Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Family Tree

Last Spring, I read something in a magazine from our church that I have pondered off and on for months. It was about your spiritual family tree. It said that just as your biological family tree makes you much of who you are, genetically and physically, and how you are nurtured into cultural and family norms, your spiritual family tree makes you into who you are on your journey with God. As someone who was raised in a Christian (just so you know, I started to type Christian, and accidentally typed Christmas....hmmmmm) family, and brought up actively involved in our church, I know that my spiritual family may be quite extensive compared to someone who came to Christ at a later age in life. In fact, I am sure that there are many, possibly hundreds, of people who I may not even remember by name who played some small scene in my life of teaching me about Jesus.

After all, there are my Sunday School teachers throughout my whole life. There were my church camp counselors (I mean, besides the cute twin guys who were there because their dad was camp director). There were friends from church, and maybe my contact with them was through watching them make chili with my mom in the church kitchen for a chili supper, or watching them stand with my dad at the front of the church to pass out the Lord's Supper. There were pastors over the years, at a few different churches. There were all of my Campus Crusade friends, whose impact on me was probably greater as a whole than anyone else. There is my husband. Many people have been a thread in my life, or a piece of my puzzle, who make me into a picture of who Amy is at 30 years old. And many more will join that picture to help me become Amy at 40, 50, 60, 70....112. :) Honestly, I love people, but I do hope I am with Jesus before I am 112. I have no aspirations to be the oldest living person on earth.

Here are some people I could think of...some by name, some by role. Only a small portion of the greater story.

My parents, of course. My mom and dad shaped me as a child. They took me to church, leading by example. They were active in their church, and it was always a part of who we were as a family. My dad taught us about tithing. I still can see him studying his Sunday School lessons to teach his class. My mom taught about serving in the church, through her actions. She served in the kitchen all of the time. Now that I see ladies at our church serve in the kitchen, I realize what a big, and often thankless, job it is. I saw her love her friends and the kids. The led me to know who Jesus was, and to ask Him into my heart at 8 years old. The foundation they laid early on for me helps me to see Jesus as my firm foundation now.

My Grandma Hathaway. I never had a very close relationship with my grandma. She lost my grandpa when I was in 3rd grade, and was often in ailing health after that. I grew up dreading going to the nursing home to see her, mostly because I didn't like nursing homes. I felt I never knew what to talk to her about. I wish now that I had talked about God with her. I know that my parents became believers largely to Grandma's unfailing prayers for them. Dad always said Grandma would have made a good nun. Of course, that could probably be said of most people who lived through the Great Depression, but I know it would have been true of her, too. As I grow older, I see so much need in the world around me, and such less need for myself. I hope to be as selfless as she was.

Barb, my minister's wife. I have known Barb all my life from the church I grew up in. She is my mom's best friend. I always was comfortable to be around her, and even remember giving her style tips when I was in, probably, fourth grade. However, I have felt Barb's influence in my life the greatest since becoming a pastor's wife myself. I have thought many times of how I remembered her acting and handling things. She was a wonderful example to me of a pastor's wife who was loving and very much loved. I have met with her a couple of times since we moved to our church, and have seen her not only as my mom's friend, but also as mine. Her impact in my life has been a quiet, steady example of how to love your church family.

My college girlfriends. Well, my college friends from Crusade in general belong in this category, but especially my girls. College was probably the first time when my faith became living and active to me. I had always known what I believed as a Christ-follower, but I was challenged to walk it daily at ISU. My girlfriends were, and still very much are, an active presence of prayer, encouragement, accountability, and love to me. I am amazed that I have called them my friends for ten years now. Through them, I learned to lead a Bible study, to lead younger women, to pray for each other and expect answers, and to hold one another accountable in love. They are friends like nothing I have ever experienced...lifelong.

My Charlotte. Someday I will repost my blog from myspace called "Everyone Needs a Charlotte." I met Charlotte when we moved to Muncie for our BCM work. God has used this lady in countless ways in my life. She is such a great listener and encouragement to God's work in and through me. She asks the simple question, "Why do you think that is?" and makes me think about things with fresh eyes. She is probably the closest balance I have had between mentor and friend. Watching her own close communication with God, praying and leaning on Him for things that I so often take for granted, has been a huge lesson to me. She takes her faith very seriously, as we all should, and makes me want to be more serious about my own. Plus, she can throw a mean party at her house. You leave feeling full in your stomach and your heart.

My new friends! The families in my church, my new girlfriends, my Sunday School class. They have taught me repeatedly how much God loves us and wants to bless us through our church. As Paul and I have faced one of our toughest years in marriage over the last year, our church family has continually loved and cared for our needs. They are generous beyond what we could ask or imagine. I think they are a beautiful picture of the body of Christ....yes, as a body, we are imperfect in many ways, but we do work together. I know that our church needed us for this season of the church, but I know that we needed them, maybe more. We needed them to have people who had experienced cancer in their parents, who had experienced multiple miscarriages, who had experienced things that we don't even know. And through their experiences, they related to us and cared for us in a deeper way.

Of course there are more. My best friends, my other pastors, my BCM students, my friends in ministry, my friends from Paul's seminary time. Even people I have never met, like speakers I have heard at conferences or ladies who have taught Bible studies on video have impacted the way I see my walk with God. My spiritual family tree is fruitful, and for that, I am deeply thankful.

What about you? Who are some of yours?


Beth said...

What a great idea! I may do my own post about this sometime, if you don't mind me "stealing" the idea.
I'm blessed to have a big spiritual family tree, too!

But I'm lacking a Charlotte. I need a Charlotte! :)

Stacey said...

Great post, Amy! What a special tribute to those who have discipled you in your Christian walk.

Unfortunately my FAMILY spiritual family tree has only a few lone branches on it, but I thank God for them and for all of those branches that have been grafted in over the years, my husband and in-laws included.

Like you, I had such a wonderful time of spiritual growth in college through Campus Crusade and I've had some truly gifted Sunday School teachers and other godly examples. Thanks for bringing all of this to mind today! Love this idea.