I Wanted A Family

Some of us wanted to have a family. We wanted a partner, children, grandchildren. We wanted to live a life surrounded by our loved ones.

It is painful to live without the longed-for family.

For single people, longing to find a partner, to love and to be loved by just one person, it can be hard to live without that family of two.

For childless people, it can be difficult to live without children, to not pass on values and legacies and faith to those little ones.

Life without the desired family can leave a void in our hearts, filled by grief.

Life without family can leave a void in our hearts.

Thankfully, Jesus promises redemption for those voids. For those who are single, their family is the family of God. Their intimacy is found in friendships and in knowing Jesus. They can serve God whole-heartedly, without dividing their time.

For those who are childless, they can bear spiritual children. Most of us, at some time, have invested in another person. We have mentored, pastored, helped, cared about, prayed for, encouraged and nurtured others in their Christian walks.

Those are spiritual children.

I wonder what it will be like when we get to heaven. I wonder what family we will meet – not just blood family, but spiritual family, those whom we have helped in their faith, those who leaned on us and looked to us, those who were uplifted and inspired by us.

I wonder how many spiritual children we will have.

I wonder how many spiritual children we will have.

This is the redemptive power of the gospel. No matter what our ‘families’ look like here on earth, when we belong to Jesus, we belong to his worldwide family of brothers and sisters. This family is larger and richer than any biological family we could have borne ourselves.

It serves to remind me that our earthly families are only temporary. If we are given an earthly family, it is our job to care for them and steward them in the same way we would steward anything else God has given to us.

But our earthly families are a symbol or metaphor for our eternal, heavenly family, of which we are already a part. These physical families are short-term. They are given to us for a finite time, to learn about our real, lasting family in Christ.

Our earthly families teach us about love, not just about affectionate feelings but about gritty, hard-core, down-in-the-trenches love. We learn about sacrifice and compromise and serving through our families. We learn about putting others before ourselves.

We learn about putting others before ourselves.

These are the learnings that we take with us into eternity. They will never pass away. God’s redemptive power is ever working away in our hearts, making us softer and sweeter, making us more like him.

We all have an opportunity to invest in God’s family, and to bear spiritual children, while we are still on earth. For single and childless people, we have even more opportunity. Let’s pour our passion and love – and yes, even our grief – into our brothers and sisters and spiritual children.

I can’t wait to meet them in heaven.

Do you have any spiritual children? Are there legacies of faith you want to pass on? How might God be stirring you to love his family? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.

4 thoughts on “I Wanted A Family

  1. Great post, Steph. One of the hardest lessons for me was to learn that spiritual children are not second-best, they’re part of God’s plan. Thanks for sharing.

  2. It breaks my heart: “I wanted a family.” Past tense. You see, since the hope of a family is dead, then all desire for it must also burn to ash, never to be resurrected. It’s hard for me to buy into this “spiritual family, spiritual children” cure for my single/childless heartache. Why? Because we don’t ask married parents, those with earthly families, to develop quite the same spiritual strength. If we did demand the same spiritual strength of married parents, then we would actively teach them things like “Your marriage is temporary. It dissolves on death. You relinquish your children back to God at the end of time because they belong to Him. In heaven, you will have total satisfaction in Jesus and in your spiritual brothers and sisters. Your spiritual siblings. No longer will you have any identity as spouse or parent. Those identities will turn to irredeemable ash. Forever.” Do we teach that to married parents? Of course we don’t. We teach them that, assuming their salvation, they can enjoy their spouse and children forever, with earthly memories intact, going on for eternity to enjoy their earthly-originated family creation even more. And the permanently single and childless, surrounded by this, can just ache forevermore.

    • Dear Charlotte, it’s true. Everything you said is true. We are not good at teaching the church about eternal families and spiritual children. You are right, earthly families are temporary, but we seldom hear sermons about this. The ‘spiritual children’ thing for single and childless people can feel like a consolation prize. It is not a cure-all, and it certainly does not compensate us for the heartache we carry. Beyond exhorting the church to teach about family from an eternal perspective, childlessness is a holy mystery, and our pain a sacred burden. I do not have an answer – except that God sees our grief, and he promises to be close to the broken-hearted. May his peace be near to you.

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