I love hearing all about local history, especially in this big Southern family I find myself a part of by marriage. When you meet people who’ve been in the same place since the Revolutionary War, you just have to ask for stories, and they’ll offer them up like sweet garden pickles from the jar.
You’ll hear about times before running water and flush toilets, about tobacco fields and what used to be right there in that field that’s now something else. A golden thread the color of sweet tea connects everyone to everyone else in little towns where people remember when the bank started (great, great granddaddy) or when the railroad tracks were placed (right up near the house) or when a certain road came into being that’s the last name of your family on your grandmother’s side.
It’s so rooted, so tightly stitched together like the quilts on the bed grandma made herself, that I wonder what that must feel like for my daughters. I wonder what it must feel like to slide right into your place in a big family that’s been here always. I think about the belonging of it, the inclusion, the golden thread that tethers you in.
It just wasn’t like this for me for many reasons–some being about military base hopping and then East Coast living when most extended family was West Coast, and some being about simply not knowing our own family history, or choosing not to. People say that children who grow up this way gain a certain adaptability and enjoy the blessing of escape from the burden of family, but I don’t think these things are true.
I think you long for belonging in a big old family your whole life. Maybe it’s just me; I find myself jealous when my Penn State students, mostly Italian, describe in detail the enormous family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas or when I read memoirs of students traveling to Ireland or Spain to meet distant cousins for grand family reunions. They always, always talk about belonging to these people, and I see their eyes glimmering and looking off in the distance with reverence for this holy thing of family.
I think we are indeed made to be rooted, and that’s why all my wandering insides leapt when I read in Ephesians this morning that I’m rooted and established in a profound familial love that this earthy family merely, at its very best like say, on the 4th of July or Christmas (did I mention fried chicken and all those salads?), symbolizes or prefigures.
Like a shadow of things to come, a mystery.
If you read Ephesians, you’re going to find all sort of verbs: included, rooted, established, adopted into the family of God. The whole thing is about a family! Keep reading the New Testament, and you’re going to think about the family of God differently.
It’s deeply rooted and tightly stitched. It’s the thing you’re longing for that you simply taste a bit of on such holidays as this one. After all, today we extend our family to include being American. We know what it’s like to expand our family borders in a moment of patriotism, and today, I remember that my own family borders go even further, right up to the golden tables of heaven.