Ann cheerfully carried the brown paper bag filled with freshly baked biscuits which came out of the oven a few minutes before. Resting on the bottom of the bag was a jar of marionberry preserves, which traveled all the way from Oregon, carefully clutched and transported from one airplane to another before resting on my kitchen table.
Ann was hosting two family celebrations this weekend: her second daughter's high school graduation and her mother's eightieth birthday. Family and friends were gathering non-stop through the revolving door of her home to honor these milestones.
Ann mentioned she didn't have a grandma to fill in a few gaps - like baking biscuits for snacking and breakfast. I thought I was the only one with gaps to fill from the losses I experienced in childhood. However, I reflected on Ann's remarks and realized even if we were all part of families who nurtured us emotionally, spiritually and physically in healthy was, no family system can make us complete. We all need others.
Jesus spoke of the need for community, for life in the body of Christ. Jesus modeled balance many ways by going away to spend time alone with God. Jesus also spent time traveling through towns and villages speaking with people, teaching and healing.
My husband and I did not live in the same state as our parents and other relatives, so our children did not grow up surround by adoring family members. However, these gaps for family were filled by kind and loving people who were in the congregations of each church Mike pastored.
We lived in parsonages, two of which were next tot he church. People were always coming and going from the church and when I had the children outside, they came over and spoke, interested in what we were doing. Sunday mornings also afforded opportunities for people in the church to express interest in our family.
Neither child (Sarah and Anna) was shy, each speaking with ease and politeness when addressed. Eventually we were invited to wedding receptions, birthday parties, graduation receptions, and other special occasions celebrated by families in the church. Although we didn't have biological 'family' we had 'church family' who filled gaps for meaningful and close relationships.
We fill gaps for others in ways we don't realize. Frequently I have people tell me about difficulties or challenges they are facing. They often add, "I can't talk to my mother/sister/father or anyone in my family about ______." I have several children whom I see regularly who fill my life with laughter and fun experiences. I remember them on their birthdays and other occasions throughout the year. They've invited me to their graduations, birthdays and sporting events. A few of the children have grandparents who live a great distance away, so I fill their gap for friendship with an older person.
Perhaps my gaps are deeper than another's or just manifest in different ways. Living together in the body of Christ offers opportunities to be present to one another like Jesus was to people long ago. I am grateful to those people who fill gaps in my life and I am honored to be present to others in kind and loving ways.