I don’t know the answer to this one, but I do have some questions, and I’m interested to know what people think.
If you’re like me, and you’ve grown up in the western church, you’ve probably noticed a huge focus on the preservation and upholding of the traditional, often nuclear, family model. We consistently have reinforced that Family is important; Family must come first. We even have a conservative political party named for this very idea.
But I’m starting to question it. Maybe it’s because I’m 28 and single. Maybe it’s because I realize that the only reason I’m not alone at Christmas is because I live in the same city as my parents and siblings. Maybe it’s because my heart hurts on mothers day and fathers day and at Christmas when everyone goes off to celebrate with their neat little nuclear families and I see others left to feel the gap; to feel like they don’t really fit in a world made for poster-perfect families.
Don’t get me wrong, family is important. Marriage is sacred and children are a blessing, but somehow I feel like the Bible offers us something better than the nuclear family. I feel like maybe the New Testament wanted to change our focus to the Church family; to turn from the nuclear to the community; to cultivate ‘all together’ rather than ‘us separately.’
If ‘focusing on the family’ means that some just can’t fit in, aren’t we getting something wrong?
My Grandad had a fall yesterday. He’s 92 and still lives in his home. He tripped by the bed and managed to drag himself, with a broken hip, around the bed to the phone to call an ambulance.
Dad was getting ready for church when Grandad called him, and he left and went straight over there. My sister and I were down south having a surfing lesson at the time, and didn’t find out for several hours.
When I finally got back, mum and dad and I sat around the kitchen table and debriefed, and then dad got a phone call. Some life-long church friends called to see how Grandad was going. They chatted for a while, asking questions, listening and just genuinely caring.
Sunday night I went to church. Dad walked in a bit late, but I watched as several people approached him to see how he was doing and to show that they cared. As I looked on, it really struck me that this is how the church is meant to be. It’s my family beyond my family. How they knew what had happened when dad wasn’t even there that morning I don’t know, but they did, and they cared. And they’ll be praying.
Growing up in the church, I never had any doubt that if something happened to my parents I’d be cared for. The Church was instituted for many reasons, one of which was to be a family. What a blessing to see it in action.
Several years ago I really wrestled with having some friends who were able to offer me so much more than I could offer them. They were a young couple who had an abundance of gifts and abilities. The wife used to get me hugely discounted designer clothes, and sew up couture items for me. She’d do my waxing at cost price and buy my hair products from the wholesaler. When I moved out of home, she went through her kitchen and stocked me up with utensils, appliances and a fry pan. I was always welcome in their home, and the husband did electrical work for me, fixed my car, and installed my CD player.
I was overwhelmed by their friendship and generosity and I was discouraged as I looked at my own skills: Teaching. Writing. Reading. What could I possibly do for them? This never bothered them, they just appreciated my friendship, but it bothered me, until I spoke to dad.
He reflected on a couple who was able to help him when he was younger. He was never able to repay them, but, down the track, he was in a position to help others when they had need. Effectively, he paid it forward.
In recent years, I have had many opportunities to help others in various ways. When they say they ‘owe me,’ I remember the friends who did so much for me, and I tell them they owe me nothing; that one day they can pay it forward.