I knew it as we grabbed hands and the old man pitched the first note that these moments would settle into some safe corner. I looked to the left and saw the short, sassy hair of my dad’s only sister and looked to the right and saw the tall, thin silhouette of my aging grandfather. And linked to each of them was another family member, distant or immediate. Together we sang unabashedly or hummed lowly, as the words to the old gospel hymn, “Will the Circle be Unbroken” climbed the tips of the pines braided through the southern sky.
What I didn’t know was how often I would reach my hand into the deep corner to rake my fingers over that memory. What I didn’t know was how often I would pull out the snapshot, smooth out the wrinkles, and take another look.
Because it isn’t often that we hold hands with so many of our kin. It’s rare that we form a circle deep and wide, and holler through the woods for everyone to come out of their cabins and join in. And it doesn’t happen every day that we lace fingers and raise voices, unaware that roots are burrowing deep and spreading below, grounding us for the ages. But when it does happen, and voices are raised and hands are helped while kinship weaves together a circle, I’ve just got to believe that the saints are singing too.
We hear so much about God’s kingdom these days, who is in and who is out. Who belongs and who still has some changes to make, some work to do. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve started to believe that we are all members of some elite club instead of being called by grace into membership of a family. And in this family, the one that is God’s, we are never clinging too tightly to one another’s hands or to our own beliefs to break open and whisper between verses, “Come on in.”
In this family, we are hollering through the woods for everyone to come out of their cabins, to come out of their hiding, and to join hands. To come with questions, with doubts. To come with skepticism and with wonderings. Just to come and fill the circle and maybe even one day, to lift a voice. Because kinship has always been more about love than blood.
And love looks like one big circle, always growing, never ending. Love looks like family; family with feet on the ground and family already living glory, holding hands with each other, and looking around for more to come. Love looks like a bunch of off-pitched voices, old and young, singing the words together: “There’s a better home awaiting in the sky, Lord, in the sky,” as the angels stomp their feet high above, to the sound of one, perfect voice.
Image Credit: Valerie Everett