Jesus Himself said “no prophet is accepted in his own town” (Luke 4:24). I have begun to realize this more and more. As I use my voice to speak out against the injustices I see, it is often the people that “knew you when,” that have the biggest problem with it. Perhaps it is our inherent nature to be resistant to change…to seek reliability in our family members, thinking that they are reflections of us instead of whole persons within themselves. Enter: the importance of the “chosen family.”
Jesus’ disciples were his “chosen family.” They traveled together, ministered together, shared conversations both difficult and deep, and became each other’s closest comrades. They had to leave their families behind in pursuit of their purpose, and I’m sure they faced a lot of backlash for this decision. There is power in these close bonds, formed through a shared journey, forged in adversity.
There is great strength in female friendship (don’t worry, there is absolutely a male equivalent as well, i.e. the “wolf pack,” but I can only speak from my own experience). We need these close friends who will offer us support, cheer us on, and not only validate us but amplify our voices. When I need reassurance, I know that I can turn to my “girl squad,” always and without fail. Some of these women I’ve known since I was in grammar school. We have seen each other through many life changes, through good times and bad, and our support for each other has remained unwavering.
In her book Becoming, Michelle Obama writes about the importance of holding these friendships close and cultivating these relationships. “My friends made me whole,” she writes, “as they always have and always will. They gave me a lift anytime I felt down or frustrated…. They grounded me when I felt the pressures of being judged…and they helped me ride out the big unsettling waves that sometimes hit without notice.”
There are many strong female friendships in the Bible, as well. Mary turns to Elizabeth when she finds out she is pregnant with Jesus, and they share their joy and take care of each other. Ruth refuses to leave her mother-in-law Ruth alone after her husband passes, vowing, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay” (Ruth 1:16). The women were the ones who stayed at the foot of the cross as Jesus was crucified. They held each other up and remained strong.
My friends and I have “friendsgiving” every year—a tradition where we all bring dishes and celebrate a Thanksgiving meal together sometime before we all celebrate with our biological and extended families. It is this time of year that my heart goes out to those who are estranged from their family members, or perhaps they have lost loved ones who were their closest allies. This time of year can often be a harsh reminder of the division they feel within their families, and can cause a lot of anxiety in and around upcoming gatherings.
My prayer for those people is that they can find support elsewhere—perhaps their “chosen family.” This year has been hard enough, may we practice love and acceptance this season. As Jesus sat and broke bread with his disciples; as he welcomed the outcast, the zealot, the wayward soul. Let us open our hands and our hearts, and set our tables.