Family Of God - The Story Behind The Song

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As Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year draw near, some people look forward to spending time with family while others find this holiday season to be an especially painful reminder of people they miss, broken relationships and their deep longing to be surrounded by a loving family.  The good news is, when we are children of God we have an unlimited supply of brothers and sisters!  We encourage you to gather with those you love, whether they’re actual family or your spiritual family!

The Family of God

It was Good Friday and the kids had come home early from school. We had just put the Easter eggs we had dyed on Thursday night in the big yellow basket filled with shredded paper grass when the phone rang. A voice on the other end of the line said, “There’s been an explosion at the Faust garage. Ronnie Garner was badly burned. He got out of the building just before it blew apart. But he isn’t expected to make it through the night. Some of us are gathering at the church to pray. Call someone else, ask them to pray, and to keep the prayer chain going.”

I hung up the phone and called Bill at the office. I gathered the children around to pray for this young father from our church. Then I called a few others I knew would join us in prayer.

Only later did we get the rest of the story. Ron was working overtime because he and Darlene needed extra money to pay for heart surgery for their daughter Diane. He was alone at the car dealership and repair shop, cleaning engines with a highly flammable substance without thinking to open a window for ventilation. He was working below a ceiling furnace with an open-flame pilot light. When the fumes from the solvent reached the flame, the whole garage blew apart. When he heard the first roar of the furnace, Ron tried to open the garage door, but it was jammed. By some miracle, with his clothing on fire, he managed to squeeze through a tiny space before the big explosion.

From Methodist Burn Center in Indianapolis we heard that the doctors had decided not to treat Ron; it was no use. There was little chance of success, and the trauma of treatment itself could push him over the edge. But friends who gathered at the church prayed all the more fervently for Ron, for Darlene, and for their two little girls. All through Friday and Saturday night, the church prayed. With part of our hearts we believed, but, to be honest, with the other part we braced ourselves for the predicted news.

A weary and somewhat tattered group gathered for church on Sunday morning. We lacked the optimism typical of an Easter celebration. The pastor wasn’t there at first; we knew he was with Darlene and the family. No one felt like singing songs of victory. Resurrection seemed a million light-years away. But as the music began, a few weak voices sang less-than-harmonious chords of well-worn Easter songs.

As we were making an effort at worship, our pastor entered from the back and made his way up the center aisle to the platform. His shoulders were slumped, his suit was wrinkled, but there was a glow on his stubbled face as he motioned for us to stop the hymn.

“Ron is alive,” he said. “They said he wouldn’t make it through Friday night, so they’re amazed he’s alive today. The doctors don’t understand how he’s hanging on, but we do, don’t we? And because he’s still alive, they’ve decided to start treatment.”

A chorus of “Amen!” and “Praise the Lord” rose from the congregation. We all straightened in our seats like wilted plants that had been watered.

“We’re going to thank the Lord,” Pastor McCurdy said, “and then we’re going to see this thing through. This is just the beginning. There will be many needs. The family will need food brought in. Darlene may need help with the kids. They may need transportation back and forth to Indianapolis. Ron will need gallons of blood for transfusions. And they all—the doctors too—need prayer. Let’s think of how each of us can help. We are, after all, the family of God. Now let’s pray.”

We stood and as one voice thanked God for answered prayer and for the reality of the Resurrection. Sunshine streamed in through the windows to warm more than our faces and the room. It seemed that the light of the dawn of the very first Easter morning had come to our weary souls.

What a service of rejoicing we had! No sermon could have spoken as articulately as the news of Ron’s life and answered prayer. We sang the old hymn:

Low in the grave He lay—Jesus, my Savior
. . . He tore the bars away—Jesus, my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er His foes!” (Robert Lowry)

My, how we sang! And then,

You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart! (A. H. Ackley)


We were full of joy and victory as we left the church that noon, loading up our families into cars for the trip home.

In the car Bill and I said to each other, “You know, the amazing thing is, they’d do that for us too.” We weren’t model church members, Bill and I. We were gone virtually every weekend, barely getting in from a concert in time to make it to church Sunday morning. We were never there to bake pies for the bake sales or to attend the couples’ retreats or to teach in Bible school. If you had to pull your share of the load to get the family of God to take care of you, we would surely have been left out. “But they’d do that for us,” we marveled.

When we got home, I checked the roast in the oven, changed the babies, and sent Suzanne off to put on her play clothes. Bill went to the piano, and I heard him toying with a simple, lovely tune. “Honey, come here a minute,” he called from the family room.
He sang a phrase, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. Dah, dah, dah, la la la-la, la la la-la.”

I grabbed a yellow legal pad and a pencil. The roast was forgotten as we were both consumed by the beauty of “the family,” and I put our hearts into words:

Now you’ll notice we say “brother” and “sister” ’round here;
It’s because we’re a family and these folks are so near.
When one has a heartache we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.
I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. . . .


We finally did have Sunday dinner, though the roast was a little overdone. On Monday I deviled our Easter eggs, and our life went on, but we were never quite the same.
Pastor McCurdy was right: that Sunday news was only the beginning. But, then, the Resurrection was only a beginning too! There were months of trips to Indianapolis. Many made casseroles and babysat and cleaned Darlene’s house. Most sent cards of encouragement and notes assuring the Garners of continued prayer.

Ron had many skin grafts and experienced much pain, but finally he came home to their house on John Street. Eventually, he went back to Anderson College and finished his degree in athletics. He became assistant coach at Alexandria High School and fathered two more children. Diane got her heart fixed and is now a high-school teacher. And one of the children, not yet born at the time of the fire, is one of the top female athletes in the state of Indiana.

And I am filled with joy that the same family that stood by the Garners in a thousand ways has stood by us too. We don’t deserve it; we haven’t earned it. We were just born into it. They treat us like royalty, because we are! We’re children of the King!

The Family of God

You will notice we say “brother” and “sister” ’round here;
It’s because we’re a family and these folks are so near.
When one has a heartache we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each vict’ry in this fam’ly so dear.
I’m so glad I’m a part of the fam’ly of God!
    I’ve been washed in the fountain,
    Cleansed by His blood.
    Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
    For I’m part of the fam’ly,
    The fam’ly of God.

From the door of an orph’nage to the house of the King,
No longer an outcast; a new song I sing.
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I’m not worthy to be here, but praise God, I belong!

I’m so glad I’m a part of the fam’ly of God!
    I’ve been washed in the fountain,
    Cleansed by His blood.
    Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
    For I’m part of the fam’ly,
    The fam’ly of God.

Lyric: Gloria Gaither and William J. Gaither
Music by William J. Gaither
Copyright © 1970 by William J. Gaither. All rights reserved.



Want to read more stories behind the songs of Bill & Gloria Gaither? 
You can find more in Gloria's book Something Beautiful.