Family: just about everyone has one and everyone that does has to deal with some subset of idiosyncrasies. Being in Yellowstone last week with my mom’s side of it, at least 100 miles from anything, I’m sure all of ours were on proud display. It was a good vacation, but no family vacation is without its moments. Yes, I’m just catching onto this (I’m a late bloomer), but it wasn’t until I got back and began reflecting on the trip that the deeper truth began to hit me. I need to let go of my family.

The ties that bind can also be the ones that suffocate. At sixteen, I learned this the hard way. My identity had been placed solely in the one thing in the world I knew would never change, my family. I was devastatingly mistaken and with separation came ambiguity. I was no longer someone, but something. I’d lost my identity and realized I had no purpose. Eight years later, I’m still fighting tooth and nail to regain that identity. Eight years later, I’m just starting to learn that lesson.

“‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.’” — Luke 14:26

These are harsh words for a gentile crowd. What do they mean and why would Jesus say this? These are troublesome words even to the most devout, but they serve to help us prioritize this messy and confusing Christian life. We can only have one master, therefore one identity. Jesus is saying here that if that identity is found in family, marriage, children, then it cannot be also in Him. Likewise, if we are to identify with what we’ve done or yet to do in this life, we can have no identity in Him. Jesus was explaining that following Him meant forsaking that which is most dear to us if need be. Take it or leave it.

Another contradiction is brewing, I can feel it. If these aren’t the thoughts in your mind, then you have greater faith than I do. In the Ten Commandments, God commands the people to honor their father and mother. The verse in Luke does not contradict, but provides some clarity on this commandment. The clarification is that if we must choose between our parents (or family) and God, the choice is plain, but we’re still to make it in a respectful way. No contradiction whatsoever.

Please don’t misunderstand me here. I love my family dearly. They are very important to me and always will be. However, my family does not give me my name. My name is from the One who gave me life and breath. My name is from the One who knitted me together lovingly (Psalm 139:13). My family is amazing, but they are not my life’s ultimate purpose, nor were they ever meant to be.

Life is truly about priorities and mine have been askew to say the least. The family that I once called foundation, in one day was turned to firebrand setting my tenuous life aflame. Many of us fall into this snare and I am only now beginning to try and wrestle myself from it. Families are important in many ways, but they are everything in none. That place is reserved in our hearts for God. Nothing in this world can satisfy those needs the way He can and does. Trying to substitute only leads to dissatisfaction and longing. The choice is yours: strand yourself on the man-made island of family or be rescued to the rich kingdom of God.