The concept of "family" has so many meanings, perhaps a different meaning for each person who considers or seeks to defines it.

Today I (John) reflect on family from the concept of degrees of separation. There is a popular concept that we are no more than six degrees of separation from anyone on this planet. Not sure my brain is ready to go there and I feel pretty sure I can find at least one person 7+ degrees out, but then that would be a waste of limited brain time.

The holiday season (more than just Christmas) seems to well up a desire in most to share some time with family. Perhaps that is the most challenging part of our calling, living many time zones away from biological family means we share many experiences (birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, holidays, etc.) long distance. Certainly modern technology means we can feel closer and maintain better contact but it is still the next best thing to "being there."

We still "feel" connected even though the distance prevents physical presence. We are family and the degree of separation is merely a geographical phenomenon. The separation can be measured in degrees of longitude.

Currently in our journey (home is still Gent, Belgium) we are experiencing another phenomenon of family that is unknown to many. It is a family of those chosen by God, adopted into His spiritual family and bonded together by His love independent of time and distance. I suppose one could say there are no (or only one) degree of separation from any family member. That may seem hard to comprehend given the vast (and unknown to anyone other than God Himself and some over-confident statisticians) number of spiritual family members. But we are connected and there is family wherever we go.

Currently we are in the Atlanta, Georgia area. I (John) have a brother and sister-in-law who live in the Atlanta area. We also have many friends and ministry partners who live in this area and are "family" to us. In over 32 years of vocational ministry we have come to realize and appreciate the spiritual family into which we are connected. Certainly when Lucy was being treated and hospitalized for her cancer, it was our Belgian spiritual family that God had placed there for us.

The same is true in Georgia. Yes, biological family can and will be connected to us during my surgery, but once again it is spiritual family that cares for us. And we are constantly surprised at the limited degrees of separation. Here is one example.

The hospital has kindly offered its chaplaincy service to us. For those with no local spiritual counsel, that could be a great resource. But for us, we have so many spiritual family members that we thought let the chaplains care for those with limited support. Until one of our friends told us about her friend who is a chaplain at the hospital and said it would be a blessing for us all. We did not know we knew any of the chaplains but our family does and is connecting us.

Lucy received an email from the prayer ministry of one of the local churches. The leader of the prayer ministry wrote that they had received our name from her pastor. We can say we do not know the pastor (although he currently holds a prominent position in the Southern Baptist Convention) but one of our spiritual family members knows him and connected us.

Another local pastoral minister has offered to come and pray for/with us before surgery. I (John) cannot recall how many times I have done that with church members and others because a family member requested that. Do we know this person? No. But one of our family members does and so we are connected.

Did we fail to mention that we are connected to our Christian surgeon in the same way. We did not know him, but spiritual family members here do and "connected" us. Yesterday we told him of the multitudes that are praying for him and all the staff and asked if we could pray together before surgery and he said it is always a special bond for him to do that with his patients. He is family (spiritual) and family is caring for family. So for those who want to know why we are in Marietta, Georgia having surgery it is because we have family here. Many members who we still do not know personally but to whom we are connected with no more than one degree of separation.

For all who have never experienced that, it is the part of faith and belief in God that is missing. We are created (wired if you still have problems with being created by a master designer) for family and community. That is why we seek it at special times (holidays, etc) in our lives. That is what God provides for His family independent of geographical location on this earth ball.

Our prayer in this time of surgery and recovery is that many more will see the reality and wonder of being connected to family by no more than one degree of separation and be adopted into the greatest family on earth (well even above that, but for some that is still hard to accept). Our prayer is that through this illness and treatment God will come onto the radar and into the hearts of more who need to be connected as family.

Some who will read this may still think people of faith are uninformed, superstitious and unenlightened. I can attest to not being very superstitious but there may be enough evidence to convict me of the other two. Faith will always lack appeal until it is experienced. There is no way to "explain" the difference faith makes in life. We live it, experience it, grow in it and share it. Faith operates where it does not "make sense" otherwise it would not be faith but reason. All I can say is that if faith is unenlightened than I prefer that to being enlightened and disconnected from the family of faith. For me, that is a "no brainer". But God does want us to know and love Him with all our heart, soul, being AND mind. I do not fully understand, but do not have to. I just know that the one degree of separation has and is sustaining us. It is real, tangible and fulfills the need built into each of us.

As I write this, I wonder what other part of the family I will meet today. It is amazing to see the connectedness of the greatest family on the planet. And there will (soon I think) be a great family reunion. Until then, I wonder and try my best to be a connector.

More to come.

Lore Lagrone
12/07/2011 10:01

Caleb & I prayed together for you and for Tiffany (Ty's mother) this morning. Love to you both.

Kris medart
12/07/2011 13:21

Lieve John,

Wij waren ook in Marietta tijdens onze reis in april.

John, vrijdag 9 dec hebben we van 9u-10u een extra bidstond in De Burg. Je geestelijke familie in België bidt mee! We wensen je een spoedig en volledig herstel.

Kris & Hermien


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