One of the things I love about being southern is the fact that we are more than ourselves. Just before leaving Savannah, GA to move to Lafayette, LA I was at the bank finishing up some business and had some small talk with the teller about the move.
As I left she said, "Good luck, y'all!" Clearly there was no one else there but me. There is something strangely comforting to me to be part of a society that understands and expects our reality to be couched in relationships. Of course our language does not always reflect our reality. The south is often a segregated society. We are kind and hospitable, but we keep to our own.
Paul told the church in Corinth, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor 66:19-20)" Of course this was at the end of a section on sexual morality, but how often do we consider fidelity as a part of our connection to others?
In the deep south you might hear phrases like, "How's your mom an 'em?" or, "How are things in your house?" We don't want to know about your mom or your plumbing. We want to know about your root system, your support network, your family. The true beauty of being southern is that it can also be a complete avoidance of the same concerns by seeking surface answers to these deep questions.
The church can have the same patterns, especially when we consider it as only a family instead of a community of faith. It can be both, but sometimes the lines do blur a bit. I have a dear friend who recently referred to me as a member of his "family of choice." It is an honor and a privilege to be claimed by another, but we are not claimed for our own benefit. We are claimed for a greater good, and ultimately, that is to proclaim the goodness of God.
We are not our own. Even our bodies, the physical and metaphorical essence of who we are and what we submit to and claim to be a part of, belong to God. The good news in this is that we are not left up to the chance of good or bad luck, but we are held tightly in the arms of providence.
That does not mean that everything will go our way. It means we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are part of something that looks inward and takes care of our own. We are part of something the reaches outward because of the love and care we have received from within.
Incidentally, the plural of "Y'all" is "All y'all," and it includes your family and those you are connected to. May God's providence dwell richly within all y'all who read this, and may God's spirit move you to care for and include others in your family of choice.
Your Brother in Christ,