Being a part of a family is almost inevitable. Whether it be one of immediate relatives, a school of colleagues, or employees at a job, everyone has a group of people they are closely related or linked to. I love my parents, my peers and my co-workers, but there is one family I’ve adopted that sticks closer than best friends.

When I think about a family, I think of a group of people who are willing to be obedient and faithful to one other. I think of a group of people who will value the next person over themselves and one who has an unfailing love. I envision a body of people who will correct you and tell you the truth, even if it may feel uncomfortable. They would never do anything to discourage, fail or fire you but everything in their power to strengthen you. This ideal family became a reality to me. This was my spiritual family.

My sisters and brothers in Christ and I sit in the pews and listen with attentive ears to Darryl Auberry as he preaches behind the altar every Sunday morning and afternoon, Thursday night and occasional Saturday evenings. Though we don’t go home with him afterwards, we can make a rendezvous to the church for fellowship at any time.

Any male can become a father but it takes a man to be a dad. Darryl Auberry is married with kids, but he is also an influential male figure to many others. Not only is he my pastor but also my spiritual dad—a faithful man of God placed in my life to tackle the issues my biological father wouldn’t bother to either talk about or get delivered from: pre-marital sex, drugs and alcohol, etc.

My biological father would always tease me about not dating. “What’s your girlfriend’s name?” he would ask. “What chu mean you ain’t got one yet? You ain’t gay, is ya?”

Silence.

But when asked whether or not it’s okay to have a girlfriend or boyfriend, my spiritual dad’s answer is as permanent as a hand print in cement. “God doesn’t play house,” he says. “He builds families. … How many people do you have to run through before you finally find the one that God has already pre-destined for you? Just continue to seek after the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and a wife or husband will be added unto you.”

My dad’s conversations are always full of experience, love, wisdom. Above all, the answers are always from the Scriptures. True love waits!

I remember the first time I sat in his car. While we were waiting to go in for evening service, he had a takeout plate from Blimpie sitting in his lap. Service was to start at 5:30 p.m. It was minutes before. He had food. I didn’t. I didn’t want to seem like a beggar, so I zipped my mouth closed. I just stared out the passenger window, prayfully wishing that he would offer me some and not deny me like my other father would. He proceeded on by opening the plastic container that contained a sub sandwich and celery sticks. A spicy whiff of hot wings pierced my nostrils as it triggered a water work in my mouth. I was hungry, nervous, and my heart was free-styling a beat in my chest. I hate these types of moments. It was then, after he prayed over his food and lifted the sandwich up to his mouth, that he paused and looked at me.

“Do you want some?” he asked.

My heart stopped. I didn’t know what to say.

“Yeah, I guess so,” I said awkwardly, not wanting to seem desperate, but also not wanting the offer to pass me by.

I reached into his plate and pulled out a hot wing. Dipping it into the blue cheese salad dressing would just be taking it too far, so I stuffed the chicken in my mouth, slurping the meat off the bone as I pulled the remains out with my thumb and index finger. Far from satisfied, I was grateful.

“Take another one,” he said.

I looked at him like he was crazy but I didn’t think twice. I dived in for another one.

Not only was my dad full of grace and favor, but my sisters and brothers in Christ were always there for me as well. I recall times where we would go shopping at the mall, visit the Miami-Dade County Fair, hang out at each others’ houses, and even throw surprise birthday parties for each other. If you need a ride to or from the sanctuary, you’re taken care of. Paying for each other’s meals when we go out to dinner is not a problem. Well, it’s almost not a problem.

The respect my siblings have for each other is phenomenal as well, given the fact that we aren’t biologically connected. No one lusts after or tries to take advantage of another without being rebuked. Instead, we cover up each other’s nakedness, not wanting to cause any more damage or brokenness than that which was already put on us by those who have hurt us in the past. We realize that though we aren’t naturally related, we are spiritual brothers and sisters and are mature enough to honor each other as such.

When I feel tempted or dispirited, I can call up one of my brothers to counsel me or meet them in person so they can pray with and for me. Unlike with other guys in the world, I can even cry in my brother’s arms and not feel any less of a man. Instead of being proud, it births humility in me which is always reaped with comfort and reassurance. Just as iron sharpens iron, so does one person sharpen another.

Only knowing my spiritual father, sisters and brothers for about seven months now since I’ve joined the ministry, it feels as if I can trust, relate and depend on them more than any other family I’ve developed within my 20 years of life. It’s all because we have a similar heart and mindset. We are all of different nations, cultures and tongues. We all have different personalities, gifts, anointing, and destinies, but we all need each other to survive. We are many members of just one foundation. My spiritual family is truly one body, in Christ, in love. I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.

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