Nuclear family is everything.
The focus on family can be challenging for single women in the church, and it can be particularly intense during the holidays. One experience stands out for me, and it occurred during one of our annual staff Christmas parties. During the distribution of the gifts, someone commented before we opened the gifts that these were meant to be enjoyed with our spouse and kids. Now, I appreciated receiving a gift, but it was immediately clear that the leadership assumed most people were married and had a traditional nuclear family. It was true, the majority of the staff were married with kids; but the fact no one thought how this assumption might be uncomfortable―even painful―for a single person made what was supposed to be a fun occasion extremely isolating.
The value of the nuclear family is extremely high within the church. We are encouraged repeatedly to spend time with our spouse and kids. There are thousands of sermons, classes, small groups, and Christian books dedicated to marriage and family. It can be frustrating and hurtful when everything around us suggests marriage is the ultimate goal―especially if we can’t seem to get there. I have sat through countless sermons on healthy marriages, wishing I could have the type of intimacy they were describing.
I’ve finally realized, however, that intimacy and the idea of family is much larger than just the nuclear kind. We see examples of this throughout Scripture. Jesus, I believe, had a chosen family―the 12 disciples and his closest followers. He even gave his mother to John right before he died. Talk about a non-traditional family!
Community and family are very important―we were never meant to walk through life alone. I felt God calling me to create a chosen family, and I have followed that calling. My chosen family creates a space where I am known―where I feel safe and loved for who I am. My chosen family is a diverse mix of people―single, married, divorced, widowed, parents, and people without kids. These are people I can call day or night, and they would drop everything to be at my side. We have walked through difficult times together―arguments, celebrations, sickness, births, and deaths. I have chosen to be vulnerable with them, and they have all, in different ways, been an expression of God's transformative love to me.