Published Nov 22, 2022
By Carissa VanDalen
The history channel told a war story, the piano sang from the front room, and Papa mumbled down the hallway while Japanese students giggled in the sunroom. The kitchen smelled of apple pie and healthy pumpkin bars and turkey and rolls. The whole house was full of sounds, smells, and all kinds of people. This was my Thanksgiving experience for most of college, and this was my family.
Yet, it was not my biological family.
Early in college as an out-of-state student, I was invited into the Mitchell family. After a few visits to their home, I was informed that I was family now, so if I wanted something to eat or drink, I had to get it myself. And I felt like family.
I was greeted with warm hugs and caring questions. I had a family to sit with at church, I shared countless meals around their table, and I always knew I could call them for help or advice. We laughed, we cried, and we shared some intense family moments. We always sat around the kitchen island trying to decide if we had enough food for all the people we had invited and then we reconnected around the island as we packed up all the leftovers. For 10 years while I lived away from my family, I was a regular part of the Mitchell family.
Over the years, I picked up some Mitchell family phrases that help me think about family and relationships. I want to share a few with you as you consider this next season of your life in community.
1. Listen well aka “Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.”
In relationship, you will have conflict. Make it your practice to seek to understand others before you seek to be understood by them. Proverbs 15 says, “A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but one slow to anger calms strife” (Proverbs 15:18, CSB). As you interact with family during this season or seek to invest in friendships, listen and ask questions first.
2. Admit faults aka “That’s rebellion in your heart!”
If you know what you should do, but you do not do that… that’s rebellion in your heart. If you are a follower of Jesus, God is at work in your life. Ephesians says, you were “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed” (Ephesians 1:13, CSB). In gospel communities, we can be the kind of people that call out rebellion and challenge one another to run after God’s best for us. Be your authentic self with your safe friends. Allow them to encourage you away from rebellion and into the center of God’s will.
3. Speak up aka “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”
If there is something that you want in a community or in your family, speak up. Many times, we notice the problems or “squeaky wheels” that are most relevant to us. If you have a longing for something that is missing or broken in the community, there is a good chance that others see it or want it as well. God may have put that squeaky wheel into your life so that you could give it the oil it needs.
4. Be a friend aka “You have to be a friend to have a friend.”
Some are blessed with easy friendships and natural relationships with neighbors, at church, or in the workplace. Maybe you wish for a second family or a restored family or a stronger sense of community. Romans encourages us to “love one another deeply as brothers and sisters” and to “take the lead in honoring one another” (Romans 12:10, CSB). Sometimes if you want to spark a new friendship or restored a distant relationship, you have to take the initiative and be a friend first.
It is often the phrases we hear the most or repeat to ourselves that inspire our actions. Have you ever been “adopted” into another family? What phrases have inspired you in your journey to build community?