Family can provoke feelings of love, protection, dig up emotions of loneliness and abandonment or wake up something in between.
We don’t get to choose our family of origin. It chooses us.
Families are a unique mixture of personalities, attitudes and perspectives. Many times, this individuality doesn’t mix well together. Most of the time, families are downright weird and have quirks that drive each other crazy!
Sticks and Stones
Inevitably, family hurt us. Their words and actions damage deeply. While the childhood saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" seems like a brave thing to say, it is an outright lie!
Strategically placed words can sting and destroy in ways that nothing else can, and the actions of others can leave us feeling defeated.
Families do all these things, yet, we’re to love them AND we spend a lifetime trying to like them.
Ingrid Trobisch, wife of famous psychologist Walter Trobisch, wrote, [Jesus} was an unwanted child… an embarrassment to his parents, unexpected, and unplanned. And still, there has never been a child more wanted, more loved by God and never a person who became a greater blessing to more people than Jesus.
Jesus came from a blended family, half brothers and sisters, one mother and two fathers. Can you imagine the hurtful gossip heard around town about Joseph and Mary’s family? I imagine their family was not only filled with jealousy, conflicts and loneliness, but also love, support and encouragement. Distinctly similar to our modern day family.
“Pain is deepest when it comes from those who know us best”, writes Stephen W. Smith in his book, The Jesus Way.
Parents do the best they can with what they have or know. They fail us and hurt us.
As a parent, I grieve the mistakes I have made. My heart aches at some of the things I have done.
Families are where our stories begin.
They are the foundation from which we build our lives. We all need a family as God designed us to be in relationship.
Whether it’s our birth family, adoptive family or family of choice; family is meant to be a safe, supportive group of people.
Sometimes our family of origin (FOO) doesn't cut it for whatever reason. This is sad but not the end.
We can choose those we want to be in our close circle of friends as our family of choice (FOC). It’s our choice to be around these people, not a “have to” because they're family.
Just like our FOO our FOC has layers of relationships. Some are closer than others.
The image below can help you identify your immediate circle of influence.
The most inner circle includes your 1-3 closest friends. Your FOC can include family members but the idea is that your closet friends know you. You’re authentic and real with one another. You love to be around them and they long to be with you.
You share the “brutal and beautiful”. You disclose your celebrations, victories as well as heartaches and struggles with one another.
The reality is, we only have time in our lives for about 1-3 inner circle connections at a time. Relationships like these take time, commitment and dedication to one another.
The next circle or layer of friends include relationships that encourage. For whatever reason you may not have the time or interest to develop deeper relationships in this group. FOC can include neighbors, family members, coworkers, and community or church friends. These friendships are just not as deep as our inner circle relationships.
The outer circle is for acquaintances. The mail delivery person, Dr., new in-laws, neighbor, community or church group member. They are a part of your life, just not as involved as the others.
The last group of people is outside any circle. This group includes people you have purposefully moved away from your inner circles. Mistrust, betrayal or hurt has permeated your relationship. It is no longer safe to be in relationship with them.
Who is in your family of choice?
Take some time to assess your relationships. Include FOO and all other relationships. As you consider your friendships it can be helpful to ask God to give you his perspective and influence. A prayer like the following could be valuable.
God, guide me as I review the relationships in my life. Help me to see these relationships from your perspective. Give me wisdom.
As you consider your relationships think about the following:
Are they a safe person to be with? Can you be yourself when you are with them? Do you feel inspired to be with them?
If yes, put their names in the inner circle. Remember, there's only room for about 3 intimate relationships.
Some of these names could be in the inner circle. Because of time, events or stages in life they are in your next layer of friendships
This layer of relationships support and encourage you too.
Who is a part of your life but not in the other 2 circles, acquaintances? You care for them but for whatever reason you aren't close.
Depending on where we are in life, the circles change. People change. You change. The encouragement here is we all need people and people need you.
God has designed us to be in relationship with Him and one another. Did you add Jesus in any of your circles? I know it may seem kind of strange to include Him because he’s not here in flesh and blood. Yet, He longs to be in your inner circle of trust.
When this relationship is central, all other relationships flow. He equips us to love the unlovable. He guides us through turbulent relationships and reveals the untrustworthy. He heals and gives wisdom.
When sticks, stones and words hurt us, we have somewhere to go. Our family of choice loves up on us. They help pick up the broken pieces and put our lives back together.
I hope the next time you hear or see the word "family" you will think of your family of choice. May you remember that you choose whom you have in your life. May your FOC create the next chapters in your life story.
Blessings to you.
This is part 4 of 6 in a series, How to Recover Your Life and Find Your Way. To read the series visit: