Caught this picture this morning. There was a mild chuckle at a political joke (some news guy asked a senior IT specialist his advice for the President concerning Obamacare and he responded “go to church”), but the deeper emotion was in the gaps and not about national power politics, but about family politics.
Look at the three closely bunched together: Mr. and Mrs. Obama and (I believe) Malia and her general smile. Then look at the distance between the President and (I believe) Sasha and her expression. Most of us don’t go to church through photographers and hurled questions. (I loved the President’s response – “C’mon, we’re going to church”.) Mr. & Mrs. Obama’s somewhat pained and plastic expressions are understandable. But, Malia, she doesn’t want to be there, at all.
Is it church itself (“but, Dad, we don’t normally go, why do we have to go today?”)? Is it the openness to photographers (normally the kids are kept out of photos, but not when Dad is present)? Is it a vague feeling of unease (“Dad, why are you using us as a prop”, even if it isn’t true)? I wonder who did the family negotiations – Mr. or Mrs.? Were they nice or authoritarian? (“Do this for Daddy” or “Do it, you don’t have a choice sweet one”.)
Every family has these little negotiations. Thank goodness most of us are not in the public eye. But there might be some things that we can learn. If church is a regular habit, those “why today?” and “keeping up appearances” complaints are greatly minimized. When you are in one of those family negotiations, allow yourself to step back. It might seem like the time to extract a concession, or the time to be all “I’ll go, but I’m going to be passive agressively grumpy”. But this is your family. How do you let grace prevail? Family is the first place we learn the economy of grace.