“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.