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Posts tagged "family"


I Am Only as Happy as My Childhood Allows Me to Be

The 21st century has been a time of revelation. The buried reality of abuse is now being unearthed in our culture and through our laws. Child abuse by the Boy Scouts or any number of church organizations is increasingly acknowledged as the hideous outrage it is. #MeToo has exploded the wall of acceptance of disgusting […]

When God Makes All Things Nude: Gospel Hope for Marriage When It’s Not All Princess Bride – Charlotte Getz

Mawage. Mawage is wat bwings us together today… From our recent conference in New York City, this honest, moving talk features author and editor Charlotte Getz. Topics include: longing within marriage, Leo DiCaprio, The Harrowing Adventures of Charlotte Botsford, imperfect guideposts to God, and that bwessed awwangement, that dweam wifin a dweam…

When God Makes All Things Nude: Gospel Hope for Marriage When It’s Not All Princess Bride – Charlotte Getz from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

The Open-Concept Family, AKA The Family Issue Opener and Table of Contents

As the Family Issue make its way from the printer to the post office, here’s a look at the opener, and a peek at what comes after! If you haven’t ordered a copy yet, you can do so here

You can’t talk about families without talking about the containers they come in. The home, especially in America, is the sanctum sanctorum of family life. No other non-living entity absorbs so much human ambition and longing, so much futzing and pruning, so much money and worry, and so much love. “Home” for you might be an efficiency apartment or a sprawling suburban ranch, but odds are the majority of your memories can be placed within the confines of those walls. You know the exact spot in the house where you got that phone call, or the spot where he used to read his newspaper, or the exact rung in the banister where everyone’s shirt gets snagged. “If these walls could talk …”

Walls can’t talk, though. And even if they could, walls definitely aren’t talking these days, since there really are no walls to speak of. Open concept houses, where nearly zero rooms are divided by walls, have become the way families imagine doing life together. When the kitchen, living room, dining room, and TV room are all one room, there’s the promise that you’re creating space that “allows the love to flow,” as the Scandinavians say. Fewer boundaries equals more family togetherness.

What realtors are starting to find, though, is that the aspirational notion of more family time has led to … more family time. The Boston Globe reported that this has led homeowners to face some harsh truths about their family lives, namely,

That you’re not a parent who wants the kids RIGHT THERE when you’re in the kitchen, your only alone time, or what used to be your only alone time. That you’re not a host relaxed enough to chat with guests while preparing a three-course meal. That you’re not Marie Kondo enough to keep every inch of what used to be three rooms clutter-free at all times.

Walls, in other words, were nice: For one, they hid the mountain of crap that inevitably flowed over from the other parts of our lives. But most importantly, they buffered us from the strange people who shared our DNA.

Unfortunately, walls or not, these strange people will always remain strange. Every home is its own molecular structure of dysfunction, a physical reminder that you are born under a larger umbrella organization. You have parents and (sometimes) siblings, who have names and stories and contexts that you may not want but are inseparably yours. There are certain codes of conduct, certain ways of communicating (or not communicating), certain predispositions to freckles or spicy foods or hand-eye clumsiness. For better or worse, this place is your first and often most influential institution of “professional development.” Weirdly, you never submitted your résumé to this office—you don’t know if you would’ve if you had the choice—but the job’s yours all the same. You are a born natural for it!

Still, despite the job description and the baggage it brings, the homes we live in tend to foster our fiercest loyalties and most deep-seated convictions. The oldest religion in the world is family. If the etymology of religion is “to tighten” or “to bind,” then it makes sense that the oldest established religion came not with cuneiform or pyramids, but with the family unit, where members have always been bound up together in collective mythologies and rituals. It continues today, as you watch old VHS home videos, as you obnoxiously rehash the same old jokes with the same lame punchline, as you comfortably fall back into familiar roles like a well-worn sofa.

In other words, no matter how far you fly, or with whom you create new families, you always take them with you, because to some degree, you are them. As the country singer Lori McKenna put it,

The tree grows where it’s planted / And that’s the fate of a fallen seed

No matter how many times I’ve denied it / The apple never falls far from the tree

As long as family therapists and professional helpers have been around, their work has centered on the damning determinism of the family unit, how the proverbial “sins of the father” really do, in fact, sprawl out in time. God’s family, as it is presented in the Bible, proves no different: All down the family line is a story of liars begetting murderers begetting drunks begetting liars again.

Which I guess makes Jesus’ ambivalence about the family enterprise less startling. But only slightly less. Living in a cultural (and theological) milieu that, much like today, prioritized family over all else, he denounced it as a powerful evasion, a way to wall off reality and revelation. Whenever a family caveat is thrown before him (“But Jesus, your mom is outside!” or “Wait Jesus, I need to bury my father!”) Jesus doubles down on the centrality of his own message: “I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother.”

Jesus is not anti-family so much as he is anti-walls, and the way he sees it, the four walls of a home are no different from the four walls of the temple—a safe haven from a cruel world, sure, but also a buffer zone from the true heart of God and a breeding ground for self-deception. I wonder whether his devastating prophecy about the temple could just as easily be levied on the family mythologies rehearsed in every family home: “Do you see these great buildings?” he says. “Not one stone (nay, not one “accent wall”) will be standing where it’s standing now.”

