Have you been watching the new season of Parenthood? This show continues to deliver the goods, which mostly come in the form of true-to-life suffering, chaos, loss, and grace, love, and peace amidst it all—very much in line with the Mockingbird conference last week in Charlottesville.
Spoiler alert! Don’t read on if you are a Parenthood fan but aren’t up to speed.
The most recent episode’s title says so much: “Everything Is Not OK.” It refers to the startling news that Kristina Braverman has received (I used to find Kristina’s character fairly annoying, but she has been endearing herself to me lately, mostly due to her present suffering), namely, that she has breast cancer. In this episode, her husband Adam Braverman’s relentless positivity is met with the reality of Kristina’s situation. The irony is his positivity only serves to make her feel worse, and thus she no longer wants to talk to him.
Here is a conversation from the episode that Kristina has with a new acquaintance, Gwen, who is also a breast cancer survivor—in other words, someone who has been there and can go there:
Kristina: I feel like I can talk to you. I don’t even know you. It’s like you’re a perfect stranger, but I can’t really talk to my husband.
Gwen: I know. Why do you feel like you can’t talk to him?
Kristina: Because he is so positive. He’s like this relentlessly positive person who can fix everything and make everything better, and it’s like …
Gwen: That is a good man who wants to protect you from anything bad happening, and here’s the thing: The bad thing is already happening.
Wow, talk about pastoral care!
The episode ends with Kristina confronting Adam in a monologue that cuts right to the heart of what it’s like to be a sufferer:
I know that you’re trying to make everything OK for me. You always have our whole lives. And I love you so much for that. But you have to let me be scared. I want to be able to come to you and just say, ‘Adam, I’m really scared today.’ And I just want you to hear it. I don’t want you to tell me to think positive or that everything is gonna be great. ‘Cause right now I’m not sure that it’s going to be, and I just want to be able to feel scared. That’s just what I need from you right now.
The insight we gain from the likes Kristina Braverman is that sufferers are not in need of a cheerleader but are in need of companions who will sit with them in the middle of their suffering, listening to their agony and perhaps offering prayer. And if healing finally happens, maybe then a cheerleader would be acceptable:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. –Romans 12:15
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. –1 Corinthians 12:26
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. –James 5:13