14 March 2008

What is family?

A great quote from the second edition of Gilbert Meilaender's Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (fuller review to follow, sometime):

Discussing his reservations about living wills (he favors the health care power of attorney, and rightly so, I think), Meilaender writes that part of the problem is that living wills "free us from the need to deal with the ambivalence we feel in caring for a loved one who has now become a burdensome stranger. I realize, of course, that freeing loved ones from such burdens is supposed to be one of the benefits of a living will, but Christians ought to be wary of such language. For to burden one another is, in large measure, what it means to belong to a family--and to the new family into which we are brought in baptism. Families would not have the significance they do for us if they did not, in fact, give us a claim upon each other. At least in this sphere of life we do not come together as autonomous individuals freely contracting with each other. We simply find ourselves thrown together and asked to share the burdens of life while learning to care for one another. Often, of course, we will resent such claims on our times and energy. Indeed, learning not to resent them is likely the work of a lifetime. If we decline to learn the lesson, however, we cease to live in the kind of community that deserves to be called a family, and we are ill prepared to live in the community for which God has called us--a community in which no one stands on the basis of his rights, and all live by that shared love Christians have called charity."

This paragraph reminds me strongly of another quote about what family is that I've come across--maybe C.S. Lewis? or J. Budziszewski? The footnote says that this paragraph was a partial rewrite of something he'd published earlier in First Things, so maybe it's just deja vu, if I already came across it elsewhere. (Someone help my addled pregnancy brain here!)


Rebekah said...

Having kids is the first step in learning this lesson. God gives you precious, adorable, helpless, little ingrates to take care of, and of course you do. Then by the time there are aging, full-sized,less aesthetically pleasing elderly family members to take care of, you've come to understand that that's your job too, and have acquired many of the skills and virtues that such care requires. Nice how he eases us into it.

Thanks for this, from the girl waiting around for her life to get back to self-focused "normal." In families, there's always someone else who needs to be taken care of. That's normal.

Reb. Mary said...

When it comes to longing for the elusive/illusive "normal," I'm the worst offender i know.

That's why I read stuff like this and need people like y'all to inspire me--all part of my effort to get my eyes off my own (ever-more-prominent) navel. :)