Parenthood and Responsibility

In high school or beyond, most of us take on a steadily growing list of responsibilities that we juggle. However it began, it has grown to encompass every facet of our lives, from school and work to friends and neighbors, and perhaps most of all our families. And that’s just the beginning of the list. It keeps growing and expanding to church and other social commitments until we are so absorbed in the needs and desires and demands of others that we can barely remember our own names, let alone why we’ve taken on all these good things in our lives. Because in this juggling act, someone is always getting less than they need, less than they deserve, and at the end of the day, we fall into the exhausted, fitful sleep of the overwhelmed, hoping with all that is left of our souls that the people we cheated out of the best of ourselves today will forgive us, or better yet not even notice, tomorrow. So go the days of our chaotic lives until we begin to break down from the inside out and realize we can’t hold our lives together in constant motion—or under any other circumstances—on our own.

No one on television more clearly shows the folly of pouring into others without replenishing ourselves than Adam Braverman (Peter Krause) from NBC’s new series, Parenthood, based on the 1989 Ron Howard/Brian Grazer film of the same name. Aside from a full-time job and his own family, including a wife, a teenage daughter and a son newly diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, Adam is also the oldest brother in the Braverman clan. With this honor come a thousand other responsibilities: Mom (Bonnie Bedelia) and Dad (Craig T. Nelson) Braverman need a handyman, Julia (Erika Christensen) needs occasional advice, Sarah (Lauren Graham) needs a father figure for her teenage children, and let’s not forget Crosby (Dax Shepard) … Crosby needs Adam to hold his hand through anything more painful or complicated than a booster shot, particularly if no post-needle lollipop is involved.

Honestly, I think Crosby’s drama alone would be enough to severely rattle my juggling rhythm if his issues were real and mine to address. At least three times during each episode, I can be heard calling out to the television: "Crosby? No, Crosby! Crosby, what are you doing?” (He listens to me only slightly better than he listens to Jiminy Cricket or Adam or anyone else for that matter.)

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Given that he is adapting to a new, strict schedule that his son’s disability requires and the additional weight of the needs and expectations of his entire extended family rides on his shoulders, it’s no wonder that the latest episode of Parenthood, titled “What’s Going on Down There?” shows Adam beginning to crack. His wife, Christina (Monica Potter), wisely suggests he "take a break." More often than actually happens for most of us, we all need a break—an opportunity to intentionally put down everything we juggle and rest. Then, when we return recharged to pick up the juggling act once again, we may also have a renewed perspective on the things in life most worth our time and energy.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” What does this mean for you? In what part of your life do you most need to claim this rest? It’s much too easy to limit this invitation entirely to spiritual matters, and it is much too common for us to compartmentalize our lives into physical, spiritual, emotional, social and a host of other categories. But the truth is none of these arenas are truly separate from any of the others as we live our lives. Often our ability to maintain healthy levels of spiritual engagement and social interaction are directly tied to our faithfulness in maintaining our physical well-being. Conversely, our emotional health has an enormous impact on our physical health. To me, this means some of our breaks should contain intentionally spiritual activities. Others should focus on the needs of our physical bodies, such as exercise or sleep. Still other breaks should be filled with fun activities that feed our creativity and affirm our love for life. Many of these activities may not be technically spiritual in our narrow, human definition. But all of them fill us in some way, leaving us better prepared to serve those around us. What could be more biblically spiritual than that?

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