Recently, I shared a blog piece to Facebook. It wasn’t anything I had written, and honestly, the topic doesn’t matter. In the course of the ensuing discussion, however, an interesting (to me) theme developed that was finally succinctly summed up in a single phrase by a friend— the cult of family.
The idea, as I began to understand it, is that it’s a bad thing to be too family centered. (I’m not entirely sure who gets to define “too family centered.”) Apparently, large families are among the worst offenders. I’m guessing that the whole idea springs from the abuses of the Quiverfull movement, which are many, but I truly can’t be sure.
I’m a pretty thick-skinned person, especially on social media, so I wasn’t offended— though some very close friends were. As a kindness, I deleted the post, and moved on. After all, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me any more than I expect to agree with everyone else.
The seed of those words, however, took root. Cult of family. I found myself ruminating on them and ultimately decided that, while they clearly left a sour taste in my friends’ mouths (who assigns the moniker “cult” to anything good, after all?), they suited me and mine just fine.
Definition of cult
formal religious veneration
a system of religious beliefs and ritual
a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious
a system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (such as a film or book)
a usually small group of people characterized by intense devotion
The first parts, obviously, aren’t what I’m talking about. I think they are what my friends’ thoughts centered on. But the final two meanings are what stood out to me.
My family? We exhibit great devotion to one another. Yes, we’re a large family but in terms of populations, we’re a small group. And yeah, I’d say we’re characterized by that intense devotion.
Three weeks ago, my 17 year-old was carefully ladling a melting milkshake into his 19 year-old sister’s mouth after the extraction of her wisdom teeth. It was above and beyond, to be sure. But she was out of her head with anesthesia, and he is one of her biggest fans. Help you get some vanilla shake in your belly to offset the meds? No problem, babe.
Yesterday, my 4 year-old came home with his very own CC t-shirt. He’s been anxiously awaiting the day when he’d be old enough to be in a class and not stay home with Daddy, and that shirt was the sign that his moment had come. We pulled into the driveway and every member of the family, from oldest to youngest, greeted him with cheers and pats on the back. Finally hit that milestone? We’re so excited for you!
I get it. We’re not as normal as I think we are. Society expects competition, undermining, whining, backbiting, and jockeying for status. We’re far, far from perfect, but this family is more a team sport than a solo career. Everyone has their own thing, their own unique talents and gifts. Sometimes they use them here, at home, and other times they strike out and share them with the greater community. But the whole time, they have a cheering section. A cult, I guess you might say.
Last Friday, Jack was invited to participate in an awards ceremony for an art competition he had entered. Ten local artists had been chosen to paint storm drains in the area. He hadn’t placed in the contest, but as someone who had entered, he could come and draw his entry in chalk alongside those being permanently added to the streets.
He was interested in attending, so we made it happen: ten people rolled up in a big van. As we unloaded, he checked in, found his spot, got his gear and set to work. We assembled near him, watching and encouraging. The two year-old told him what a good job he was doing. The six year-old complimented him on color choices. The 17 year-old admired his creativity. His dad told him how proud he was.
You know what? None of the other folks there had an audience. Just sayin’.
He worked. We cheered.
He went home empty-handed… and beaming.
In the van on the way home, nine separate voices came together to praise his work, his passion, his giftedness. That night, we had doughnuts in celebration, and toasted the fact that God created Jack, who was brave enough to enter a contest, accepted his defeat graciously, and ultimately was given the opportunity to share his talents with the world anyhow. We cheered again.
So yeah, I guess we’re a cult of family. We’re family centered— probably to a fault. But I’ll take the evidence of great devotion, the intense love I see between these people, over anything else that might seem more acceptable to the world.