Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Meta Family

One of the highlights of visiting family this year was spending time at the NH Museum of History and canoeing on Bear Brook Lake with my 11 yr old cousin Bailey. This year I realized that my family, like many in the United States, has metamorphosed into something quite different from what I remember it to be. While I do have relatives who are blood relations, I have many more who are related by marriage, adoption, foster or surrogate family, friendly and neighborly association. So, looking around the family circle at the evening barbecues with my cousin and her children, we found it hard to name the exact relationship of some people present even though we call them family. For instance, Pete, if I have this right, is the former husband of the daughter of the ex-mother-in-law from the 1st marriage of my cousin's brother. Others have similar complicated connections, but this one was the hardest to describe, although the man himself was an obvious fit in the family circle. More to the point, he has a son the same age as her son, and they like each other. Someone who can muster up with a playmate of the suitable age for the children comes with a premium! I think we are not alone in this new shape of family. This is a common metamorphosis happening to many American families. I grew up in the age when the nuclear family was the norm, so I still try to categorize people as brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, grammas, grampas etc. In my mind I think of people as unclish, auntish, cousinish, brotherish...etc. I am a celibate religious, but I am also gramma to two delighful Korean American children who need one ... and who think I seem to fit the part. The positive side of all this is that it frees us to be the relation that best fits who we are. But, what does this new reality do to a child's understanding of the Holy Trinity? Can we fathom a Holy Trinity made up of the Stepfather of the Bride to Be, the Son of the 1st Cousin of the Ex-Mother-in-Law, and the Holy Spirit? What would it mean if we really began to think of each other in terms of who we need to be for one another rather than who we happen to be by circumstance? Does this new reality free us to be the mother, brother, sister, father that hears the Word and puts it into action...just Jesus intended?