I grew up believing that Easter was a holiday for which I received a basket of candy--chocolate, to be precise--and thanked the Easter bunny for such a marvelous gift. How kind of this mythical creature to hop along to my front door and drop off a treat that’s fate was to be eaten by eight year old me, and forgotten about the next day. Jesus was not a part of my Easter celebration.
This Easter Sunday I was baptized. You guessed it: Jesus was a big part of that celebration.
To say that my thankfulness has shifted, that my eyes have opened, that I’ve realized the gift I have actually been given, would be a dramatic understatement; the gift I have been given through Jesus’ death and resurrection is eternal life, yes, but it is also everything that is within this life: my body, my mind, my dreams, my goals, my friends, my experiences, my home, my family. Each of these gifts--like bonus gifts tagged onto the gift of eternal life with the King of kings--come with a lot of lessons that I will never stop learning.
I’m going to take up this space of the internet to talk about family and how I have learned what a gift it is. When I say family, I’m talking about the church family, the body of Christ. I am not ignoring our blood relatives, in fact I want to talk about the body because I believe it sets an example that can transform the individual families that we all have.
I am an ancient nineteen years old. I have learned a lot in my life, but boy do I have so much more to learn. I want to keep learning and being surprised by the family that I am now a part of. I am not from here. I’m from San Diego, California and nearly everything I own and everything I know is back there, 1,919 miles away. My car, my guitar, my family, my dogs, my school... you get my drift. I moved out here pretty quickly and had a very small agenda: I was to be a nanny for four months.
God had different plans.
I have now been here for nine months. I’m in the Antioch Discipleship School (ADS), a barista at Starbucks, and have been fully immersed in the church and the people that make it up. From not knowing Antioch existed, to living with an Antioch family, I’d say God wanted to teach me something about relationships and His heart for each one of us.
I built a lot of walls growing up and my trust was given out, for lack of a smaller measurement, in teaspoons. I had a view of God that reflected my experiences, not the Bible. Jumping into Antioch changed that, and much more. I have been graciously guided to the truth of God’s heart, my identity, and my purpose in this earth through the relationships I have built with the body of Christ that have brought me to the Bible. In class, in church, and in conversations, God has slowly revealed His idea of a family to me. I’ve been in need of many things out here--a place to live, a way of transportation, a meal--and every time I am in that place, God protects and provides through a family member.
These “family members” of mine, these brothers and sisters in Christ, have let me sleep on their couches and borrow their cars. They have given me a bed to sleep on and a room to sleep in. They have been my chauffeurs and my often-needed advice givers. They have brought me Vernors and saltine crackers when I’ve been sick. They have given me a guitar to play. They have taught me how to drive in the snow. They have bought me groceries and cooked me dinner. They have shown me what it means to love thy neighbor and have all things in common. They have given their time, their money, their space, their energy, their love.
Because of all of this--these people and these experiences--I have gotten a glimpse into the kingdom.
I have been on the receiving end of those who live generously and openly, with their eyes on Jesus. I have been blessed abundantly by those who fill the seats of our church and I can’t help but believe that this sort of family is a reflection of God’s intent for all of our families: that we would all live with our hearts eager to love, our arms open wide, and our eyes fixed on the one that started it all.
About the Author: Courtney is sort of a college student. She's also sort of a musician, a barista, a writer, and an artist. Most of her life has happened in San Diego, CA where she practically camped out on the stage telling dozens of stories via musical theatre. Now she makes coffee for people, drinks even more coffee for herself, tries to run, and is always ready to pull the age card on her thirteen older ADS classmates. She does indeed enjoy long walks on the beach.