I’ve been boiling over with so many thoughts and affections that resulted in writing this post. Unfortunately, this means that some-‘one’ person may read it. I’m willing to take that risk hoping it inspires and benefits someone else (maybe someone in my family) if anything it’ll help me sift through my thoughts a little bit.

Recently Mom’s eldest sister Fiapule Savini Fola went home to be with the Lord. Her testimony, mainly affirmed by loved ones around her, siblings, children, grand-children and great-grandchildren etc. was powerful (a woman of prayer and scripture) and got me to think about family and purpose.  Death does that.  It’s sobering.  It definitely did that for me but being with family in Seattle sobered me more than Aunty’s actual passing.

I was able to attend the memorial services, thereby being able to see and be with so many of my “ex-tended” family. Ex-tended family almost doesn’t exist in my Samoan culture. The idea of “immediate” family is also, almost non-existent. While this post isn’t necessarily about my dear Aunty, I want to note that her legacy permeated throughout her particular Samoan community in Seattle i.e. her church, her family and her friends. They all knew what she was about and they all were deeply loved by her. The empty void that death can leave in the hearts of humans can be so riveting were it not for the hope God provides through Jesus Christ; hence, death no longer having a sting to those who believe and truth in Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin and its penalty (1 Corinthians 15).  However, I don’t know if I got the sense that all of my family embraces that, believes that and or submits to it.  Maybe.  Hopefully.  I do know some of them do, at least those ones  who were more vocal about it.  And I’m not trying to quickly determine that either.  It’s not ultimately up to me to determine that.  That’s merely observational expressions and it points me to prayer.  I can’t assume that everyone of my family members knows and believes the hope of glory in Jesus Christ.  To assume that would be naive of me.  To not hope and pray for that would be arrogant of me.

That made me think about life, my life, my family, their lives, my friends, their lives and so on. And it kept bringing me back to three main things: the bible, grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ and my family.

God’s Word is sufficient. The bible and only the bible (old & new testament) are sufficient. It is has proven itself throughout history more than any other claims; all others fail and that has been proven. My family is not sufficient. My family, though loved and cherished in my heart is not sufficient for my daily needs. However, God’s word is. And yet the mercy and grace that I am told of in those pages allows me to see my family in such deep and meaningful ways. More than emotional and more than relational or even experiential. The great love of God that is talked about and demonstrated in Psalm 103, John 3:16, John 13, Romans 5, 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 3:14-21, Colossians 3, Philippians 2, Hebrews 12, 1 John and on and on…is all confirmed (look at its claims and its historical background). You cannot fabricate this type of love and affection for God and for others (family, friends or enemies). It can only come from Him. You cannot be satisfied completely without it, nor can you have it and any other love. His love is the source for all other loves.

As I mourned with my family at the loss of my Aunty, their mom, their grandma etc. I thought, “Lord, the only assurance I have in seeing Aunty, or you, again is if you freely grant that to me and if you turn any doubt or fear of not, into living hope.  And the only assurance that my family member this side of heaven will see Aunty and You for that matter, is your grace alone”.  I was challenged to examine what I believed.  Do I really believe that everyone of my family members have, are or will go to heaven?  No, I don’t.  I don’t believe that.  While I want to, I know that Scripture is very clear that not all will enter the kingdom of God.  Jesus Christ, God in flesh (Is. 6, 9, Psalm 2, John 1, John 13-17, Philippians 2, the entire book of Revelation and all of Scripture) is the ONLY way, the ONLY truth and the ONLY life (John 14).  I can’t and neither can my family work their way around that.  Even as emotional as we can be when we’re around each other.  Family and the hope for family will not get anyone into heaven or keep them from hell.  Being a good person will not get you to heaven and save you from sin.  Being from an amazing family will not grant you the same.

However easy it is to love my family; it hasn’t always been.   A lot of it has to do with the trials we’ve been through and the tresting we’ve endured together (immediate and or extended).  It’s been used to prove and strengthen our love for each other and it deepens the affection we have for one another (yes its tested and there are seasons where its more difficult than others – that’s life).  But the love and affection are so real.  I feel it, both given and received.  I see it evidenced when we embrace one another or talk with one another or laugh with one another or eat with one another or cry with with another.  It is emotional and it is affectionate. And I would sacrifice my life for any one of family members.  We connected even because we look like one another – I enjoy seeing that unfold.  But the reality is Jesus Christ is better than all of that, superior than all of that.  This love has already been proven and tested more than any of the trials and testing we’ve gone through as a family. Jesus endured (and passed) it all.  His love is stronger than any love that is shared between my family. But because of it, I am already completely loved now, and therefore love my family freely and fully because of that.  What tangible parallels being a part of others can do to remind us of the family of God we’re a part of if we belong to the family of God!

