Love & Family

This week marks my last week as a full time college student. Pretty weird but exciting at the same time. For one thing it marks a new start, a chance for me to get out of the mundane and into my passions. On the other hand it brings unknowns and uncertainties about the future. It’s all exciting and nerve wracking, but I can’t wait to see where God takes me. I’ve learned so much over the past four years during my time at university, but there was a moment about two weeks ago that taught me immensely about two things, love and family. I’ve written about these two things several times before, but I am taking a non-traditional approach to what it means to have family and what it means to love people. I want to talk about them because I feel like in our culture today, especially in a Christian spiritual culture today, we tend to see our family as just the people we serve alongside in ministry or flesh and blood. We also use love as a bargaining chip, saying if you do “x,” then I will give you love. That’s not what we are called to do, and today I want to talk about a moment that was a turning point in the life of someone I experienced not long ago.

This past semester I was in a “small group and team communication” class. This basically meant nothing but group work (ugh), and I really wasn’t excited for it in the least. Group work is always frustrating and you should never trust someone who likes group work in academics (they’re probably the ghost of the group). We were placed in random groups of five, and my group became known as “Team Lit.” Why lit? Because we’re lit, fam (sorry for my millennial speak). My group was Taylor, Tiffany, Kendall, and Asia. We created a name for ourselves and bonded over team building days, where we may have fought and cheated only a little. It was incredible, I grew with these people and we became fast friends. It didn’t make sense, we are all very different people, yet we meshed together. Our project at the end of mid semester was good, but we really enjoyed being together over the project itself. After we were split up, but still kept our group text and talked smack about the craziness of others in the class. Our new groups weren’t bad, just different. Weeks past, and then it came time for our end of semester projects to be presented, and that’s when it happened. When I learned that family shouldn’t be limited to the people who are like you, and that love shouldn’t be withheld. It was a moment that struck like lightening.

I walked into class on a rainy day, I was kinda feeling down about the stress and weeks ahead that were going to test me. I sat down and another classmate I know from church asked me if I knew Taylor, and of course I said yes! She then said to go talk with him because something is wrong. I hate that feeling. A kick to the stomach and you don’t know what to do next. I walked outside of class and down the hall where I saw Taylor, visibly shaken and tears in his eyes. I sat next to him and asked him what was going on, and he told me, I won’t share it here because I want to respect his privacy and right to share. He told me and my heart ached for him, it was a situation that I know all too well, and we just sat there. My arm was around him and I knew that this is what he needed, sometimes in our lives we feel that we have to solve the issue, but sometimes we just need someone to sit with us as we experience hell. I went to go let my teacher know what was going on so he wouldn’t have to go and deal with all eyes on him. Dr. McCall immediately told me to do whatever needed to be done and not to worry about missing class. We went back to sit, because that’s what he needed.

As we were on the bench, only a few minutes later, the rest of my group members of Team Lit came running down the hall and bear hugged Taylor. We all sat there together, this group of misfits who became a family, supporting our brother who needed comfort. I think this is what God wants us to do when he talks about loving others in scripture. John 13:34 says, Love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you must love one another.” God loves us by sitting with us in the midst of hell on earth. When it feels like everything is crashing, God comforts us by simply being with us, telling us things are going to get better. Everyone around us is our family. The people in your life that you think don’t care, care the most. The people you wonder if you impact, are the ones who are most impacted by you. Never forget that. On that day after we walked around to help Taylor clear his head, he told us that we were like his family. He laughed and told us his other group sucked (that’s me putting it in PG form), he said they just gave a side hug and told him they’d pray for him. Don’t do that, don’t become that Christian who side hugs and says they’ll pray, be a Christian who is willing to get mascara streaks and snot on your shirt from bear hugging one in need. God uses our tragedy to speak, but people don’t need to hear that when the world is hitting you. Be open and willing to step into what God is calling you to. This experience made me think of a simple phrase.

Give love freely, don’t lock it away like a prisoner.

Love & Family

This wasn’t a post to talk about how good of a deed I did, that’s not what I care about. I care about the fact that I was there. Where God had placed me. Maybe my whole road was leading to that moment so I could be there for Taylor. That is worth it to me. I think many of us have opportunities just like this, a moment where another person needs us to be Jesus. Don’t miss it. Don’t preach to someone who simply needs you to sit with them. Being there for someone in their moment of need will speak louder than any pastor ever can. The people in your life are your family. The misfits, the people you feel don’t like you, and the people you think have it together. These people are your family. So love them. Love them like the world is going to hell, because it is. Only you have been placed where you are to make an impact, so love, and love fiercely.

Give love freely, don’t lock it away like a prisoner.

-Joshua Thomas

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