So, now that I have your undivided attention, let’s talk a moment about who we are. The reason I know I have your undivided attention? You’re probably one of the millions who are watching the hit series called This Is Us. I am, too.
To be honest, I wasn’t that interested when it first started. I would be in the study working on something--paying bills, filing, working on a weekend message, or trying to put on paper some thoughts for this blog-- and Kim would be in the family room sitting by the fire, TV on, preparing her speech therapy sessions with children for the coming week. As I sat in the study, I could see her, the fire, and the TV. And, unless I have my own music on in the study, I can faintly hear the dialogue taking place on the TV. On this particular night, I could hear it well.
While she watched this new show, I’d occasionally walk into the kitchen to refill the iced tea, or go back to the master bedroom to grab a book on the nightstand. And as I passed through the family room, I’d often stop, watch a few minutes of the show, and then, completely confused, ask Kim what was going on.
Let me just admit that this behavior is very annoying to Kim. When I frequently ask what is going on with a certain episode of This Is Us, she gives me the look that reminds me of previous attempts as well as words of wisdom: “Either sit here with me and watch the show, or work in your study. But don’t ask me to catch you up on what is unfolding as we speak.”
So, one night, I sat down and decided to watch it. I was so confused. Since I hadn’t sat still long enough to understand the show, I had no idea what was happening when I was watching one scene and within a few minutes, it was like the show had gone back in time to when everyone was young and pretty.
After watching about half of the episode, I got up out of my chair and told Kim, “this is nuts.” I thought This Is Us was “this is nuts.” I just couldn’t keep up with it.
Fast forward to the middle of the first season: I had been quietly joining Kim to watch the show. By this point, I got it. I understood it. We were watching a family give us a glimpse of who they really were. This is who they are. This is who this family is: this family that comes into our homes each week via the televisions hanging above our fireplaces or on the walls of our family rooms.
It is so dang believable. They don’t seem to candy-coat anything. There is pain. Infidelity. Drugs. Rehab. Death. Obesity. Multicultural issues. Even with the occasional sappy and obvious artistic license, it seems to resonate with most of us. Millions of us.
Maybe we all see something about us in the show about them. Maybe we are reminded of some of the hurts and dysfunctions of our family that still play out in our own minds.
It is hard for me to admit that I have let a very popular television series mess with my mind. (In good ways. For the most part.)
An episode included a tragedy involving a father and a son who visits his father’s grave years later on the anniversary of his death. I found myself wanting to have a similar conversation with my dad, but my dad is also gone. It will soon be three years since I said goodbye. And I often find myself wishing I could call him, remind him that I love him, and tell him “thank you” for working so hard to provide our family with options he never had.
I wish I could tell him that he was enough. That he didn’t need to strive so hard to bring good things to all of us. We were fine. We really just wanted him to sit still and enjoy the moment so we could enjoy him.
I wish I could tell him that we were not wounded or scarred by our parents divorce 32 years ago. I wish old friends would have been able to forgive him and love him through his turbulent mid-life crisis.
In other words, I wish I could tell him that this is who we are. This is us. This is our story. In spite of a family crisis, we all landed well, safely surrounded by the undeserved grace of God.
I’d suggest you spend some time understanding who you are. What is your story? Who are you when no one is looking? Because the only way to get to “this is us” is for you to get to “this is me.” Richard Rohr says it well:
All spiritual disciplines have one purpose: to get rid of illusions so we can be present. These disciplines exist so that we can see what is, see who we are, and see what is happening. What is is love. It is God, who is love, giving away God every moment as the reality of our life. Who we are is love, because we are created in God’s image. What is happening is God living in us, with us, and through us as love.
If you have chosen to center your life on Christ, to follow Him as He leads us through His words in the New Testament, and His spirit which nudges us to something greater than we are settling for, then you have the opportunity to know who you are.
Kim and I will celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary in July of this year. Through years of mostly great joy and love, we realized that in the early times together, we really didn’t know who we were. We really didn’t understand what to do with the realities and confusion of our lives as twenty-somethings.
And how I regret spending so much time early on in ministry trying to portray what I wanted others to think of me. Hear me. Listen closely: it was not real. It was not the real Marty.
One of the most freeing things that happened to me was coming to a point of clarity about who I was. A good counselor will call it “self awareness.” It took a while for me to come to a point where I could say, “this is me.” It took a while for Kim and me to come to a place where we could say, “this is us.” This is who we are. This is what we bring to the table.
While the television show does not offer the hope or help of the God who created us, I’m thankful to know that my heavenly father “knows me best and loves me most.” I’m thankful that He takes my messes and turns them into ministry. I’m thankful that He knows who we are, and I’m thankful that He knows who I am as a husband and father. I’m thankful that He always offers us the joy of becoming more like Him so we can be like He is.
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” -Joshua 24:15
This is us. Who are you?