What NBC’s Parenthood Show Taught me about Love {No Major Spoilers}

faith, Family, Life, Marriage, motherhood, parenting, Random / Sunday, February 1st, 2015


{I tried hard to use general examples from the show so there aren’t any major spoilers as long as you know the basics.}

Six years ago my husband and I started watching NBC’s Parenthood show and last week we watched the last curtain close. Not to get all sentimental and silly but I’m really going to miss the show and the Braverman family.

After the show ended, my husband and I sat there, soaking it all in. The show had made me laugh, I’d cried and even caught myself praying for the fictional characters every now and then.

As we were talking about the show, we realized there are actually many great Catholic themes laced throughout the plot. I looked back at the show as a whole and I saw virtue.

Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

Compassion and Charity.

Courage and Diligence.

There were more than a few situations and story lines I strongly disagreed with, yet I still loved the show because of the good I saw in it.

Strangely enough, I think the whole story with Amber and her unmarried pregnancy ended up depicting exactly what it really means to be pro-life.

Amber’s character made some terrible choices in her life, much of which could be blamed in part by her parents’ horrible choices that left her wounded and without proper guidance. Yet, when she found herself pregnant, single, and with very little money to support herself, she had every “practical” reason to “discontinue” the pregnancy. But once she saw that baby in the sonogram, she knew. She knew this was a baby, her baby, and she was going to give the baby a chance for life, the chance that baby deserved – despite the circumstances.

Others around her were worried about her. They weren’t sure it was the right decision. Except Zeek, her grandpa.

I really need to stop right now and just say that Craig T. Nelson‘s character, Zeek Braverman, was a-mazing. He looked at his granddaughter and didn’t see some floozy who’d gotten herself pregnant. He didn’t see her or her baby as a “mistake”.

He looked at her and saw a person – His own grandaughter. And he saw the baby as a person – His first great grandchild. He didn’t focus on the circumstances that led to the current moment, he looked to the future – and what he saw was good.

I really enjoyed Zeek’s character development. He knew about his children’s mistakes and jaded pasts. He started out as an grumpy old dad who was frustrated by his children’s choices and his inability to control them. By the end, however, he learned what real love is and where it can take us if we let it.

Real love is looking at someone for who they are instead of what they have done.

In an imperfect way, Zeek’s character could be seen as an example of how Christ loves us.

When Sarah’s choices left her alone and wounded, he opened their door to her and gave her and his grandchildren shelter.

He saw what Crosby could become if only he tried and he gave him the strength to grow up and achieve his dreams by having faith in him.

He helped Adam learn to lead his younger siblings, but to also put his own family first and give his younger siblings the space to grow up and spread their own wings.

Zeek didn’t quit on Joel when his marriage was falling apart, even though he was only the son-in-law, he fought for him so that he would continue fighting for his daughter and their marriage.

And he came to love his wife, and forgive the past hurts. He saw her for who she fully was, not just as some woman he had to live with and try and get along with. He grew to have a rich appreciation for her and a deep, fervent, and loyal love only so many years of marriage and family life can refine.

This is how Christ loves us. And this is how we should love others.

In the first few seasons, I spent too much time nit-picking the characters and all they were doing wrong. I scoffed at the subtle – but still overly obvious – political undertones. But then, in the end, I didn’t see those anymore. Like Zeek, I saw the good in the characters. Though they still made stupid choices sometimes, they had goodness in them.

Instead of seeing a girl who engaged in immoral premarital sex and ended up pregnant, I saw a girl who needed and craved love. She wanted to receive love and wanted to give love.

Instead of seeing a wife who was unfaithful and stupid and selfish and a husband who was holding onto a grudge and didn’t talk with his wife, I saw two people who loved each other. They had only forgotten how to communicate and how to work with each other instead of just living as partners in the same house. I saw them learn to forgive and, from this, open their hearts to life in unexpected ways.

Instead of seeing a woman who bounced around from guy to guy, leaving a path of hurt behind, I saw a woman who, like her daughter, was seeking love but just had to go the long way to find it.

Instead of seeing a girl who was gone for most of the show and ended up coming back with her female “friend”, I saw how her family embraced her and welcomed her, even if they weren’t comfortable with it or even if they didn’t understand. She was family and that’s all that mattered.

I know it’s just a show and these aren’t real people. But they do represent realistic situations which can teach us about life – for the good or the bad. I’m not saying I agree with the lifestyle choices of these characters or that what they did was “right” or “wrong.” What I’m saying is that isn’t the point.

What matters is how we treat people, how we look at them, how we interact with them.

The Catholic Church, by the example of Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is about LOVE.

Some people don’t see that. They see judgement, ridicule, shaming, guilt, rules and limitations.

I don’t see that.

I see forgiveness, welcoming and embracing the whole person, reconciliation and repairing, freedom and peace.

This is what the Church teaches now and has always taught because it is what Jesus taught and lived. He ate and dined with sinners. He didn’t come for the “justified and righteous”. He came for those who were sick and needed healing.Interestingly, it was the ones who were in most need of healing who rejected him the most.

Like we saw in the last few minutes of the final episode, it’s only when we humble ourselves and accept his healing that His graces and gifts can flow freely through us and we can continue moving forward to a better place in life.

But the Church cannot continue Christ’s work if we do not live as He did. We have to be Christ to others.

We have to love as Christ loved.

If we look at others and see them as Christ does, whatever sins or faults they have will melt away. All we will see is a beloved and beautiful son or daughter of God yearning for His infinite mercy and everlasting love.

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