Last week one of my favorite shows of all time ended. Parenthood held my attention for years and wrapped me up into the Braverman family to the point that I felt like I knew them, loved them, and now in their passing away from TV life, mourn them. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a group of characters on screen so much (maybe aside from Eric & Tammy Taylor from Friday Night Lights), and the show is one of the most compelling depictions of an extended biological family that I’ve ever seen.
As I talked with friends who also watch the show, it became clear that the show affected many more people in the same way. Almost every episode somehow found a way to twist your gut into a knot and more often than not produce some moisture in your eyes. As I talked with people about the show, I continually heard things like “I just love that family” and “I wish I could move there and be a part of them.” There was always an attraction, a twinge of jealousy.
The show pulled on some powerful and meaningful desires to belong, to be known deeply, flaws and all, and still be loved. To know that at the end of the rope, someone is going to be there. To be sure that when things hit the fan, you will not be alone.
Millions of people, including myself, followed the Braverman family for years while our souls ached for the belonging, love, and dedication we saw displayed on the screen. We watched with the overwhelming thought: “I want to be a part of something like that.”
And time after time, I thought about the church. I thought about the story that we as local bodies of believers are living out together, and wondered about the onlookers who stand at a distance and look our way.
Is there anything about the way we relate to one another that would make them hold their gaze? Are there any stories of sacrifice and dedication and long-suffering among us that would cause tears to well in their eyes?
When I think about the show Parenthood, I think warmth, family, and grace. Do those with a view into our local faith communities think similarly when they look at us?
For the past 8 years, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of a church where I’ve seen believers become family in an attractive and compelling way. We’ve seen people rally into small, tight-knit communities that practice the many “one anothers” of Scripture (along with others) together.
Love one another.
Serve one another.
Be devoted to one another.
Confess your sins to one another.
Carry one another’s burdens.
Give to one another.
Sell your possessions for one another.
Stay up all night with one another.
Go to the hospital with one another.
Fight for one another.
Do everyday life with one another.
I’ve been astonished to hear people who are far from Jesus but close to these communities say things like “I don’t believe in God, but I see Him at work in your community.”
I’ve had the honor of seeing “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love one another” lived out (John 13:35).
Parenthood paints a beautiful, compelling picture of family and belonging. But even a show as compelling as that has nothing on the church being lived out as it is designed to be.
Countless numbers of people are looking for a place to belong–for the scandalous idea that there exists a community of people who will look into their deepest junk and instead of running away will run towards them.
Fully knowing and fully loving because they are fully known and fully loved.
In truth, Parenthood has nothing on the church. But in practical reality it does, because so many of our churches look very little like a family and in turn are not telling the attractive and compelling story of God with their very existence like they are designed to.
Oh that the warm and compelling glow, the sitting-by-the-fireplace feel of a show like Parenthood would pale in comparison to the relational warmth, hospitality, and grace-drenched glow of our churches.
It can, and it should.
Let’s pray to that end.