Broken but Whole

family 1I loathe the phrase “broken home.” When I tell people of my family history, of the divorce of my parents, I hear people say “It must be hard to come from a broken home” or “I didn’t know you were from a broken home.” My ears and soul hear that this way “I didn’t know you’re messed up than me” and “There must be something wrong with you.” I know that’s not the intention, but that’s how it comes across.

I also get down right frustrated (may I even say ticked, chaffed, and cheesed) at those who say that the problem with society today is the breakdown of the traditional family. I’ve heard this a number  of times, sadly from an older generation who sit in the pews. When I hear this being said from those who grew up with a family around them, have their kids and grandkids living near by, I grit my teeth. It is as if to say that we have the right answer and it’s to be just like us.

A few years back, I was at a meeting of churches to discuss how we can do ministry in our churches and communities. We talked about how we can address issues that our communities face. One elderly white haired gentleman sitting in front of me said very loudly and assuredly that it was the breakdown of the traditional family that was causing all these problems. If people just treated marriage properly, had kids properly, and fathers acted like fathers, then we wouldn’t have all these social ills.

I raised my hand and said very loudly and assuredly “Bullocks.” I actually meant another word that begins with B but I’m not typing it here. I then stated that if it is the lack of people being parents and a lack of fathers sticking around, then step up and be a mentor to them.

It’s one thing to point out what you think might be the problem, it’s another to step forward and live the solution. I know it can be done. I know it is effective. Why? Because that’s what a group of Godly men did in my life (blogged about it here).

People are good at bemoaning things, especially in the church. Things have changed. The world is different. The center cannot hold (no clue what that means, but it sounds all philosophical and cool). And the church needs to step up. If we see a need to tend to families who are in need, then as followers of Jesus, we need to step up and fill in the gaps.

If there is no father present in the home and a mother working her fingers to the bone to make ends meet, step up. Be a help. Babysit. Help with groceries. More importantly, be a mentor, men. Be willing to help be a Godly male influence in their lives. The same with women. Be willing to be a Godly female influence in the lives of young women. Don’t just sit there complaining, get off your frakin’ duff and do something.

family 2Paul mentored Timothy. Timothy was raised by his mom and grandmother. Paul came along side Timothy as was like a father to him, mentoring him, helping him grow in his faith and understanding. Not just that, but Paul empowered Timothy to be a good, strong leader.

When Jesus was told that his family was looking for Him, he said that those around Him were His sisters and brothers and mothers. In Jesus, we are able to come to God as Father. Not just that, but call him daddy (Paul uses the childlike familial Aramaic word “abba” in reference to God which is translated as “daddy”). Throughout the Book of Acts, all of Paul’s letters, heck, in Peter’s and John’s letters, the people of God are called the family of God. They are called brothers and sisters.

There is family to be had in the church.

But is the church willing to be family?

In the 2002 Disney movie Lilo and Stitch, the alien creature Stitch says it best about family, twice.

ohana 2

and then he says this:

ohana 1We’re all broken in one way or another. We’re all messed up one way or another. To single out one set of people as being from a “broken home” while you yourself are part of a family of broken people doesn’t help. In our brokenness, we can all come together and be the family God wants us to be. A group of people called and cleansed and made complete through Jesus, still broken but whole together.

Take time not to bemoan the state of society today and the disintegration of what one might think to be the traditional family structure. Instead, step forward, be the love of Jesus to someone, fill the gap and be ready to welcome others into the family of God and be willing to mentor them. Fill the gap.


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4 Responses to Broken but Whole

  1. Ernie says:

    Bullocks: from someone who thirty years ago remained in a neighborhood of increasingly single parent homes and has seen the devastation the lack of a “traditional family” setup has caused. Just one anecdote (if I cited all of them I would have enough for a Phd.): a kid who was in my home regularly and regularly played with my kids and who I did some fathering for (but never could full-time as with the kids who lived with me) ended up doing six years at Jackson State Prison as an accessory to attempted murder and the stories go on and on…
    That elderly gentleman was spot-on. Perhaps “broken home” usage rankles and attempts should be made to avoid it but guess what? I run into a lot of language that offends me (as in calling women “Bs” and use of “mfers” every second sentence. How about a blog on that.

