God Places the Lonely in Families
God places the lonely in families;
he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.
But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
When I read Psalm 68:6, the first sentence of this verse grabbed my attention: “God places the lonely in families.” The Hebrew reads literally, “God causes the solitary ones to dwell in homes.” In context, but literary and cultural, this is not simply a statement about where people live, but also and especially about their relationships. “God places the lonely in families” captures the sense of the original.
When I began my pastoral work at Irvine Presbyterian Church, almost everyone in the congregation lived with their nuclear families. We had a few college students and single adults. But they were the exception to the rule.
During my first few months in the church, several of these “exceptions” came to see me. They wanted to share their feelings of being nobodies in the church. “Everything here is oriented to families,” one woman said. “I often feel left out.” I saw what she meant during one of the churches traditional communion services. In this service, families were invited to come forward and serve the elements to each other. For them, it was a profoundly moving experience. But, the person in charge of the service invited the singles to “come forward and serve yourselves.” Ouch!
It was wonderful and, indeed, biblical for Irvine Presbyterian Church to seek to support natural families. Yet we seemed to have forgotten that the family of God includes all sorts of people, people who needed to belong, people who needed to experience the “first family” of the church. So, we began to find ways to be more inclusive and supportive of the single people in the church. For example, realizing that some of our single members had no place to go on family-oriented holidays, we encouraged people to open their homes on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Moreover, because single adults often have freedom that married folk do not, we encouraged them to become leaders of ministries and mission trips. I’m quite sure we didn’t get everything right. But I know we grew in our awareness of and openness to those who needed the church to be their family.
In a day in which more and more people are feeling alienated, Christians have a marvelous opportunity to be channels of God’s love. We can be the families—and the church family—in which God places the lonely.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever been one of the lonely whom God placed in families? When? Have you ever been one of the families that provided a home for the lonely? When? How might you open your life and family in order to welcome others?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for putting the lonely in families. Thank you for calling your church to be a family that welcomes all people. Help us to live out this calling with faithfulness and grace.
Thank you, dear Lord, for welcoming me into your family. Thank you for calling me your child and embracing me with your love. Thank you for the mutual ministry and friendship I have experienced in your church. Help me, dear Lord, to be aware of those around me whom you want to place in my family. May my heart be open to you and to others. Amen.
Here’s how . . . .
This devotional comes from The High Calling: Everyday Conversations about Work, Life, and God (www.thehighcalling.org). You can read my Daily Reflections there, or sign up to have them sent to your email inbox each day. This website contains lots of encouragement for people who are trying to live out their faith in the workplace. The High Calling is associated with Laity Lodge, where I work.