Leaving Salem

All sorts of words are used to describe today’s families. Traditional, dysfunctional, multi-generational, blended, just to name a few. I suppose that latter category – blended – would describe the little people living under my roof.

Like most families, my wife and I are parents to children who are very different. One is artistic and sensitive with a tender heart. He values his friendships, his Pokemon cards, and his kitten, Speedy. Another is athletic, defiant, and competitive. He is at home on the football field or at the gym, or the fishing pier. And the youngest seems to have been born to entertain.  Crank him up and he pops out like a perpetual jack-in-the-box.

But these three sons of mine are different in other ways as well. Two of our boys are adopted, “made at the hospital” they would say. The youngest is a definite DNA match, “made in mom’s belly.”  All three are brothers.

Our two oldest children are only six months apart. It has been the equivalent of raising twins, but the two couldn’t be more different. Blayze is blond, blue-eyed with freckles, and with his tender heart came tender skin; the kind that requires 50-plus SPF in the Florida sun. Bryce’s skin is the color of a well stirred mocha latte, and he has eyes and hair as dark as Appalachian coal.

When Blayze and Bryce were not yet three years of age they began to recognize their differences. The ultimate revelation came first to Blayze as they were once acting out the roles of Woody and Buz from “Toy Story,” complete with props and costumes. Blayze paused from play to look at his brown cowboy hat. He thought for a moment, then screwed up his mouth and wrinkled his brow. Watching from a distance I knew something weighty was at work.

He crossed the room and laid the well-worn hat against Bryce’s skin.  Then he laid it against his own bare chest. Back to Bryce, then to himself.  Finally, like the apple striking Newton’s noggin, he exclaimed, “Hey Bryce! You’re brown like Woody’s hat!” And play resumed without further interruption. It was a realization that simple and that profound.

Blayze and Bryce are now in the second grade. Almost daily they are forced to explain to someone that yes, they are in fact brothers, despite their different appearances. But aren’t we all brothers and sisters?

The Apostle Paul once wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28 NIV). Paul wrote those words nearly two millennia ago, and we are still trying to learn the truth of what he said.

Separations of race, religion, culture, ethnicity, and gender have been trumped by the invitation to become one in Christ. His life, death, and resurrection reconstituted and rearranged the world. Again, to quote Paul, he said, “The old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV). God is making all things new, and he has begun with me and you. If we allow him to renew our hearts, to give us hearts like children, we will be enabled to take people as they are, to see beyond color and creed, and join in brotherhood with others, even those very different than ourselves.

Our world has serious problems. I’m not so naïve that I don’t recognize this fact. Nor do I think that chummy stories about my own children are enough to solve these problems.  Still, it is a start.  What would change in our world if the truth about God’s family was allowed to prevail?

The late speaker of the house Tip O’Neal often said that “all politics is local.” Maybe love works the same way. If I can learn to love those closest to me: On my street, in my neighborhood, under my roof, then maybe I can learn to love everyone. With practice I might even learn what it is like to become part of the beautiful, blended family of God.

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