My wife, Jessey, has been watching the neighbor kids for about a month now, off an on. Our neighbors are Mike and Michelle (kind of like Mike and the female version of Mike), and Michelle’s kids, Jordan and Jillian, are twins. The twins, as we affectionately call them behind their backs, are both 8 as of last Sunday. Jordan is in 3rd grade, and Jillian is in 2nd. She was held back (probably because she is less focused than Jordan in almost all aspects of life). Now that school has started, Jordan and Jillian come over to our house about 6:30 in the morning twice a week when Michelle leaves for work. We “watch” them, which really looks like us laying in bed while they play in the toy room, until our kids wake up. They get on the bus at around 7:45. That’s the extent of it. It’s pretty easy.
The twins came over this morning. Jessey forgot, as she usually does, that they were coming over, and they knocked on the door. I heard the knock, bumped Jessey awake and said the twins are at the door, and she got up and let them in. I had a killer headache and couldn’t get out of bed. They came downstairs and played in the toy room as usual until the house was awakened by our two kids. Side note: the twins have caused my wife to think that it would be nice to have a couple more kids when our two get older because its nice to have two older kids hanging out with our kids. I think this is insanity, and I have threatened to castrate myself before we have two more kids. I kind of mean it.
Tonight, Mike came to our door and asked if Michelle dropped the kids off this morning. This is the second time he has inquired. Mike said that Michelle didn’t go to work today. We’re pretty sure that Mike thinks that Michelle is cheating on him. Again. Mike isn’t the nicest guy in the neighborhood. He’s pretty rough. But, tonight, I saw brokenness on Mike’s face. He really wants Michelle to be faithful to him. He sees himself as Jordan and Jillian’s dad (which he isn’t) because he has been “with” Michelle for all but about 6 months of the twins’ lives. Mike loves those kids in his own way.
About five minutes after Mike confirmed that Michelle dropped the twins off at our house this morning, we overheard Mike confronting Danny, the twins’ father, outside. I’m not sure why Danny was outside, but I assume, based on history, that the twins were with Danny tonight and he was dropping them off. Mike was yelling at Danny that this was the last weekend he was going to see the twins. He told Danny that he was less than a dad. He said that he is the twins’ dad, and that Danny’s $5 per month in child support is a joke.
Mike really wants to be the twins’ father, but he can’t be. They aren’t his biological children. They are Danny’s. But Mike is their dad. They call him “dad”. He has raised them. He rightly wants Danny out of the picture. Danny is, in the words of Death Cab for Cutie, “Just a donor of seed to a poor single mother.”
Mike’s pain is tangible, and it reminds me of something that I talk about at weddings, when I officiate them. I talk about (thanks to Sex:God by Rob Bell) how the couple getting married are “becoming one, as God is one.” The creation story says that Adam and Eve became “one flesh”. That word “one” is the same word that is used to describe God in Deuteronomy. “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is One.” Man and woman, in marriage, become one in the same way that God is one. The marriage ceremony is a symbol of the very unity of God: Father, Spirit, Son. Then I talk about how the world is not “one”. That it is full of brokenness. That things are not the way that God intended them to be. We come from “broken” families. Marriages are “shattered” by adultery. Couples get “divorced”. They become “separated”. Our language about this is very powerful. The way we talk about relationships is loaded with broken imagery.
Mike’s relationship with Michelle is broken. He doesn’t know how to fix it. The twins’ family is broken. Their father is not present except when it’s convenient. That’s not what God had in mind for the twins, or Mike, or Michelle, or Danny. We don’t know how to put things back together again. We might not be able to. But, I think we all have experienced this, we do know what brokenness feels like and long for the day when everything gets put “back together”, gets set to right. We have this hope. If only we could give this hope to Mike, Michelle, and the twins.