When all the Israelites in the valley saw that the army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. And the Philistines came and occupied them. 1 Chronicles 10:7 (NIV)
My daughter, Taylor, and I had a Father’s Day date this past Sunday afternoon. We spent an hour and a half talking and catching up over a bite, a beer, and some ice cream. As we stood in line for ice cream we talked about the pain and confusion many people experience on Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. Taylor has been working for a non-profit art program that works with juveniles who are in the court system. She has many kids she works with who have never known a father figure of any kind. Some kids, she shared, have a birth mother, step mother, and foster mother and not one of them wants anything to do with the child. I tried to imagine how confusing it must be for these kids to imagine celebrating a mother or father.
Along my life journey I’ve noticed that there are certain themes which emerge in my thinking and writing during particular seasons and stretches. When I read a chapter each day there are nuggets in the text that resonate with me because of the things on which my brain has been ruminating. So it was this morning when I stumbled upon the verse above. Left without a leader, the entire social system of the Israelites fell apart. Without a leader who could organize and rally them, the army fled and left the people in the villages vulnerable. Without anyone to defend them, the villagers fled their homes and town for fear of being killed by the enemy. The enemy took over the abandoned towns as the villagers scattered across the land seeking safety and shelter. It sounds like chaos.
With that mental picture in mind, I thought of the kids with whom Taylor is working and the parallel between the two systems. The reality is that when a family is left without a strong leader who can organize and rally its members, a family system breaks down into chaos and leave the weakest members vulnerable. The entire system and each individual in it is open to occupation by negative forces and is threatened by isolation, fear, and the primal need for survival.
This morning, in the quiet, my mind continues to contemplate the theme of parents, children, and family systems. Perhaps its the combination of celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day over the past several weeks. Perhaps it’s the transition we’ve made in recent years to having independent, adult children or the experience of entering back into living with and leading a teenager. Whatever the reason, this morning I’m again grateful for the strong leadership of my parents throughout the journey and I’m motivated to be a strong leader for my family system even though that role and its responsibilities change drastically over time.