I posted an article on facebook. (Don’t all the best stories start that way?)
It was a moderately scathing critique of idolatry of the family in American Evangelical Christianity and when I read it I found myself agreeing deep in my bones. What resonated with me most was the author’s unabashed embrace of the messy, grey world of families that is painted in the Bible.
An article that presents a non-mainstream perspective of the Biblical narrative? I mean how could I not share it on my facebook?
Moments later, the response came (you know the one). Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t from my uncle Dave who lives 2,000 miles away. It came from a dear friend with whom I had “playdate” plans the very next morning. For the unfamiliar, a playdate is where moms (or dads) direct their children toward the playroom and then spend the remainder of their time alternating between chatting with each other on the couch and preventing nuclear meltdown in said playroom.
So that wasn’t going to be awkward.
Via the comments on facebook, we agreed to have a friendly discussion about the article and the “Biblical accuracy” of it over tea in the morning.
When the doorbell rang, I actually felt nervous. The arrival of this friend with whom I had standing Thursday playdates for the last 3 years suddenly made my palms a little sweaty. I could tell we were on the cusp of something bigger than us, but I didn’t yet know what. We opened up the conversation and laid ground rules: The purpose was to understand where the other was coming from. We were to be grace-filled and respectful. If either of us felt like we didn’t want to discuss it anymore, we could call it.
When we were finally ready to discuss specifics, I half expected to hear “*DING* Round one.” In fact, there were countless rounds that day, but not of boxing. There were rounds of words and clarifying questions and civil disagreements.
Where and how do we draw a line between idolatry and high priority? What do we do with examples of sinful marriages and families in the Bible? Why does Dobson talk about the 1950s so much?
There were rounds of interruptions where we had to actually attend to our four small children. You know, feed them and such. There were rounds spent delving deep into theology and culture.
Why can’t I bring myself to befriend my seemingly lovely lesbian neighbors? What if I don’t believe that the government has any more right to define marriage than they do to legislate baptism? What will my children grow up seeing as right?
There were rounds of fact checking and anecdote relaying.
What do the verses around that excerpt say? Do you know what happens in countries where they legalize gay marriage? Have I told you about the woman I met in Sri Lanka who was married at 13?
Around and around we went, pouring our hearts out, desperate for the other to understand and agree, but neither of us made a convert that day. As I observed our dance of interacting with four needy children while seeking to find Jesus in the mess of life, I caught a small glimpse of a deep truth – a deeper truth than any we grappled with that day.
This friend, she is my family. She is the one who will hold my tea while I go intercept our three-year-olds before one of them starts throwing punches. She is the one who will say to me “let’s seek the truth on this” and mean it. She is the one whose home is open to us and who is always welcome in ours. She is the one who lives in community, in relationship, in communion with myself, my boys, our families.
That morning, the image of family as God intended couldn’t have been any clearer.