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6 Responses to “Happy Families”

  1. KC Bruce says:

    Mike:

    I agree that a lot of things have to go right to have a good family. It’s also true that you can really mess things up and the family can still come out ok. If my boys (now in their 20’s) weren’t able to forgive some of my blunders as a dad, we wouldn’t have the strong relationships we have now.

    I think forgiveness and grace–making a lot of space for mistakes–allows that shalom. So you don’t have to be perfect–or even really good–a lot of the times.

    And I believe your point to be very true, too. Any one stressor–financial, relational, housekeeping, faith–can hugely disrupt a healthy community–family, church, or business.

    When your are doing a lot of things right, miracles can occur. They can occur anytime under any circumstances, of course, but they do seem to favor those communities that regularly bring about a sense of peace, love, forgiveness, and healing. And that is hard, intentional work. And the blessings make it worth it.

  2. Danny says:

    Mike –
    I love your focus on Shalom… and I think that the research cited today misses the real point. I don’t believe that the incarceration rate among young African-American males is responsible for the low marriage rates. I actually believe that they are both symptoms of the same problem. There was an editorial in the Washington Post a couple of summers ago entitled, “Marriage is for White People.” The quote was from a third-grade boy in the DC schools. I have been mentoring a young African-American guy for the past four years. He is now 17. Other than me (and the other mentors in our program), he doesn’t know anyone who is married. The reason young, inner-city African-Americans don’t get married is that they don’t grow up imagine themselves as married. It isn’t on their radar screens. The challenge isn’t to work on incarceration rates, but to reform and reshape their imaginations through relationships (and other means). the inception of this problem goes back decades when Federal welfare payments were available only if a husband/male was not present in the home. In essence, the government paid families to break down. Now, decades later, kids (like the one I mentor), don’t know anyone who is married. They live with moms who, by and large, sacrifice greatly for them. They also live with the deep pain from their fathers being absent (even when they are not incarcerated). Sadly, the incarceration rate is a symptom of this same problem. The number one predictor for incarceration in the US is a father being absent from the home. The challenge is not to focus on the incarceration rate, but on the imagination. Can we work together to reform and reshape the imaginations of young, lower income kids? Increasingly, white kids are following the same statistics, as it has more to do with class than race. Without the full effort of the church — even society — on this challenge, it will be uphill sledding. For kids to experience Shalom, they can’t grow up in neighborhoods where no fathers are present. The efforts and love of single moms are heroic, but they can’t do it alone.

  3. marble says:

    I have seen other studies that take more than a man’s ‘availability’ into account when determining marriage figures. It might be good also to consider the women’s point of view – many of whom are apparently not marrying on purpose, and not because they can’t ‘secure’ a man, any man. This is not all bad, because it shows the orientation toward a higher ideal even if it’s in the negative – namely the rejection of a sham marriages to those who have no aspirations of being the head of a healthy household.

    That said, perhaps I have just illustrated your point that things go wrong for many different reasons – things go right, when all those ‘different reasons’ are going well. There are many uniquely different reasons why marriage is in trouble. . . . both from the male perspective as well as the female’s. So I guess we’re reminded again that we shouldn’t try and pin it down to a single reason.

    On another subject altogether, it doesn’t bother you that a new reader would probably have no idea what you mean in your first sentence about churches knowing something about “shalom”? I am not a new reader, but I am still not sure what you mean – it starts to feel like ‘insider’ jargon.

  4. Mike Metzger says:

    Danny:

    Good points – and I agree with your remarks about symptoms. My point was not to fix the symptoms but to see these symptoms as part of a system – a complex system we rarely address or attempt to fix, since it requires a lot of things all going right. The systems are largely the result of institutional structures. While your remarks about relationships and the imagination are important, I have rarely seen how faith communities work to change the imagination beyond relationships. In other words, to quote James Hunter (p. 35): “While individuals are not powerless by any stretch of the imagination, institutions have much greater power.”

    On to my friend Marble: I assume people the power of Google can assist anyone who is scratching their head on shalom. In a nutshell, it is seeking the wellbeing of others. Not wanting and wishing – doing. Since it is an ancient word found in scripture, Judaism, and the Early Chruch (and obviously not coined here in this column), I assume it’s not ‘insider’ jargon – but her point is well taken.

  5. Brody Bond says:

    The all-or-nothing mindset scares me – I’m prone to OCD tendencies.

    If I know that it _all_ has to be right, I might not even take the first step to innovate one area.

    How does grace play into making all things right?

  6. Mike Metzger says:

    The first step is distinguishing between reasons and excuses. Your OCD might be the reason you are scared, but it’s an excuse for failing to align with reality. We’re all bent. Wise people recognize this reality yet align with reality, such as the reality that shalom is almost all or nothing. Second, I’d recommend you recalibrate your take on grace. Grace is only opposed to earning, not effort. Grace means you don’t have to get it all right – but you do have to get most things right. Put another way, try repeatedly blowing it with your spouse and then repeatedly asking her for grace. Somewhere along the way she’ll suggest you stop excusing your behavior. Beware of what Bonhoeffer called cheap grace.

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