Spirituality in the Family

June 2, 2010

Seattle, WA Family counseling Today we have been married for 37 years! My wife and I tease each other that we've had 35 good years… because two were pretty awful when we were not able to get in synch! At this point, the negative perspective represents only 3% of our lives so far. Not a bad average when you look at the bigger picture; and hopefully by the time leave this world those will only be a blip on the screen as we review the movies of our lives. To take a proper picture of our lives together, necessitates using a wide angle lens that will include a minimum of 4 dogs, 3 kids and 96 years of parenting! We’ve also had over 240 years of being nurtured by our own parents, some of whom are still with us and others who have left us with more questions than answers. Then there is how we learn to make sense of our various careers and shared life experiences. If spirituality is first and foremost a term of connection, how can all of these connections not promote spiritual growth as we continue to make meaning out of the individual and intersected places in our lives? And don’t you wonder where God sits in the midst of it all?

To begin this day, I poured coffee into a special mug given to me by our youngest daughter who is about to get married, pulled a tee shirt over my head from the “Lonestar Rod and Kustom Roundup,” bought while visiting our son in Austin, Tx, wrapped myself in a West Seattle Sweatshirt, given our softball coach daughter, and topped off the ensemble with a ball cap from Lake Roosevelt where our whole family used to share stories around a campfire. After hooking Max to a leash (the youngest family member) and sliding my wedding ring on my left hand , I couldn’t help but notice how many symbols of our shared lives I encountered before I headed out for a morning walk; each one carrying not only a memory, but a reminder of a special type of spirituality that is only discovered as we learn how to nurture and be nurtured by each other.

Mary Pipher says it all in the title of one of her delightful books, The Shelter of Each Other. (Grosset/Putnam, 1998) She states that although the family is our most cherished and valuable institution, our culture seems to be ”at war” with families. Unlike past generations we now live without walls that used to screen out unwanted influences, and we often feel invaded by television, internet, ipods, ipads, instant messaging and more. But what is most lacking is our sense of community….”our shelter from the storm, our last great hope.”

Pipher suggests we create a “tiospaye,” a Sioux term for community. To create a tiospaye we would purpose to make connections with each other and bring people together, learn to turn off the TV, choose to not answer the cellphone every time it rings, spend more time together in nature, eating, drinking and sharing our stories of how we have encountered the complexities in our lives. Although symbols can remind us of the important people and events in our lives, we still need to share our stories in the presence of each other. Our stories of overcoming adversity, stories of bravery and courage, stories of when we couldn’t go on but somehow took one step forward, stories of births, great celebrations and deaths, humorous stories where we can laugh at ourselves until tears run down our faces, stories that can highlight our unique perspectives and heal our polarizations, stories that quilt us together around the campfires of our lives. It’s a gift to know that God is always in the campfire.

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