The point I’m trying to make is, the strong human love and affection that is shared between a husband and a wife, as taught in the scriptures, and then dispensed among a family that they procreate and generations that come from that, and even shared among friends (and expressed to enemies, as Jesus taught) DOES NOT compare to (but can be a picture of) the deep love of God that was demonstrated through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the God-man. Read the passage above, along with Gen 3-4, Psalm 63, Isaiah 5-6; 53-58, Hosea and see the love of God from the beginning. It is great.

I love my family so much. I get teary-eyed just thinking about them (even as I’m writing). I want to be with ALL hundreds (literally) of them. First, second, third and fourth generations of the SAVINI family. I long to meet my grandpa Leatualii and want to be reunited with my amazing grandma Fiaauitupu. Thoughts about my dad’s family are awakened and lingering as well. I wish I knew them all, and was able to meet my grandpa or want to meet my Aunty Tyma in New Zealand (that would amazing 🙂 Story after story about these amazing people passed and present inspire me; from Mom telling me about the times back in the Manu’a islands watching her dad fish, being raised by her godly grandma (Vaelua), to her brother Gogo (pops) paying for her fair to come to the states for a better future, to visiting her youngest brother (Ete) back in Manu’a and giving him a t-shirt from the states, to being blessed to my siblings stories in Samoa about being raised with so many of our cousins (how fun!). Story after story. And yet I know that there are tragic stories as well. Stories of cousin Apisoloma dying trying to retrieve his school books that fell out of the truck in Samoa and jumped out to get it, at 9 years old, to baby James Le’i at 3 months not waking up from his sleep and not having any other explanation of his death, to Uncle Vau in a train crash accident, to cousin Chuka being shot and killed, to divorces that split of families (including mine) etc.. Story after story after story.

I come from a long line of stories (good and bad) of people whose lives have impacted my thinking, my heart and my way of living – and from what I hear, have also impacted others as well.

My “immediate” family, who live passionately for the Lord and who’s mistakes in life are just as exposed as their victories in life, and they would tell you themselves, that point to God’s grace, has been the primary mark of both. Doreen, Debbie & Bert’s love for others are deeply rooted in God’s truth and not just emotion or longevity or culture. That inspires me – their flaws & their strengths inspire me. These siblings of mine and their stories sharpen me (another post to come). What a blessing they are.

I have cousins whose stories would challenge and put spoiled christianity to shame as well as stories that will ignite passion and reality and purpose at least spark some curiousity. I love my cousins – they all are like brothers and sisters to me, because they kinda are. I love that they treat me like their brother. Like I mentioned before, immediate and ex-tended kind of don’t exist (but kind of do – maybe another post later). There are so many of them that inspire me too. I wish I was able to get to know every single one of them.

I also have nephews and nieces, from cousins (hence, the non-existant extended family thing), who can tell you, just in their 20s or younger, of trials and difficulties. Their resilience inspires me. Their reality humbles me. Their humor is enjoyable for me. Their talents amaze me.

I have uncles and aunties who have worked and labored hard for our second generation to prosper. I can’t be where I am in life today (and I’m pretty convinced ALL my cousins would agree), and I am (and we are) oh so blessed, without acknowledging their efforts, sacrifices and stories for our benefit. My uncles and aunties are amazing examples of steadiness, strength, support, sacrifice, sincerity and spirit – what true Savini’s should be!

Finally, my mother. A women who dies to herself. Who doesn’t make mention of a flu she has, goes to the grocery store by herself, throws up in her own jacket because she is so sick, to purchase herself some medicine; and doesn’t ask anyone else to go to the store for her. That could be pride/stubbornness on her part, or it could be a will strong enough to press through hardships. A stomach ache is hardly a trial, but its a small indication of what my 70 year old mother can endure after what she’s endured throughout her life time. She is the most secure person I know of who could have been a victim of insecurity brought about my divorce. She was left and abandoned but NEVER once have I heard her complain about it, or mope about it or feel sorry for herself about it. She received consequences of my dad’s sin that she didn’t deserve but embraced it to grace her children with a stewardship that most people would and have neglected. She provided, she protected, she nurtured and served us – and did it gladly! My mother is amazing. No other woman or man for that matter, in my life holds a candle to the work ethic, faithfulness, integrity, endurance, hospitality, servanthood, meekness, hope, respect, proven character, grace, mercy and love that she embodies. She is the most accurate picture of Christ I have ever seen or heard – beyond eloquence, deeper than any expository message, more encouraging than any song I’ve song, better than any friend I’ve ever had. I hope and pray for a wife someday, I really do haha. And I’m not expecting her to be anything like my mom, more so, I pray that she loves God more than anything, even me and I pray that I embody what mom was/is an example of to me, to whoever it is I come across, let alone marry, Lord willing 🙂

This all, however deep and however gracious a gift it is, from God, does not measure up to the depth of reality that is God in Christ.  He alone satisfies and He alone is far better than my family.  I hope and wish for all of them (me included) to know the saving and satisfying grace that is in Jesus Christ alone.

I pray the stories that I am a part of will tell of the amazing grace God gives in and through Jesus Christ alone, this generation and generations to come.