Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Reflections on Family
The kids had started to call me Dad...
Desperate to belong, to fit in the picture. You know the one. The smiles range from awkward to delighted. It was taken the last time we all got together. "Do we have to take one?' someone groans, but we cherish the have-to. The necessity is the mark of belonging together.
He's been her boyfriend for just on three months, and one of them calls him Dad. Of course he's not their dad, but the instinct is deep in both of them. The pitiful story of a fatherless child looking everywhere, because he longs for that loving eye on him. The bedraggled, broken man clinging to this glimpse of himself with possibility. Wondering how to earn the name and the love bestowed so early and indiscriminately.
Is it the expectation which leads to his retreat? He turns his back on the lisped invitation to fatherhood, ends the relationship. Disappoints himself, and the child, because he is afraid of being a bigger disappointment.
My mind turns to the disappointments I create. When I cannot be what someone in my family needs. When I don't try because I'm afraid. When I try so hard to please that I miss seeing what is really needed. Family and childhood memories blind me to reality. Emotions rise, so deeply familiar, so sharp-edged with anxiety. I realise, too late, that I've made the wrong choice and disappointed again. It makes me sob - and I'm not one to sob - frustrated, disappointing eight year old me sobs.
I marvel at this messy, paradoxical invention - family. Delight in the belonging, the familiarity, the shared history - we can laugh, and care, so deeply. Frustration with the misunderstandings, the different perspectives, the pleasing everyone and no-one. Hurting and healing in one complex gift. God knew we would need family, but he also knew that family would need his redemption.
No wonder the church is complicated when we are seeking to be family.
'The kids had started calling me Dad' at Circumstantial