Conversations for Life
Why This Podcast?
September 7, 2018
Kathleen: Hi everyone. We're here with our very first episode of Conversations For Life, and today we're going to be talking about why we're doing this podcast, what our goals are, what our vision is, what we hope to accomplish through this.
Jonathan: Yeah. Well, I'm also really excited. I've been dreaming about this for a long time and you know, Kathleen, you and I have so many good conversations on our couch at night talking about our family. Talking about our marriage. And for me, you know, I'm really excited to do this with you because we were so blessed by our time at Covenant Seminary when we were newly married just for a few months going off to seminary and, you know, as newlyweds getting to sit together through really great courses and instructors that, that kind of gave us so many good, meaty things to chew on at home. Kind of developed this habit of just talking together about all the things we were learning and that really, I think, deepened our marriage the first couple of years. And I'm really hoping that we keep doing that.
Kathleen: So in a way, we're doing that right now, right? Just letting some people listen in.
Jonathan: Yes. So, so what about you? What are some things you're hoping to get out of this podcast? Why are we doing this? What do you think?
Kathleen: Well, you know, one of the reasons why this is really important to me. I'm very passionate about families. You know, our families that we create, they're creating society and we all come from a family context, whether that's really good, really healthy or really dysfunctional, or somewhere in between. Even if our family is absent and we didn't really grow up with a family that was there physically or emotionally, then we're still affected by that very profoundly. You know, our families shape who we are. They shape what we value. They shape our perceived purpose. You know, I, I don't think family gives us our ultimate purpose that comes from God, but they help us to see what our ultimate purpose is. Whether that's correct or incorrect, of course. And we really carry our family experiences out into the world with us in our workplace, in our neighborhoods, into our new families our churches, and our communities.
And so these family experiences and values and everything that happen as we're growing up in a family, and even as we're adults, but still part of a family, they're shaping society. And so whether we, whether it's good, whether it's bad, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, the families we’re creating, you and me, here and now, are influencing society around the world. And so that's a really good reason to think about our families, to talk about them, to be really intentional about what we're creating in our families, because those are creating the society around us.
Jonathan: Well, if I can jump in, you know, in seminary, it was this huge, (this may sound really dumb for some of the listeners out there and, you know, I was young), but you know, going to seminary and sitting in these classes, we were talking about marriage and family. It was a huge light bulb for me. It was like I've been walking in the room that has been dark this whole time, and somebody just flipped on the light. Because for me, you know, one of the things we talked about was how much our families of origin shape who we become. You know, growing up in our culture, I just thought, “Well, I am who I am. I am who I choose to be.” That my life is my own, that my choices are my choices. That, you know, there's this kind of, uh, yeah, I am who I am.
And then sitting in these classes and beginning to think through the, you know, the way that you, you are shaped as a fundamental, just who you are as a human being. You are indelibly shaped by your family of origin, by, by your family experiences in ways that it's almost like your operating system. You don't even think about it. It just is who you are. And, and so that was a huge light bulb for me to go, “Whoa, I am who I am because of the family God put me in growing up.”
And there's great things about that, and then there's things I'm going, “Wow!--that's kind of,” you know, as I think about wanting to be better or be different or to grow as a believer, I think so much of that, you know, when I, when I experienced my own walk with Christ, just running up against the wall where I could not grow, I could not seem to get over a habit, or could not seem to tackle some area of life. I think it was because I was trying to do it, you know, through the mindset of “I'm an individual, why can't I fix this? Why can't I get over this?” And it was only as I begin to think through, “Oh wow, how much did, did my family of origin and all of that shaped me?” That things began to fall into place and help me, I think, deal with certain areas of my life, in terms of sanctification, that beforehand I just had no idea how to deal with.
Kathleen: Yeah, that's a great point. And you know, your family growing up, your family of origin isn't totally determinative for your life. It's not like, “You were in this family. And so you're stuck kind of in this rut forever. You can't ever change and be something different from what you used to be,” but it does affect you very deeply, and being aware of that is really important. And actually, that's another thing I feel really excited about doing this is that it can be really hard to understand, your family dynamics, both the family you grew up in and the family that you're creating now if you're married and have kids. It can be hard to see what's going on beneath the surface in your marriage and your family. And it can be hard to change those things. Like even things that you hate. Maybe you are constantly criticizing people in your family or you have this passive aggressive thing going on and you don't like it and you don't want to be doing it.
