The following is written in response to this recent post by Donald Miller.
I’ve got a confession. I don’t connect with my family by eating with them. Not at all.
I know I’m nearly alone in this but it’s true. I was finally able to admit this recently when I sat down to (yet another) family dinner that had, perhaps, the most delicious spread of food I’ve ever had. I loved the food. But I loved it more for the how it tasted than for how it opened up space for me to connect to Heather and our children. As far as connecting with them goes, I wasn’t feeling much of anything.
I used to feel guilty about this. But to be honest, I experience an intimacy with my family that I consider strong and healthy.
It’s just that I don’t experience that intimacy when I sit down to eat with them. In fact, I can count on one hand the number family dinners I actually remember. So to be brutally honest, I don’t find “breaking bread” with my family particularly meaningful or stimulating. Like most men, I find that a family meal can be somewhat long and difficult to get through.
I’m fine with this, though. I’ve studied psychology and family dynamics long enough to know family meals aren’t for everybody. There’s an entire demographic of people who simply don’t find this mode of connection gratifying. You can put food in front of them all day long, do your best to instigate conversation, but they’re simply not going to get into it.
Research suggest there are three learning styles, auditory (hearing) visual (seeing) and kinesthetic (doing) and I’m a kinesthetic learner. Of course families have all kinds of ways of connecting, but if you want to attend a “family meal” every day, you best be an auditory learner. There’s not much on offer for kinesthetic or visual learners.
How do I find intimacy with my family if not through a traditional family meal?
The answer came to me recently and it was a freeing revelation. I connect with my family by working. I literally feel an intimacy with them when I build my company. I know it sounds crazy, but I believe God gave me my mission and my family and I feel closest to him when I’ve got my hand on the plow. It’s thrilling and I couldn’t be more grateful he’s given me an outlet through which I can both serve him while feeling connected to my family!
So, do I attend any family meals? Not often, to be honest. Like I said, it’s not how I connect with my family.
But I also believe “family” is all around us, not to be confined to specific expressions of solidarity and commitment.
I’m fine with where I’ve landed and finally experiencing some forward momentum in my faith. I build intimacy with my family every day through my work. It’s a blast.