God places us in families because it’s meant to be a great environment for development. In a family we learn to relate to people from different generations. We learn to serve and give and receive. We overcome irritation with the young & old.
In some places, when there weren’t enough parents to take children in, children were put into groups of peers (orphanages) and raised together. Because of the small number of adults, the children were raised with strict requirements for behavior and schedule.
Our education system follows an orphan structure and many churches do as well. People aren’t learning how to be much-loved sons; they’re learning how to be well-behaved orphans.
If we’re unaware, we can rely on peers to navigate life, and miss out on relationships with fathers & mothers & really good guides because we find it safer to relate to people our own age and easier to follow good behavior than wrestle through the mess of life.
An orphan structure is run by Control.
A family is run by Relationship.
God is shifting leadership and establishing leaders who love. They transfer their life through relationship and have no stomach for control.
There are many problems. One is the lack of sons. Many of the emerging generation are more comfortable with the orphan structure, so they prefer glossy leaders.
In a structure that focuses on behavior and schedule, it’s pretty easy to look good. Most leaders know how to work the crowd. They’re accomplished public speakers.
Sometimes I’ll watch someone on a stage in $200 jeans and the coolest glasses around and wonder how often they get up in the middle of the night with sick kids. And if they’re in a pissy mood.
Of course they are.
And it’s kind of hard to picture them groggy and pissy because the larger-than-life presence on stage with the big, shiny teeth seems light years away from the frailty of the human condition.
Why are we following that?
What about someone on a stage appeals to us?
I think stages are for entertainment.
Life transfer happens around the table, and in the kitchen, and on the soccer field, when you’re doing well and when you suck so bad you’re embarassed to even be you, in moments of stillness and moments of crisis.
We don’t need to figure out how to get on a stage.
We need to figure out how to quit pretending to be someone who deserves to be on a stage.
We need to figure out how to live life.
I was born for greatness. So were you.
Somewhere around three years old I stumbled and fell and something inside of me broke. I felt alone. I was a communicator trapped inside a body and family that didn’t know how to communicate.
In fifth grade I saw what was required to Make It, and became painfully aware that I was not going to Make It. I wasn’t interested in boys yet. Books captivated me. But my friends made it clear that Boys were Essential. So I tried. Awkwardly. Which is how everything begins.
Notes were being passed with initials and hearts at the bottom. I didn’t have any initials I was interested in. I noticed slumber party invites began to thin. My friend formed a circle with the finger and thumb on one hand, and using her pointer finger to imply sex, asked if I “knew what this meant.” I didn’t. The simple friendships of grade school were gone, boys were the new commodity, and I was quickly falling out of the Essential Circle of Social Relevance.
I tried to get my act together. I couldn’t find a guy to like in any of my classes, (which makes me proud today–I was in fifth grade! What guys are interesting in fifth grade?!) so my friends found one for me. He was cute. I had zero classes with him and they had to point him out to me in the hallway. I never saw him. I never spoke to him. But at least my initials had a place at the bottom of friends’ notes again.
Fifth grade was the beginning of me completely losing my true self.
Then my salvation came in the form of a move to another town. I snapped a photo of my TLA on the last day of school and got the hell out of Me Being a Loserville.
We rolled into a dusty, oppressively small town where everyone must be the Same. I thought it was the end of my life. But I did what any good politician does with a shady past: I began campaigning. I Became Essential. I was better than everyone there. I was worth knowing, and the lucky would get to know me. I still can’t believe it, all these years later, but it worked.
I reinvented myself as an important movie character, guaranteed to fit in: I became the Best Friend.
It sounds awful now, doesn’t it? So political for a sixth grader. I have no idea how I realized at the age of eleven what was essential to survive, but I did. And it worked. For seventeen years.
the frailty of the human condition
we are alone
we are weak
we are lacking
are we alone
we have hope
does anyone have a rope?
it’s coming through the barred windows
it’s our only chance
it’s worth a try, at least
standing on the ledge
does this lead to death or life
nelson mandela said: may your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears
sometimes they are the same thing
So an orphan structure creates a camaraderie among the Same Age, and sometimes, distrust and pretending around the Adults, or Teachers, or Leaders. We have one self around our friends, and another self around the people in charge.
A family structure allows one another to be his or her true self always. It’s constantly developing, so in relationship, which is fluid and flexible, needed changes can sometimes take place in one conversation. (Unlike a less-organic structure, where changes require consensus, meetings, program changes, possible reprinting of materials, new cirriculium…)
Kids comfortable with orphan culture can find the authenticity and frailty of true parents discomforting. If they’ve grown accustomed to someone having their shit together, and keeping things moving so no one gets bored, real life can seem messy & mundane.
Parents don’t have shiny teeth and larger-than-life personalities. They get tired. They’re not always right. They drop the ball regularly. They admit need & lack. They can feel a little too human to follow.
I can see the attraction to Stage Leaders, I really can. It is superior in many ways, depending on what the goals are.
In a system that values precision, each class and event is planned out in advance and placed on the community calendar with very few last-minute changes. The meetings that occur regularly are often similarly organized. Sometimes there’s a technical glitch, but for the most part, the meetings run smoothly and resemble one another. It’s anything but messy.
The shift in leadership to TrueLeaders means:
open, honest conversation between the generations
grace and respect fill the space where our differences don’t meet
people get hurt
people let you down
people help you up
Intimate relationship with parents is super risky compared to meeting with peers and following a Professional Leader.
True Parents will ask for your help. They’ll ask you to show up. They’ll ask you to share out of your strength. Sometimes you’ll mess up in front of everyone. Okay, regularly you’ll mess up in front of everyone.
I often ask friends:
Do you want to be fine or free?
(because you can’t be both)
For some strange reason, American culture doesn’t respect need. It respects hard work and strength. It has a hard time reconciling someone falling through the cracks. Maybe because those stories mess with our world view? I don’t know.
I know that many strong, hard-working humans experience Need and I don’t think we should be ashamed of that. I think we’d be much better off if we were prepared to expect it as a part of the journey.
The healthiest people I know have approached their intersection of need and met kindness.
The hardest people I know have approached their intersection of need and been kicked in the face.
Anyone want to embark on a journey to reclaim family structure, not as a literal family, but a template for community?
a place for the generations
a place for brokenness & wholeness
a place without titles and an Organizational Chart
An organic forming of people together, committed to one another, who have one another’s backs, who don’t insist that we agree to get along, who don’t value our own beliefs as so precious, that we allow them to separate us from the truly precious: One Another.
That Journey is what I’m interested in.
And it’s one Mainstream American Culture and Mainstream Church Culture are not committed to yet.
Who’s ready for a shift?
If we’re going to learn how to have one another’s backs, we’re going to have to learn how to communicate.
Communication has been dissected many ways. I am not writing an academic paper, so I am not presenting this as The Way. Looking at several interesting studies on communication reinforce my previously held belief: we are complicated.
So, One Way of looking at communication is with these “levels:”
5. sharing needs
1. chitty-chitty chat chat
Consider that the higher the level of communication, the stronger the human connection. Use this information in your flawed attempts to connect with others.
And when it doesn’t work, try again.
I once made a pie and it sucked.
I once made a second pie and it was terrible.
I once made a third pie and it was awful.
I can’t remember how many pies I ruined, but I do remember it was a lot to me.
I can make pies now and I’m so glad it didn’t occur to me to say, “I can’t make pies,” and stop.