Time Machines, Family, and Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad Bots - Heisenberg
Breaking Bad Bots – Heisenberg (Photo credit: Jenn and Tony Bot)

“Family is the people you won’t give up on.”

The dad of a (perhaps) recovering junkie said that to the father figure of another (perhaps) recovering junkie.   On my new favorite show, Breaking Bad.   Though the two paternal figures didn’t realize it, the kids they were worried about were connected through a romantic relationship that was leading them down the road to hell.

I think that’s maybe the most profound thing that has ever been said on the show.  It’s a pretty amazing definition.  I think it cuts right to the heart of the situation.  It doesn’t matter how closely related you are to someone.  Heck, if you had a time machine, and the desire to use Deliverance as a how-to manual, you could be somebody’s grandmother, grandson, cousin, and uncle at the same time.  Being quadrupely related might be awkward.  But it wouldn’t make you true family.

And on the other hand, if you have no genetic ties to a person, but you’re going to make the active choice not to give up on them… Then that, right there, is family.

It reminds me of the time when Jesus’ relatives all gathered together.  They thought he had gone over the deep end.  So they were going to do an intervention, I guess.  They were going to drag him away from his followers, and try to talk some “sense” into him.

Jesus says that the people who are with him, not the people who had given up on him, are his true family.

We all know the standard caveats here: believing in somebody, not giving up in them, does not mean we are door mats.  It does not mean we allow ourselves to be victimized.

But sometimes we soft-peddle the amount that we are called to allow ourselves to be emotionally hurt by being open, by believing.  The act of not giving up is an incredibly hard thing, all by itself.   We don’t need to enable, cosign, feed into, or support people’s destructive behavior.

But I think we are called to an act of will, an act of the heart, that is incredibly tough, even when not accompanied by any of those other things.   It hurts.  But it is what we are supposed to do.

The realization that I include or exclude people in my family based on whether or not I believe in them… That’s pretty rough.  I don’t think I’m ready to go there, blog-wise.  So I think I will digress…

At my amazing church, Fellowship New England, we keep talking about how we’re wanting to turn communities into families.   I think what this means is that we come to know the people around us, and we make this decision: we will not give up.

That’s what God’s calling us to.  And it’ll be pretty awesome when we get there.  But wow, do we have a ways to go.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

3 thoughts on “Time Machines, Family, and Breaking Bad”

  1. Great post Jeff! I love the quote “You’ve heard the saying ‘Blood is thicker than water’ but, Family is thicker than Blood.”

    I agree that I don’t really want to examine how I include or exclude people from my family. That is the messy middle part that we at some point are forced to wrestle with. And I think when we do we will come out on the other side stronger.


  2. Thanks Jen and Billy. Billy , I kind of meant I wasn’t ready to blog about it, because it is not the appropriate forum. I totally agree that we should do it.


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