Real Family

Ugh. It’s Valentine’s Day again. The time when everyone worships at the altar of dating, romance and marriage. The time when talk of ‘family’ means you have to have a partner (and usually children too). I can’t stand it. 

And I’m one of the marrieds. 

My heart goes out to single people this time of year. Because I remember how hard it was for me when I was single. No matter how I tried to look on the bright side—no matter how I ignored the red heart-shaped boxes of chocolates at the supermarket—no matter how much I told myself, ‘Romance doesn’t matter’—I felt the sting of being alone. 

I felt different. Unwanted. Abnormal. 

I felt the sting of being alone.

Usually I coped by shutting myself away and hibernating until it was over. Then I would go to the shops the day after and buy up the leftover chocolates at half price. It’s called self-care. And I still practise it today. 

The thing is, while I technically ‘survived’ those horrible years, it would have helped if I had received a visit from a friend instead of withdrawing from the world out of necessity. A phone call, a text, a meetup for coffee would have gone a long way. 

It would have let me know I was not forgotten. 

It would have told me my life had value, even though I was unmarried. 

It would have reminded me I was loved, even in the absence of a lover. 

It would have reminded me I was loved, in the absence of a lover.

So this year I am challenging myself to reach out to single friends and remind them that I love them. It’s a simple gesture, and maybe it sounds too simple to be meaningful. But maybe it will mean something to them. Maybe it will make a difference on an already difficult day. 

Because that’s what real family does. Family is not defined by blood relations or marital ties. It’s also the family we choose: friends, colleagues, churches. And God has welcomed us into his worldwide family so we can look after one another. 

That’s what real family does.

That way, everyone is loved—not just those who are coupled. 

So, my single friends. How are you going to survive this Valentine’s Day? Hey, if you want to hole up somewhere and binge-eat chocolate, I totally get that. Go for it. If you want to reach out to other single friends, maybe share some solidarity, go for that too. 

And married friends. How can you reach out to the singles in your churches and friendship circles? How can you remind them in simple yet tangible ways that they are loved? How can you show them they are part of the family—the real family? 

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