My wife and I are huge fans of NBC’s new show, This is Us. We love it so much, that we are even willing to admit that Mandy Moore isn’t annoying in this particular show. Seriously. She isn’t.
The show follows a family of five. Jack and Rebecca Pearson are the parents of three triplets, two biological (Kevin and Kate) and one adopted (Randall). This is Us does something unique with its storytelling, however, by splitting the narrative into two timelines. One focuses on the life of the family when the kids were children (usually when they are 8 years old), while the other focuses on the lives of kids as adults, after Jack has died and Rebecca has remarried.
Each episode is full of joy, pain, struggle, and reality as we follow these people’s lives and come to understand the unique issues that each faces. Almost every episode has made me cry at some point. Of course, it really isn’t too hard to make me cry, but still, I think it’s worth noting the emotional honesty of This is Us.
Even though Jack Pearson is dead in the timeline that follows the adult Pearson children, it is clear that he has made an indelible mark on his family. They love their father, and his family has been shaped by his optimism, his humor, and above all else, his utter dedication to them.
In the Thanksgiving episode, we learn that the Pearsons annually recreate their best Thanksgiving, which involved a 3.4 mile hike (to a convenience store), roasting hot dogs against an open furnace flame, and of course, a pilgrim’s hat. Behind each of these traditions is Jack’s unwavering faithfulness to his family, his devotion to ensuring that they are seen, loved, and cared for.
As a father myself now, watching this show resonates with me deeply. I look at how Jack has shaped his family’s life, and I can’t help but hope and pray that my children remember me as fondly as his remember him.
I hope that I leave a mark on my kids.
Jack’s mark, however, is not necessarily based in anything that he says. He doesn’t just have the right words at the right time for his kids, but rather, his impact is based on who he is. It is not so much the issue of Jack’s parenting, but rather it is the issue of Jack’s character.
I’ve talked with my wife a whole lot about how I want our girls to know and love the Lord, how I want them to feel brave and resilient, to have self-control and to be humble. We’ve discussed how we want them to stand up for goodness and truth but to be kind and merciful.
In watching This is Us, however, I increasingly realize that if I am to have any hope of my children learning these lessons from me, it has to be because I demonstrate them myself. You can’t share what you don’t have.
If I wish my children to know and love the Lord, then I must decide today that I am going to relentlessly pursue knowledge of and love for the Lord myself. If I want them to be tender, compassionate and merciful, then I need to demonstrate tenderness, compassion, and mercy in my dealings with them.
Above all else, This is Us has made me look at my own life and my own heart and realize how desperately I need to work on orienting myself toward Christ before I even dream of having an impact on my children. Both parenting and following the Lord are not just about saying the right words, but rather they must be about becoming the kind of person who has the right words instinctively, as a second nature.
St. Seraphim of Sarov is frequently quoted for saying, “Acquire the Spirit of peace, and a thousand around you will be saved.” I guess “a thousand” must start in my own home, with my own wife and my own children. But even before them, it starts with me, with my own acquiring the Spirit of peace.
This Nativity fast has been trying (and not because of the food). I have continually been presented with opportunities to see myself clearly, to admit that I’m quickly frustrated and extremely defensive/offensive when people disagree with me. It sucks.
But if I’m going to teach my children to repent, it means I’m going to have to model repentance in my own life, it means that I’m going to have to see myself clearly, that I’m going to have to model self-understanding and then the humility it takes to admit that I was wrong.
This is Us has been a fantastic show. It has given me an image for the kind of husband and father I want to be. Jack Pearson isn’t without his faults, but he is committed to his family, and that’s a commitment he passes on to his family.
My hope and prayer is that I, too, can become a man of commitment, first to the Lord and then to my family. Instead of just talking to my kids about Jesus, I’ll be able to talk to them as someone who knows Him, trusting that His grace will fill my words and kindle the fire of love for Him in their own hearts too.
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.
For more on this idea, check out this episode of The Trench: