Just found an interesting article that captured a cultural trend. The New York Times writer Stephen Williams penned a piece called “Home, Hangout, Departure Lounge” that profiles a group of roommates living together in New York City. It’s a short but noteworthy article that includes the following:
Here’s how the group came together: “The four roommates from Grand Rapids became friends in high school. Each of them eventually made it to New York, where all but Mr. Armstrong attended the Fashion Institute of Technology. It was there that Mr. D’Adamo joined the crew. He now works in sales at the Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams furniture store in SoHo. About four years ago, everybody except Miss Scott rented an apartment together in Harlem. It had a huge kitchen and living room and four bedrooms, and cost $2,600 a month. Then Miss Scott moved in, staying in whichever room was empty — all of the roommates spent (and continue to spend) many nights with their significant others. When it was decided that Miss Scott needed her own room, they started looking for a five-bedroom place to share. They like hanging together.”
Here’s how they think about family: “It’s nice to have some sort of family here where you know each other’s business, their parents, everything,” Mr. Vosovic said.”
They live separate lives together: “It’s a great little commune, especially because while the residents hang out now and then, and give birthday parties for one another, they still live separate lives. So far, there are no plans to break up a good thing. But Mr. Vosovic has ideas for the future. “Hopefully the girls will get pregnant and we’ll have babies with live-in baby sitters!” he said.”
Clearly the roommates are nice people. They prize that most precious of modern buzzwords, “community.” That’s no bad thing. They sound fun and caring, and it seems that they have created their own little family. It seems, though, that they have accepted the current generation’s radical redefinition of family–where once it referred to a “nuclear” unit composed of husband, wife, and children, now it refers to any number of shifting collections of friends and acquaintances. Having seen many couples seemingly fall out of love, observing the fragmentation and geographical isolation of the modern family, groups like this are recreating family the best they can.
But this comes with a price. It means that one lives as one likes. It means the delaying of responsibility and maturity. As a new father, I can say that I have found fatherhood to be one of the most spiritually stimulating experiences of my life. It is a blast, simply put, though it involves tons of dedication, sacrifice, and hard work. I’m very much figuring all that out, but I can already see how fatherhood helpfully changes us and robs us of our selfishness, if we allow it to do so.
Though this modern way of living–with relationships, work, and friends neatly compartmentalized–seems optimal, it can mask a pervasive narcissism and refusal to mature. The call to make a family, which many of us will hear, brings together all aspects of life, unifies them as a single whole, makes us whole people. One can’t have a “life” at work, another with one’s boyfriend or girlfriend, another with one’s roommates. Rather than accepting a new definition of the family, an unbiblical one, Christians need to be salt and light by transmitting the beauty of the natural family to a confused, compartmentalized world.
In the end, it strikes me that these young people are looking for something that they can’t find outside of Christ–a family greater than their own. This little group of roommates, in their own way, is reaching for a community they cannot enter, a joy they cannot taste, unless God makes them His own by giving them faith in His Son through the work of His Spirit.
Whether single or married, we need to call all people to the true family, the family of God. Our natural families, saturated with goodness and blessing, are just a snapshot of the beauty of God’s spiritual family in which both all people may find ultimate fulfillness. In New York City or rural South Dakota, the local church beckons to the sad and lonely, calling all to join it in its journey to the lasting home, the dwelling place of God.