Monday, March 4, 2013

Shared Spirit

There's a video going around the internet of a father "giving away" his daughter. As is common for my reactions to things, what makes many smile sweetly, puts my teeth on edge. The daughter in the video is a nurse who has traveled the world with the missions. She is obviously fully adult, and her obviously southern, bible-belt believing father is "giving his girl away" to her husband. "How sweet," many say. "How sad," I say,  because we have not moved on from this archaic scripture-sanctioned salute to slavery.

As our children are growing, it is wonderful to begin forming friendships with them as they come of adult age. This is a tentative task, at first, as boundaries must continually be reevaluated and moved closer and closer to equal status. When our children are grown, what I pray for is inclusion in the partnerships that they form in their adult lives. It is barbaric, in my opinion, to continue acting as if our daughters are chattel to be owned and traded.

In functional families, the older parents should make themselves available to assist and guide the less experienced family, at the request of the younger couple. In this way, community is expanded; there is no joking about "Now she's your problem," when the couple is wed. There is no "gaining a daughter" or "losing a son" involved. There is simply growth of sacred community.

It is not easy to accept that our children will make their own decisions, without our input being their primary guide. Healthy marriage partners focus on the values that they share to create a new nucleus of family. It is also not easy to sit on the sidelines, with our hearts ever open to a call from our closest community members. The most difficult part for me has been in areas where my values and those of the new couples don't agree. All I can do is state my boundaries and refuse to take part in any activity that too severely challenges my boundaries.

It is our duty as community members, in any form of friendship, to refuse to participate in destruction of our own values. It is sad that often protection of our boundaries means ejection from the communities closest to us. It is the nature of life that all physical things, including friends, come to a physical ending, but a great consolation to know that spirit shared lives on in us forever.

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