Thursday, February 8, 2018

it's my last day of my twenties

I learned to ride a bike when I was 7 or so. My uncle Kent taught me in the suburbs in Indiana. This afternoon my sister from Tanzania and I went to a sidewalk outside our home in Hong Kong and had a lesson. I’m not sure I was as thorough in my instruction as uncle Kent, but “just keep pedalling and don’t fall over” is the advice I kept encouraging her with. 

It’s a fitting last-day-of-my-20’s afternoon. 

This decade has been an explosion. 

I graduated college and Grandma let me move into her little rent house in my hometown. I fed teenagers and told them they should follow Jesus. We looked like an imperfect but fun family that ate a lot of ravioli and received a lot of grace. I got hurt and I hurt, I got forgiven and I forgave. All those teenagers who treated me like I was important and that rent house roommate who kept forgiving me, they showed me family. 

I went to India for the first time. A bunch of beautiful kids without moms and dads to raise them treated me like I was a queen and let me invade their sleeping quarters with all my fancy American crap. They taught me how to play Indian games in the sand and taught me how to eat rice and curry with my right hand. They showed me that praying on your knees with eyes squinted shut must look like a work of art to the One we’re praying to. They hugged me and forgave me and celebrated me. They showed me family. 

I lived at a summer camp in Michigan. Kids from the inner city came and canoed with me and worshipped with me and rode horses with me and ate with me and trusted me and showed me family. 

I almost died in Thailand. Missionaries I didn’t know fought for my life. My Pastor cancelled his flight home so he could stay by my unconscious body and pray. My parents flew across the world to be with me as I lay broken and useless in the ICU. A missionary left her once-a-year visit with her family to fly back and help mom and dad communicate with the Thai doctors. A girl who watched me get bloodied up by that metal pole I hit, she prayed and cried and gave me her cool ring when she came to visit me in the hospital. These and the thousands of friends around the globe who asked God to please help me live, they showed me family. 

I lived with my brother (in-law) and sister and their kids for about a year. They let me live in their basement for free and they fed me all their food. They paid off my college debt and they let me play with their kids and they showed me how to move into a new city and love everyone in it. They taught me that starting a church is a hard and really good idea. They showed me family. 

I spent a summer in Mozambique. My African brother gave me a big heavy bag of peanuts right before I flew home because he knew I liked peanuts. His mama cooked for me and my friends every Sunday. Mama Heidi Baker showed me what it’s like to fall in love and stay in love with the Savior King. All those teachers at that school poured their wealth into my heart. My housemates from all over the globe taught me about friendship and culture and patience. Everyone in that place, they showed me family. 

I moved to Hong Kong to help God’s family grow in the red light districts, and that’s happening, but what’s even more apparent, I’ve found family growing in me. A best friend who keeps showing me God’s chest ripped open, “family” written big and bold right across His Heart. Ladies who feed me African food and teach about faith that’s lived out and colleagues that keep giving cupcakes to girls in strip clubs and people who are so different than me giving me their love and showing me their hearts and even though I’ve been emotionally unstable and homesick and selfish, the love keeps coming and family, family, family; they keep showing me family. 

I went to the Philippines and Thailand and Singapore and Holland and England and Mexico and Disney world in Florida and China and LA a couple times and Nepal...I went to a lot of places. But the people I went with, the people who sent me, the people I saw in each land, they're what count; they showed me family. 

I’ve cried at airport goodbyes and I’ve cried at airport reunions. My parents have travelled the world with me, playing with kids in India and building tables in the red light district in Hong Kong and feeding me icecream in the hospital in Thailand; His Big Heart on clear display.

It's been a decade exploding with family. 

And here at the end, I’m living in a house called Family Home. We’re from four different nations and it’s hard for us to understand each other’s histories because they’re so different from one another’s. But my sisters and me, we’ve all been brought out of dark places and into the light-filled place, the family place. And my sisters open their hearts and show me what’s inside and they pray for me and they forgive me and we’re all learning to love and they’re showing me family. 

“Intimacy makes family.”
God often tells me that. I’ve decided to spend my life discovering how true this sentence is. My heart is open to Him and His is open to me; I touch His and He touches mine. We share with each other and we look at each other and intimacy is cultivated and family is made. As I touch this Heart that I came out of, He builds family around me. 

The relationships--the love I’ve received, the love I’ve given--it's marked me up, changed me, fuelled meaning into life. 

From uncle Kent to my peanut brother in Mozambique, I know God more deeply because of all this family love. 

So, dear everybody, thank you for showing me family. It's been a really good decade and I love you. 

"The more Heaven comes to earth, the more heaven looks like family."
 -Jonathan David Helser