Or you see something happening between other members of the family, or just when everybody's together, the same cycles keep happening, and you don't like it and it's not godly. You don't want it. But, but how do you access that? How do you do anything about it? How do you change it? And that, that can feel really hard. But, you know, there's a lot of research out there. There's a lot of good theory and stuff that helps us to understand family dynamics, family systems, and how we create those systems, how we keep them going, how we even just subconsciously and unknowingly, create these patterns that work for us somehow, even if they don't produce the results we want, even if we feel like, “That's not even who I am, why is this happening?” And so, you know, I hope that one thing will be able to do is talk about, this theory of family systems, and talk about how to see our family through a new lens, you know. How we create the bad systems, and then how we create new healthy, life-giving systems. How do we get from here, where we are, to over there, being who we want to be in Christ.
And a big part of that is, as you said, recognizing we're not just these separate individuals who cohabitate and who kind of interact on this just, “Okay, I have a relationship with you, and have a relationship with you, and then with you.” And that's it. You know, and I just understand it in terms of these very individualistic things. But instead, understanding the family as a whole is like an organism. It kind of has a personality of its own, and you create the system through your relationships that affects everyone. And it takes a broader mindset, thinking about the family as a group, rather than just thinking about each individual person and what they do or don't do. So, oh yeah. So go on.
Jonathan: So, if I can just ask you a quick question because you've already used a term that you and I use a lot, but for most people it's probably new or different, something they haven't really heard before. This term family system. I know we're going to be talking a lot about that through this podcast. So just put you on the spot. How would you tell someone who's never sat in a counseling class, whose never been to counseling? What is a family system? What is that?
Kathleen: Well, it's basically the idea that a family is more than the sum of its parts, it’s more than just—or any, any group of people, an organization as well—but you know, specifically with families where a lot of this study has been done. A family is more than just individuals who kind of, in isolated ways, interact with each other. The family as a whole creates these patterns and creates a way of doing things that kind of feeds itself.
Jonathan: So if I could ask you, you know, for example, even a lot of organizations, right? Companies. They, you know, they go in and they ask employees, they do polls, they do research, and you know, the feedback is most of the employees have a very negative experience working there. So the question is why doesn't it change? And it's the same idea, because any organization of people, it takes on a life of itself and you as an individual get caught up into that system. You play a part of that system, and you might not even be consciously aware of what part you're playing. You just experience it on a day to day basis, and you, you experience the positives and the negatives of it, you know, depending on what the system is. You know, I know that a lot of folks think about this and so, you know as we, as we dive into this podcast, I know that idea is going to be coming up over and over again. And so we'll, we'll get back to that more in future podcasts.
But, you know for me, as I think too about systems. I think about the family and why I want to do this. You know, I think one of the things that's really valuable to me with this podcast is that we, we kind of break through the stereotype of, of perfectionism that is so prevalent, uh, that is so prevalent in, I would say evangelical culture. Where, you know, you go to church on Sunday morning and everyone looks happy. Whereas three minutes ago you were screaming in the car, or that morning, you know, there was poop on the walls, and kids throwing tantrums, and you know, one child doesn't even want to come out, and you are just about to pull your hair out, and then you get to church, and people ask you how your day's going, and, “Everything's fine.”
And I know that's a stereotype, but I think within evangelical culture, you know, we have this idea that to be a godly family, to be getting this “Right,” quote unquote, is to pursue perfection. And what I've been thinking a lot about is of course, well, we all know, we all can agree perfectionism is bad. You know, it's, it's sinful to think we can be perfect apart from Christ. We know we can't be perfect because we are sinful. We long for the day when Christ returns, and yet, there's a prevalent culture of perfectionism that, that I think I see a lot, and that is so destructive. And we certainly don't want to glory in sin, but I think helping in this podcast, I want to help us and other families get a better idea of what does godliness in marriage and family look like.
And of course, first and foremost it’s pursuing Christ. But as the family, when you think about family systems, I think we want to remove the idea of perfection, and I would say replace it with the idea of, of health, of vitality. Because you, you actually used the idea earlier of an organism. How a family system is kind of like this—it takes on a living, it's a living thing in and of itself—it's an organism. And you know, an organism is not perfect, but it's healthy, it's vital. And there are certain things about a healthy organism. For example, that it's adaptive. You know, a family can't stay static, right? Your kids are going to develop. You know, they're going to go from two year-olds, to seven year-olds, to fifteen year-olds. Me and you and, and, and we're going to grow and we're going to change.
