So for those of you who watch The Walking Dead, that lovely family oriented tv series about the zombie apocalypse and human nature, aka frailty, you will track with me on this one. But I’ll try to explain it to those who don’t watch the show but would actually relate a lot to the themes and essence of the show’s characters who are struggling to make sense of life and death and family and loyalty and love and all that bruhaha in the face of unspeakable horrors, violence, and really bad personal hygiene.
So there are these brothers Daryl and Merle who started out as neo-Nazi scum of the earth, but soon you realize that Daryl isn’t such a bad guy and through the last two seasons he has easily become the crowd favorite. So when he decides to leave the group and join his frustratingly pig headed, bigoted, ignorant, narcissist older brother, you yell at the TV in a way that makes others think you actually believe the characters will hear you.
But I got it. I really wanted someone to kill Merle for a long time now. I got super annoyed that he has lasted this long while several other exponentially more noble and at least equally intelligent if not fierce fighters came and went. I mean the character is written in a way that you just are not capable of liking him at all, unless you are in fact a total jerkface.
But fast forward to choosing between his flesh and blood sibling and his group of ragtag friends/pseudo-family, and I get how difficult it is for Daryl. He’s his brother. He thought he was dead. Unfortunately Merle wasn’t dead. But for some people, blood is blood, for better or worse, there is no stronger bond than the family tie. (is that paisley or striped?)
I suppose you could argue that growing up as an adopted kid, I have less of this sense. I understand intimately how bonds grow between two people who are not blood related, but for all intents and purposes are relatives. I can’t imagine any other parents, grandparents, any other siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, than the ones I have. But let’s say that one of them was a racist pig who would rather kill babies than say he’s wrong, and I wonder if I would turn them out faster than you could say DNA test.
But this begs the question – how far are you willing to love your family? Is there such a thing as showing too much grace?
I’ve been thinking a lot about family lately, what it is, what it means to be part of a unit of people combined together by a name and sometimes genetic pools. But we know that it isn’t always about genes and I’d venture to say that families today are much more scattered then ever on what it means to be family. At what other time in history were families so geographically distant? And how many families these days are made up of some conglomeration of his/hers/ours? It’s so much more typical than not for kids today to have more than one set of parents and homes, different names, several sets of grandparents and even siblings they see less than their home room teachers.
What is the modern family to do in all this chaos? The Conservative right will pipe in now with some kind of diatribe about the family being under attack, and I wouldn’t exactly argue against that, but then again, if I were to argue against it, I might say something like this.
You can’t get very far in the Bible without seeing God calling people out of their families, telling them to leave all they know and love behind to follow Him and carry out His plans and purposes for them. And maybe all along, God’s plan, as if He had one, was to allow this fairytale view of family with a dog and cat in the yard behind white picket fences to grow up and face the reality. The reality that yes, God has blessed and sanctioned family, that yes He calls us to rise above the woes of our society and the damage done by sin, but He also creates a new family, a radical family of folks who look nothing alike and come from different cultures and places in history. He brought together all nations to one purpose and to one end and in our choices, we must seek out those not in our own blood lines, not in our own comfort zones, and embrace them as our own. Just as God has adopted us as His own.
But there’s still that pesky question bugging me, how much grace do you show? We all have drawn our lines in the sand of personal tolerance beaches. The tricky thing is that it’s sand and it shifts. And so some cling to the facts – he’s my brother and therefore I will tolerate all. Family is everything and we have to stick together because it’s all we got.
Then there is the side of me that says how much grace I have been shown, I will show. What I have been forgiven, I will forgive. And I think that’s where I’ve settled onto. And the more I think about it, the more I think Daryl had to go with Merle, because grace has no limit. Though for the record, I still say this…