Ultimately, Jesus reminds us, even if our families love us and protect us, no rearing could ever have the generative power to make us whole or evade suffering. Every family, Ben Maddison writes in this issue, is cruciform in shape. In the end, our families point us to a need they cannot provide.

Jesus points us to the fragility of our walled-off holiest of holies, and to the only hope that our families have ever had. Look at the home you can’t keep clean, the mother-in-law you can’t tolerate, the daughter who won’t call, the spouse you’re losing to cancer. There is an endless array of reckonings awaiting all families. But as Christ stands within the four walls of your failed temple, and he stretches out his hands, he offers not only the compassion of a loving God, but the hope of a very real resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

There is no shortage of losses in families, both literally and figuratively. This also means that there is no limit to the stories in which God has done some of his own home restoration work. We’ve compiled a few of them here, in the hopes that they provide consolation and hope. We also have interviews with psychologist Harriet Lerner, education and parenting expert Alfie Kohn, and Silver Linings Playbook author Matthew Quick. We’ve got essays about foster parents and surrogate parents, preacher families and estranged families. We talk about divorce, dogs, apologies, parenting advice, and the church’s incessant focus on families. And that’s not all.

So, brew yourself some tea, turn the page, and enjoy the remaining walls in your open concept home. By the time you reach the last page, we’ll have (hopefully) removed them all.

Click here to order your copy!

ORDER YOUR COPY HERE!

Another Week Ends: Contingent Self-Esteem, the Devil in the Mirror, the Perception Gap, Little League Brawling, Cain and Abel and Forgiveness

1. Some fascinating links for your perusal this week, first of which is this, from Vice: The Pursuit of High Self-Esteem Is Making Us Miserable, by Shayla Love. What is here defined as “self-esteem” would be more accurately rendered “contingent self-esteem.” Notably the most popular of its kind, contingent self-esteem resembles flattery or affirmation and […]

The Tyranny of Summer Expectations

For the first time in recent memory, my kids are at loose ends this summer. As a parent who works full-time, with children who aren’t ready to stay home all day by themselves, I’ve relied on a complex network of expensive day camps and summer activities to keep them supervised and occupied. My parents moved […]

St. Paul Loves Bloomin’ Onions: (or: How To Live With People Who Are Not As Awesome As You) – Aaron Zimmerman

This talk by Aaron Zimmerman was given at our conference in Tyler, TX (“The Future of Grace”). Topics include: religious relatives, group identities, Merle Haggard, Outback Steakhouse, and Elaine Benes from Seinfeld — a concoction unlike any other:

St. Paul Loves Bloomin’ Onions: (or: How To Live With People Who Are Not As Awesome As You) – Aaron Zimmerman from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

Fleabag Season Two: The Healing of the Fourth Wall

If you have not seen Season 2 of Fleabag then watch it first. Then come back and dish with me in the comments section about that caliente priest. Full disclosure, I enjoyed the first season of Fleabag but did not adore it. But the second season contains more incredible moments than should be allowed in […]

By the Grace of Dog

You know the old truism: Wanna know unconditional love? Put your spouse and your dog in the trunk of your car for an hour. When you open the trunk, only one of them’s still going to be happy to see you…

As we’ve compiled the many essays and interviews soon to make up Mockingbird’s fourteenth magazine issue, The Family Issue, we noticed a glaring and certainly inadvertent omission. How in the world does one put out over a hundred pages of tender, nuanced reportage relating to the family unit—not to mention grace in the family unit—without paying homage to its most gracious member?

Yes, we’re talking about the family dog. While families are full of conflict, perennial victims and perpetrators of so many circumstantial slings and arrows, there is no greater emblem of unconditional love and, um, dogged loyalty. Some may call dogs “inferior” or just plain “stupid.” To those people, we offer our prayers, because they must have never heard the foolish wisdom of God. Dogs are heaven-sent. And so, in lieu of an entire essay, we’re asking you, dear reader, to send us your “By the GRACE of DOG” stories. Where has the furry, four-legged love of God found its way through the doggie door and into your heart? What blessed paw-marks has it left on your interior furniture?

Just one small paragraph will suffice. We’ll keep you confidential. Send your submissions to bythegraceofdogz@gmail.com. They can be funny, heart-wrenching, really weird, or really sweet. And then keep an eye out for your submission in the next issue. If you have a cat story, well, good for you…

The Failure of Best Intentions (Mark 14:27-31)

This timely excerpt is taken from Larry Parsley’s devotional, An Easy Stroll Through a Short Gospel: Meditations on Mark.  Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” (14:29–30) If you have read the gospels […]

A Very Brady Holy Week

The most famous episode of The Brady Bunch is the one where Marcia takes a football to the nose.[1] In the beginning of the episode, she is asked out by the school’s star football player and breaks off a date with her friend Charley, a rather unremarkable suitor by comparison. In breaking off the date, […]

My Daddy Is Big and He Can Carry Me

This sweet reflection comes to us from Juliette Alvey. This picture was drawn by my daughter, Devyn, and the words she expressed are very literal. My husband is 6’4” and is strong enough to pick her up and carry her (or even swing her upside down). She says she loves him because of this, which […]

You Can’t Come to My Wedding Unless You’re Just Like Me

I’ve been married for fifteen years and I don’t have any younger sisters, and so it’s been a while since I’ve been exposed to the bridal industrial complex except in a very peripheral way. But I do follow several advice columnists on social media for the high entertainment value of Other People’s Problems, and I […]