A family system, to be good, to be godly, has to be adaptive. You have to be able to embrace change. Not only external, in terms of things going on in your family, or crises in life, but also internal: as people in the family are changing, how are you as a family adapting and, and staying vital in the midst of all of that. You know, change is a part of life. And I think, you know, with perfectionism we kind of want to get perfect and then just stay right there, and nothing changes. But that's not healthy. And so, you know, being adaptable. And you know, the other thing I think a lot about with organisms is: to be healthy, you also have to kill the things that will kill you. You know, you have to have an immune system. And any healthy family has to kill the things that will kill the health of the family.
Now I don't mean that literally. But you know, for example, I think a big one is distraction. That as a family, you know, I think in our culture, one of the things that will kill you is just being so busy with whatever it is, that you don't spend time together as a family. And not just like physically present together, which is itself an accomplishment in a lot of cases, but just actually connecting together. Think about me and you. We have to really be intentional about spending time together because we could very easily fill that time with other things.
Kathleen: Oh yeah. I mean there's so many things we're all doing, right? And the urgent tends to take control and come before even very important things. So we have work, we have school, we have church, we have housework, we have extracurriculars and social things and, and they all make these demands. And it's very easy for our marriage and family life to just be submerged under all of this. And you know, I think the things of a healthy marriage and family, the work of that is almost invisible. Like there's no awards, no fanfares, no monetary compensation. You know, you don't get a pat on the back because you spent this quality time with your husband investing in each other's lives, caring each other's burdens, loving one another selflessly.
Same thing with your kids. You know, the world just doesn't really care about these things. It may care about putting forth a really good image. You know, I think, you know, as is you said Jonathan about like getting to church and everyone's smiling even though we were all fighting in the car a minute ago. And not that it's bad to smile at church. But if we're only thinking about the image that we're putting forth, you know, curating this picture of ourselves on social media or when we're out in public, that really has nothing to do with the actual health of our marriage, or of our parenting, our relationship with our kids. These are really not overlapping goals. The work that it takes to make a good image, it really has nothing to do with the work that it takes to make a good family. And so the world doesn't really give us advantages for the work that we do in our family and our home life. And so it's pretty easy to just leave it off, you know, not do it.
Jonathan: You know, I think we never get beyond having to wrestle against our own sinful flesh, and desires to, you know, disconnect. To hide ourselves. And we'll talk more about this later on. But you know, I think it's so powerful where in Genesis 1, excuse me, Genesis 2, where Adam and Eve, you know, they're, they're married and they're naked and unashamed. And just, I think, part of a healthy marriage is you never stop having to fight for that. Because of sin we never stop having to fight to be able to be intimate. Not just physically, but in every way possible. To be united together in true union, and to do that, you know, to be vulnerable and unashamed. I think that's, that's one of the keys to a healthy marriage. You have to fight for that though. And it's not just the world against you. It's mostly your own sinful flesh that wants to run and hide.
Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely. I agree. And so, you know, what's going on in our families and our marriage may not be evident to everyone around us, but it's certainly something we will experience for good or for bad everyday of our lives. You know, as you said, a he really unhealthy family can bring a lot of misery. But on the flip side, a healthy family, one that's not perfect, but that is loving, and growing, and vital, as you said. That can bring untold joy. You know, and so this hidden investment in our spouse and our children reaps benefits for all eternity because this is our first and foremost ministry before God.
Jonathan: And this is exactly why I'm so excited about doing this podcast, because, as you say, the urgent things do so often crowd out what's important. And so for us, doing this podcast together means we're going to have to be accountable to ourselves and to the listeners that, you know, we're going to do this. We have deadlines! And so we have to think about these things, and we're going to be, be, you know, intentionally pursuing growing and learning as husband and wife; as father, as mother.
Kathleen: Yeah. So we'll be doing our research in books and resources as well as just real life. Really studying and thinking about these topics.
Jonathan: Well, we are excited about this adventure and this is our very first podcast, and so we hope that there are many more to come. And you know, we, we, we intend, we hope to cover everything from the deeply emotional, and spiritual, and weighty things, to just everyday life as a family. And I hope that along the way there's some laughter, a lot of laughter! A few tears. Because for me this is a journey that we're beginning. And as the listeners, you know, you guys, we want to invite you into this journey. We welcome your feedback, your comments, because we, we see this as a conversation. As a community, how can we, how can we live out our faith in the context of marriage and family? So thanks for listening in to our first podcast, and be praying for us as we continue to develop this, and think through, and pray through what God has in future. And we look forward to seeing you next time. You guys take care.