I don’t connect with my family by reading ‘Little Critter’ books

Donald Miller has posted a follow up to his recent confession that he doesn’t go to church very often. Miller’s enlightened abandonment of the institution of the church has finally given me the courage to leave my wife and kids. Indeed, the cogency of his arguments opened my eyes to a new world of possibilities. So here goes:

Dear Chris & Children,

I’ve long since checked out of our home so I’m pretty sure this confession isn’t a surprise. While I was reading ‘Just Me in the Tub‘ to the little girls for the 4th time in 2 days I realized that I just don’t connect with my family in the traditional way. I mean, even if we were to read the best kid’s book out there I would only enjoy the quality of the story rather than the time I’m spending with my daughters. What I’m saying is that I’m just not wired to build intimacy with you all through the trappings that come with the traditional nuclear family: birthday parties, family dinner, date nights, summer vacation, etc. I know I’m nearly alone in this but like most men (no, that’s not a contradiction) I find monogamy & parenting somewhat unnatural and tedious.

But I’m ok with this (and you should be too). I’ve read enough anthropology books to know that the nuclear family isn’t for everyone. Research tells us that there are all kinds of viable alternatives to institutional marriage and our Western family tradition. My friend Gob says that when a man tries to build familial intimacy by watching his kids play or taking note of his wife’s interests that man is little more than a stalker & voyeur. I know you don’t want that kind of creep hanging around you & the kids.

In my spiritual growth & maturity I’ve come to realize that our family can’t be defined by the confines of a 4 bedroom-2 bath house. In fact, our relationship with one another will grow as we give each other the space to flourish as individuals. Call me crazy but I actually feel more connected to you & the kids when I’m out working to provide for my family. I really feel God’s pleasure when I’m earning a paycheck to mail to my family.

I know this may be hard for you. For you the nuclear family is still meaningful & fulfilling. I know members of our extended family won’t get what I’m trying to say. This letter will likely be misquoted & mischaracterized in an effort to demonize me. I get that. That usually happens when a man is honest about his thinking feelings. In time, I hope that this letter will help us to dialogue in ways that will draw us closer together. I don’t fault anyone for not seeing family in the same way I do. Most people are only equipped for binary thinking whereas I think about issues from at least a dozen different angles. (Incidentally, most of the other influential heads of households I know don’t spend much time with their wife & kids either–I’m talking about famous people that you would instantly recognize if I mentioned their names. That’s not insignificant).

I know that your chief objection to this transition will be that it seems to step outside the biblical definition of “marriage” and/or “family.” First, it’s quite a stretch to say that the modern, nuclear family (with all the modern-day trappings) is what we find when we look into Scripture. The Bible doesn’t provide specific instructions on how a family should look or behave. Let’s be honest, our marriage institution hardly resembles the marriages we see in the Bible: we didn’t wed when you were a teenager, neither of our families had a hand in putting us together, you have equal standing with me in society, and you rarely grant me the honor Scripture commands (when was the last time you wore a head covering in church? have you ever called me “lord”?). The point is that Scripture doesn’t give us a complete manual on how to build a home.

Second, beyond a few general commands to love your wife (I do) and not to exasperate your children (I don’t) God has granted much freedom for the family to evolve in form and function. By giving us shared agency in creating the family God would have us understand that he sees just one large family of mankind in which we live & move as we please.

Please don’t let my departure reflect poorly on you. I’m sure that there are plenty of other men who would thrive in such a family setting but I’ve progressed to something better.  I will always love you and the kids & you don’t need me around to know that.

Love,

Jonathan

PS-I trust God will continue to love the world through us both inside & outside our family.

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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