Friday night, at our house—granddaughter Marjorie is two today and our family has gathered. Almost everyone is here—Diane and I, four daughters, two sons-in-law, three grandkids, one nephew and the dog. One daughter and son-in-law at work. Our family, beautiful beyond words, the love of our lives. Second to Jesus, the best thing in our lives.At 60, I have a luxury I didn’t when we were raising our girls. Ranging from 18 to 31, our responsibility for them changes, the pace slows. That gives me more time, especially when we are together, to simply watch them.

Tonight, Marjorie shines—precocious, verbal and daring for a two year-old. Her favorite thing is “tumbling”, jumping off a coffee table or counter and being caught by someone. As the contours of her person emerge, our love deepens.I watch them all, thinking of their uniqueness, their joys and sorrows. Holding each one in my heart, I feel love beyond words. My chair is comfortable, so too our house and family circle. Basking here, my thoughts run to our second family, 15 miles away, strung along East Colfax, in the motels and on the street. The contrast is stunning.

Without exception, their lives are unimaginably harder than our first family. Shelter, food, love, resources—the normalcy of home—are scarce in that world. Here, security; there, insecurity. Here, normal problems and relative health; there, wreckage of every kind. Colfax faces flood my mind, individuals with their own wiring and experience, their own joys and sorrows. I also hold them in my heart, first this one, than that one. I feel love beyond words.An insight takes my breath away: The love I have for them seems the same as for my first family. Not two different kinds of love; one kind of love with two different objects.

For each family, treasuring the person, delighting, chuckling, grieving. Then, allowing love to flow outward into actions that can bless each on their journey.In healthy settings there is a priority God built into us towards immediate family. I get and live that. Family comes first. But the love in my heart for both families feels the same. When our oldest daughter, Darrah, was born, I felt an intense love for her and wondered if it would be the same for a second child. Or, would that love have to be divided between them, leaving each with only half the love that Darrah started with? Then Shea was born and I felt that same love for her without diminishing the love I had for Darrah. Same with Spenser, Daviah, Shadia and others now added in to our circle.

Family love doesn’t divide, it multiplies. We have to parcel out time and energy, but love seems infinite.I think of Donna,** a friend who is on and off the street. She struggles with major addictions and turns tricks. I hold her in my heart, treasuring her, feeling both beauty and brokenness. She looks out for other homeless people. Many call her mom. The other day she asked if she could call Diane mom. Intense love stabs at my heart.I think of others from this battered family, holding them, one at a time, in my heart. Again and again, the same love. There are practical limits to what love can become, but family love is there, a love that moves outward into action.

Psalm 68:5-6a haunts me: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” Following Jesus calls us to love people we don’t quickly or easily love, a road we all need to walk. Just now, I think of that regarding the desperately poor and wonder: What if those of us who know Jesus and who have capacity to love both family and others would broaden our hearts to love the poor? What if we had one or two that we held in our hearts, treasuring them, loving them as family, letting good actions flow outward? In short, what if we were the family God would set a lonely one in?

If we who name Jesus will love the poor this way, surely a great revival will happen where they dwell, in the dark and desolate corners of our fallen world. For the lonely will then have been set in families and we will all have been changed.Here in my comfortable chair, delighting in my family, enjoying Marjorie’s day, lines blur between this family and our Colfax one. I choke up a bit, an old guy touched by the beauty of it all.You see, we have two families, but only one love.