2010
Our family has never engaged in religion together.

Don't get me wrong. Probably every person I am related to is a Christian (of one denomination or another). We all grew up Christian and we share the same beliefs.

But when we come together to celebrate holidays, birthdays, or just to hang out, we mostly leave our religion at the door. It is not that we start cussing and telling dirty jokes, we just don't bring our faith into our relationships. We never bring the entire extended family to one church on Sunday, we don't worship together, we don't engage in religious discussions (with a few notable exceptions), and outside of praying before each meal we never engage in pray together.

Fast forward to Christmas 2009. Over 20 relatives are packed into my grandmother's house for Christmas brunch, white elephant gifts, and the main gift exchange. After the last "scheduled event" (the Christmas staple of everyone opening their presents) one of the family members spoke up saying that she had a prayer request. Everyone listened as she spoke about a specific problem that she was going through in her life, and she finished by asking that we keep her in our prayers. We all agreed that we would.

There was an awkward silence, and everyone turned back to their favorite gift from that morning; but my aunt had a different idea. "Well, we are all here, can we pray for you right now?"

Of course the Family-Member-In-Need said yes, and we all gathered around her and laid hands on her. Someone started a prayer and we in turn each added to the prayer. We didn't only pray for the one specific need, we also prayed for guidance in all of our lives, protection for family as they travel, and blessings on an out-of-state relative who had a child due in a few days. It was a beautiful moment in time when we all lifted our hearts and focused on God.

Out of all of the Christmases that I have had with my amazing relatives, out of all of the Easters and Thanksgivings and casual moments and cruises, the games we played, the late nights we spent talking, and the quiet times we shared; out of all of the times I have spent with family, this single moment is my favorite: When we got on our knees and laid hands on a loved one for God's protection, guidance, and healing.

I continue to pray that this is the last family member that needs this type of prayer, but I also pray that this is only the first of many times that we as a family join together in prayer to and worship of our amazing God.



Sara said...

I agree that as a family, we don't engage in religion together... though I admit my definition of 'religion' may be different than yours. 'Religion' to me is observation of certain rituals and adherence to particular rules or behaviors. 'Religion' is not synonymous with 'Faith' - though the two can be overlapping at times.

So in that sense, no, we don't bring our religion to the family table... mostly because I think few of us are religious - by using Sara's definition of religion.

As you pointed out, all of us are committed Christians, and I would argue that we DO in fact bring our faith to the table. Not in a flashy, it's-all-I-can-talk-about kind of way (which to me always looks like you’re trying too hard), but in a quiet way... A mature, deep-down comfortable with God and each other kind of way. And while we don't often have long, involved philosophical discussions, our conversations are marbled with things of faith so intricately that you could never ignore who we (as a family) are, or what we believe.

The way we care for each other, stand next to each other, support each other, and sometimes even admonish one another are all reflections of our faith in a loving God, and are such a deep part of us that I think reflects the calling of the church.

True, we don't always attend the same church or "worship" together in the sense of singing hymns... but worship is so much more than music! It's a reflection of Christ in your life, of honoring him with your actions and seeing people as he does and letting him love them through us. And as a family, we do those things. Sure, we could always do them better - who couldn't? The community we have - the safe place where everyone is welcome regardless, where we encourage each other and support each other, the place we go when the world beats us up - could not exist without the faith that drives us all deeply.

We may not make a habit of having theological discussions or making a point of telling each other “what God’s been doing for us lately,” but you can’t separate faith from who we are as a family. Understated, mature, and deep-seated.

Those are my thoughts, anyway.

Katanna said...

Thanks for your thoughts! I agree with you completely, that our faith transcends our fellowship. In fact whenever I am with family I constantly consider how blessed I am that God would surround me with such a loving family.

So while we may use our words differently, I think we are of the same mind.


Matt said...

Wow, really cool, dude. That sounds like an awesome family ;-)