My Life

Engaging Hope in a Broken Family

When I was about six years old, my parents sat me down and told me that I had two older siblings. At first, I didn’t really know how to feel. After 5 minutes with them, I realized how much I loved them!

My older sister loved the idea of being an older sister and having a new “baby” to take care of. As the baby, I didn’t really have much to complain. It just meant I got more special treatment (AKA more gifts at Christmas time). My oldest brother, on the other hand, didn’t baby me. However, he loved video games and thankfully, I learned to play quickly and that was how he and I connected since we were little.

I remember thinking that my siblings as the new “additions” to my family were great, and they were. To this day, my siblings and I — though we are technically “half-siblings” — get along so well. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but very soon after I met them, we dropped the “half” and simply grew up as siblings. My dad and mom always instilled in us the sense of family and unity amongst each other.

Broken is Not the Norm

I remember being very excited to tell everyone at school about my “newly-added-siblings”. It was all very exciting to share until someone told me that the source of my new found happiness was actually the source of brokenness within my family. The day after I had learned what I thought was the greatest news in my life, I found out my family was broken. I found out that half-siblings were not the norm. that living with only your mom was not the norm, things I knew before, yet I never fully grasped until that day.

This was devastating for me. As a six-year-old, I had no idea how that could be possible. It couldn’t be. It simply couldn’t.

I went home that day crying and I finally asked my mom. Is that true? Is our family broken? Why does dad come visit but never stay? How come my siblings don’t live with us? Very quickly my six-year-old-self became very aware of the situation. My beautiful mother sat down with me and, with all the patience in the world, explained to me what our situation was like. After a while it made sense. At least for the time being, my six-year-old-self understood the reasoning. At the end of the day, my family was different, but that was okay.

As I learned more about my faith and discerned my vocation in life, I felt called to be a father. I loved (and still do) the idea of it. In my mind, there is a general picture of what I want my family to look like and hopefully, I can provide all that for them. But will I be able to? How? I don’t have a “perfect picture” of what a family looks like. I grew up in a non-traditional family, so how could I possibly know how to have a family that is? These thoughts have passed through my head for many years. That real sense of fear of wanting to give something you don’t have and realizing… you can’t.

Brokenness is Not Fair

For years I spent so much time asking God why my family wasn’t together, why I didn’t have a “normal” family. The more I discovered my faith, the more I sat there in front of Him asking these very questions. I remember sitting there and crying just like I cried when I was six with my mother. I had so many questions and very little answers once again. Not only that but now I was angry. I was angry because it was not fair. Something I had no say in will affect the rest of my life? It simply wasn’t fair.

My spiritual director once told me, “you can’t change where you came from. Your family as it is, brought you here today. In that, you found God, who promises you to be a part of an even greater family in Him.” I remember praying about this in adoration and — while still worried and somewhat angry — I started feeling a sense of peace. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a magical feeling that it is all perfect; but rather, it was a simple step towards trusting God’s plan a little more.

Jesus Transforms the World in Brokenness

I still don’t understand why my family is structured the way it is or why I had to have my world seemingly collapse as a child in comparison to everyone else’s. But I learned that that was OK. It is OK to have a different family structure. It’s OK to not understand why. It’s OK to not know how that will affect you and your future family. I am right there with you. I don’t know how not having a father around me at home all the time will shape me in my future household. I don’t know the ways that living in a home with only my mother will affect my efforts to build a household that has both parents in it. I really don’t know.

What I do know, however, is that, in the midst of it all, Christ is there and He has a plan. Look back at the Holy Family. The Annunciation of Christ’s birth to a virgin and a humble carpenter who were not married was definitely not the “perfect family” you’d think the Maker of the World would come into. Yet, He did. And He changed the world in doing so. So too, we must have hope that when God comes into our life, as broken as our lives may seem, He has a plan to change the world through it.

There’s always hope in that.

About the Author

Juan Aznaran

I think one of toughest things in life is being sarcastic and Catholic, so I am still trying to find the perfect balance. I am a die-hard Patriots fan despite people’s nice comments. I’m either listening to music, playing video games, hanging out with friends, playing with my puppy (Loki), watching New Girl or Friends, or all of the above. I have not figured out exactly what it means to be a man of God, but I have learned that real men do not stand, they kneel.