It has been said that blood is thicker than water. What is indicated in this phrase is that family bonds are stronger, and often more important, than non-family bonds. There is truth to this in many circumstances, however, it is not a blanket statement that covers all manner of relationships.
Let me tell you a story. In 1994, I began my first year of college. I attended a local community college because I wanted to be involved in some of their music groups. In these groups I met many amazing people, some of which have developed into life long friendships. One of the people I met the fall of my first year of college was someone that I did not actually care to spend much time with. To say I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with her was an understatement. Being in these music groups with her could be annoying at times but since they were fairly large groups it was manageable. Imagine my relief when she attended a different college the next year. But then….in the fall of 1996, she was back…..ugh!
If I have learned anything in this life, it is that life is full of surprises. And surprise, surprise, I ended up living in the same little town as this woman I couldn’t stand. One day, I decided to be a bigger person than I wanted to be and I invited her to hang out for a little while. This one tiny decision changed my life – and hers. Before we knew it, we were inseparable. She became my best friend in a short amount of time and to this day she is one of the few people I can totally be myself with. She is still mouthy and opinionated but I love her for it anyway.
But alas, this essay isn’t actually about my friendship with her. Why am I writing about my best friend if this is about family It is because she has become family to me. And again, I have to say that this is not about how she is like a sister to me. It’s actually about our children.
I have three daughters, she has two sons. They are all close in age – so close, in fact, that for a few weeks out of the year their ages are one week apart. This August they will be 20, 19, 18, 17, and 16 years old. The even numbered kids are my daughters, and the odd numbered kids are her sons.
When they were little, they had no choice but to spend time together because she and I spent time together. We knew they would always be friends out of necessity and proximity but we did not expect them to become friends on their own. But it happened. The most beautiful thing to come from my relationship with my best friend is the relationship that our kids have with each other. They are each other’s protectors, confidants, and safe places. They even have their own hashtag that combines both of our last names and they joke that if any of them ever get married they will have to use the mash-up name on their marriage license.
The relationship that these kids have is not one of blood, but of water. They may not share DNA but the water of their relationships keeps them afloat. When one feels like he or she is drowning, the others lift them up. When one of them needs an attitude adjustment, the others throw water in their face to snap them out of it. When one of them accomplishes something, the others are bouncing for joy in the wet world of their friendship.
Is blood thicker than water? Maybe. But these kids – they don’t need blood to be family. What they have is better than what many families have because families have be in relationship with each other. This family born out of friendship? It’s family by choice. And in this case, water is actually thicker than blood.
Ivy Schulz is a pastor of a Lutheran congregation in rural North Dakota, USA. She loves to travel, ride her Harley Davidson and go camping with her family. Faith informs her worldview but does not restrict it. In fact, faith opens her up to encountering the Divine in unlikely places and unlikely people.