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Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Family Matters


Family. It’s a word loaded with meaning…and perhaps absent of meaning. I am in search of it. You may be in search of it. But what exactly is “it”? What is family?

Definition time (using answers.com, “the world’s greatest encyclodictionalmanacapedia”). Let’s take it one at a time…

fam·i·ly (făm'ə-lē, făm'lē)

- A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children.

This is perhaps the easiest definition of family. Parents + Kids = Family. The problem with this definition is that over sixty percent of today’s children come from broken homes. So kids today have more than simply parents. We have step parents, half parents, adoptive parents. They have parents who abandon, injure, and forget. Sooo…I don’t like this definition. Parents + Kids rarely equals family…or at least the kind of family I desire.

- A group of persons sharing common ancestry.

Ahhhh yes…the extended family. Common ancestry makes you think of that third grade family tree project, doesn’t it? I tried to do my family tree thing and I discovered that my great-great-great-great grandpa invented the windshield wipers. Am I seeing any financial benefits of sharing ancestry with this brilliant inventor? Nope. Extended family generally confuses me. There are many who will spend WEEKS with their extended family around the holidays and then not talk to them for 11 months. I imagine that those who interact with family in this way, value the DNA strand that holds everyone together in a way that I do not. It is in this definition that we find our blood to be our common thread. Is that family? It might be…but this is not what I am in search of.

- Two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside usually in the same dwelling place.

I love this definition. It makes me think of me and a bunch of pals living in the same place, committing to a common cause, and living life with a shared vision. But as I think about this definition, I sense that something is missing. There is something about this definition that makes me feel like anyone can enter a family. This definition feels more like the definition of a community rather than that of a family. It feels like there is an open door and at any moment Kramer can come sliding through right into my family. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know.

As I look through these definitions I am still left with a strong desire. I desire family. I know that my soul craves intimacy and that apart from community I am absent of love…but there is something more I desire. Although I have not found the definition...this desire is for family. I hope for family.

What does family mean to you? Who is your family? Which definition resonates with you? Is family a priority? What do you hope for your family? Where has your family fallen short of your expectations? Where have they exceeded?

These questions have surfaced in my own life over the past two weeks. Starting on January 8th I will begin a class entitled Marriage and Family. It is my hopes that through this time I will discover more about the hopes that I hold for my family. I hope that we can continue this conversation as I engage my course.

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