    • Josh says:

      Ernie: Thank you for your words, thoughts, and comment on this blog. I greatly appreciate your view and response. My apologies for taking so long to respond, I usually respond much quicker. This week has been a very busy one and I wanted to take the time to give a thoughtful response to which your comment deserved. You are more than welcome to disagree and cry “bullocks” yourself. Please remember that blogs are personal opinions and our opinions will differ. In stating bullocks myself about the breakdown of the traditional family, I should have been more clear. I was saying that blaming only one thing as the actual issue and not the church’s response to it was bullocks. This is a blog, not an academic paper so I don’t tend to cite academic works and studies. If you would like to read The Family by Balswick and Balswick (Baker Academic, 20144) they have a huge section on family systems theory, the development of what many today see as the traditional family and nuclear family and how families have changed over the course of the last few decades. They then also give suggestions on what the church can do and a solid theology of marriage and family. The authors are professors in the psychology department of Fuller Seminary. They also have a high view of marriage which includes the ideal of having a father, mother, and children living together in love and grace.

      For a bit of history, the church and societal ideal of a traditional nuclear family (mother, father, children…in that order) stems more from what we began to see in the late 1940’s early 50’s with a more mobile society, taking people away geographically from various families of origin. This traditional nuclear family is part of the Biblical ideal (to which Balswick and Balswick and myself all agree on). But the ideal is not what we are seeing today.

      It is very good that you attempted to mentor and be a father figure to that young man and it is tragic that what happened did. That is the scary thing about offering grace and love to someone, it may not end up how you had dreamed it would be. My overall thesis in this blog was that the church needs to offer grace, acceptance, and love to those who are in families and marriages which are hurting and struggling. Just because it is a traditional nuclear family does not mean it is in any way shape or form healthier than a non-traditional family. As sinful people, we are very good at putting up fronts and pretending to be a perfect and happy family even though we are hurting, fighting, and struggle inside. This is due to the pressures of performance and expectations the church sadly has and places on traditional families (again, please see Balswick and Balswick in their section of family systems).

      As I mentioned in the blog, the role of the church is to enfold all from different backgrounds into the church with grace and love. The church is to be the body of Christ, the family of God, and the representation of the coming Kingdom of God here on earth. We are to be the agent of change in the society and show a counter cultural way of living and existing. Yes, you lovingly and boldly and on faith stood in the gap for that young man, and it is sad about the outcome. But please, do not allow that to tarnish your ability to show grace to another. And yes, many people do not speak with words to which we might find vulgar and disrespectful. Instead of standing in judgment, how might you show grace and the love of Jesus? How might you and your church welcome in those who are different than you into the family of God and let them see that they belong? How can you then be an agent of change in the life of someone else?

      It is about grace. The funny thing about grace is that no one deserves it. Not the one who speaks vulgarity just as much as the one who holds strongly to a traditional value of family which is changing in an ever changing post-Christendom world. Be the church, be Jesus, live grace.

      Again, Ernie, thank you for your thoughts. May God bless you richly.

  2. Pingback: Stepping Up, Stepping Out, Falling Flat | Spiritual Musclehead

  3. ernie says:

    Joshua: do you realize that your including the description, “one elderly, white-haired gentleman…” sounds like the bigotry of ageism? Would you have hollered “bullocks” if the person had been a young male or female for someone from a different ethnicity?
    You also seem to follow what I can only describe as “equivalency arguing” in which one conflates two things as the same which really are not quite that similar. E.g. “We are all broken in one way or another, we are all messed up…” So, to use an extreme contrast of equivalency arguing under that logic: Mother Teresa is part of the “all” and Hitler is part of the “all.” They are both “messed up” and “broken” so there really isn’t much difference between Hitler and Mother Teresa; at least that is the impression I get from your statements. (yeah I know we are all sinners but…)

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