Families Need Families

Feb 22 / Lacy Finn Borgo
On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God. Luke 9: 37-43

Within the first week of parenting, we come up against the reality that we cannot raise our children alone. We may begin our parenting journey with romantic notions of a perfectly put-together family, but sleepless nights and colic will quickly bring them to an end. Even when things seem to be moving along with relative ease, the burden is too heavy to bear. We realize soon enough that loneliness and love, frustration and fun, scarcity and the sacred are all part of the package. God created us as social beings, and therefore it requires a loving community to help us raise our children and navigate the journey.

In this passage, we find a father reaching out and begging for help for his son. Likely, he had exhausted his own family and was now reaching out for help beyond it. Can you imagine the desperation he must have felt? It was a vulnerable move, a risk to admit that he and his family could not help his son. The humility of confessing his son’s suffering and his own inadequacy to help is palpable.

Read the passage aloud, notice how his words drip with emotion.

What of your own inadequacy is touched?

Verse 40 echoes the pain of every parent who has reached out for help but came up empty-handed. “I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” His risk does not pay off initially. The desperation that propelled him to reach out in vulnerability lead to disappointment. How long had he, along with the disciples, watched helplessly as his son continued to destroy himself?

When Jesus arrived on the scene, he listened to the pain of the father. Notice that listening was Jesus’ first move. Listening creates connection, and this father needed to know that he was not alone. It is loneliness that makes suffering unbearable. The next thing Jesus did was curious. He removed the shame the father was feeling by widening the responsibility to the larger community.

Families in Friendship

In this season of COVID, many of us are experiencing disappointment and shame of parenting in isolation. We are learning that our nuclear families are not enough, and we feel bad about it. Take heart, dear parents, we were never meant to live this way. Children need other adults who will listen and sometimes speak into their lives. Families need friendships and communities of support. Hard times reveal what is most needful, most essential and important. If there is a grace to the last year, this is it. We now know we can’t go it alone.

Desmond Tutu has said, “a person is a person through other persons; you can’t be human in isolation; you are human only in relationships.” Perhaps this is true of families as well. Families are only families through other families; we struggle to be a family in isolation.

Try This:
Make time this week to reach out via phone, or other digital medium to another family you know. Lend your listening each to hear their suffering, disappointment and even shame. Don’t try to fix- as if you could- just listen and offer your friendship. Summon up all the courage and vulnerability you can muster and share your own disappointment and struggle. Let the reciprocal nature of self-revealing conversation remind you that you are a not alone.

Lacy Finn Borgo

Lacy Finn Borgo, DMin, teaches and provides spiritual direction for various organizations in spiritual formation and spiritual direction including, Renovaré, The Companioning Center and Mercy Center, Burlingame. Lacy has a spiritual direction and supervision of spiritual directors ministry for adults, and provides spiritual direction for children at Haven House, a transitional facility for families without homes in Olathe, Colorado. Her book Spiritual Conversations with Children: Listening to God Together was released March 2020. Her children’s book All Will Be Well will be released October of 2022. Lacy lives on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains and worships with a local Quaker Meeting.