Building a Family
My youngest brother arrives home from his mission in two weeks, and combined with my sister planning a wedding, and all the changes coming up this year to our family structure, I’ve been pondering the subject.
I have a family here on earth, they are so good to me. And I want to share my life with them through all eternity. But my family doesn’t look much like the posters that we use at church to help define “family” for primary children. It’s not only that my parents are divorced, it’s also that many of the people I consider my family haven’t met each other, and we probably have to go back hundreds of years to find a blood connection.
Chad and Elisa are, in some ways, parents towards me, but I am also a parent to their children. Anne and Steve have taken me in like a long lost cousin, and for 6 months I helped raise their children. Frances is a mother-figure, confidante and enthusiastic coworker. Glenn watches over my spiritual path, and Kirsty (related by blood to Shona, big sister of my soul) has helped me take care of my body. Sarah and Jocelyn are somewhere between sisters and mirrors of myself: their paths are their own, but reflect my possibilities back to me. And further connections, but no less loved and claimed: Kiri and Lara, housemates-in-law from my sister’s time in London, and Krystal and Taylor, whose marriage I’ll claim to have orchestrated until my dying days. And, thanks to the power of the internet, some people I consider family are people I haven’t even met in real life, but through sharing the depths of our hearts and details of our lives, we have bonded our souls.
Drawing out the family tree of everyone I love, and hope to be connected to for eternity, would be complicated and time-consuming, but I’ve often been tempted. If family group sheets are sacred documents (and I believe they are), there’s something important about recording this information. And though there is no temple ordinance (yet?) to bind these people to me, I have to believe that the connections I am making in my life are not going to disappear as I step through the veil. These people are teaching me to love and serve, through their examples and their gracious acceptance of my offerings. My heart swells as I feel I am growing closer (in the tiniest steps) to my Saviour’s individual love of each of us.
This is the reason we are here, to learn how to feel other people’s happiness and pain, to intertwine our experiences so much together that we are all raised to heaven together. It is difficult, exhausting work, and we can’t do it in the abstract. “Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.” fn1 We have to love one person in one moment, and build those moments into a relationship – and all that love, the very purpose of our being sent here, is eternally important. And just as one loaf isn’t enough to keep feeding us, we need more than one kind of bread in our lives. All these kinds of relationships are important.
When I think of families, being organised eternally through temple ordinances, I wonder if Jesus will be sealed to Mary and Joseph. I remember that in the early days of the church, sealings of adoption and servitude were available, and families were arranged along kingdom lines. I read the scriptures and see that families have been complicated since the beginning, and we still don’t, I think, have the full picture figured out.
I do still (selfishly?) hope for a husband and children of my own, but the times I feel closer to God and Christ are the times that my vision of “family” is expanded – and during those times, I feel certain that our institutional imagination will continue to grow, and families will be recognised in all their wonderful weirdness as people who’ve decided to connect their lives together. And maybe, one day far in the future, we’ll have the temple ordinances to match.