Last week while driving from Michigan to Chicago I listened to a fascinating radio interview of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, the Christian family with 19 children and TV fame. Our family had its own Duggar-esque experience in 1989 when my sister’s family moved in with ours for a while.
Mary and Bervin’s family was adding a second story to their ranch home, and without water, heat or benefit of a roof, they needed a place to stay. We begged them to bunk with us, knowing how much fun it would be, and they agreed, but with one stipulation: that they buy all the food for the duration. Of course Nate and Bervin wrangled over this, but I saw it as God’s lavish blessing. Our family was at its low point financially with Nate’s business collapsing that very year.
I’ll never forget the night Bervin walked in our front door after work carrying a fresh watermelon. Nate and I hadn’t splurged on fresh fruit for many months, and the sight of that big watermelon refreshed my soul. With 18 around the dinner table that night (my folks included), that melon came and went pretty quickly, but it tasted sweeter than any I’ve had since.
During the weeks we were together, the chicken pox hit, as well as the school science fair, but we also celebrated several birthdays, a couple of graduations and a few blue ribbons for those science projects. There were no squabbles, despite having to sleep on the floor, cram into vehicles and wait for meals. It was a happy time for all 16 of us, and when my sister’s house was ready for them to move back, we mourned the separation.
Not everyone likes to “live large.” Having to wait for the shower or being without private space can be frustrating. But God is deliberate in putting families together. He matches up husbands and wives and calls some to be single. He sends biological babies or not, sometimes choosing to bring children from the other side of the globe to complete a family. He asks some couples to be childless in order to parent the children of others. His creativity in grouping us knows no limits.
We can arrange or rearrange things to suit ourselves, but stepping away from God’s lead is risky. His best may seem endlessly “just around the bend,” but we can trust that whatever he’s preparing will be worth our wait. Putting people into families was his idea first, and he knows how to satisfy our needs to love and be loved.
Though I’m single now, I’m not lonely, because God has called me into it. Remembering our Duggar-esque weeks as a mega-family, though, makes me grin… and want to take a nap.
“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families. Rejoice in his presence!” (Psalm 68:5-6,4b)