Casting Call: Dispute Settler Needed

One day this month my two oldest children got off to school only for one to return 7 minutes later through the back door…crying.  I checked the time anxiously, needing to get out the door myself, and asked what the matter was.  The story unfolds as many sibling stories might:

On the way to school, Sibling A teased Sibling B about some aspect of her appearance.

Sibling B punched Sibling A.

Sibling A teased some more.

Sibling B punched her again.

Sibling A punched B back.

Sibling B ran in the back door sobbing and confessed to punching her sister, who was frolicking down the sidewalk to school with a neighbor girl at this point.

I called her back. A dramatic scene ensued with crazy amounts of yelling and hurt feelings, half-truths and mismatched stories. “We can’t solve this now,” I said. “You have to get to school. But neither of you will be going anywhere or doing anything until your stories match up and you get things taken care of with each other.” They stormed off in their separate directions, one of them shouting at me in her anger.

Throughout the day, I dreaded facing what would come after school. I dreaded the hurt feelings and the hard hearts that may present themselves.

Some days it seems like facilitating is my primary job, and I know a lot of you other parents feel this way, too. We are settlers of disputes, facilitators of personal crisis management, overseers of Young People Growing Up, training them up in the way they should go so that when they are old they won’t depart from those ways.

Without God’s intervention, that’s all we can do (and I’m not very good at it a lot of the time).  My natural abilities don’t necessarily bring heart change to my kids. So, I prayed that day that God would give me wisdom, but mostly I prayed that their hearts would be soft, that they would desire peace and restoration and the things God desires.  And that God would release his Spirit over them and draw them together.

After school it looked for a moment like things were going to go south quickly, but I was happily surprised to see Sibling A so readily contrite, so willing to repent, and Sibling B ultimately willing to forgive and apologize as well. And in a matter of ten minutes they were laughing like old friends and one was helping the other with homework.

It doesn’t always work that way. And I don’t always remember to pray like that.  But that day was a reminder that we parents are in such a unique position because we see the problems and  have the opportunity of inviting the Answer, the Answer that defies reason and Who Did What and Who Deserves What and It’s Not Fair.  God’s presence and work in their hearts defies all the rules of tit-for-tat and an eye for an eye. We can invite Him in and he calms all that down, softening hearts, moving them toward forgiveness, and making those law-based parameters irrelevant, making them not matter anymore. Because His love wins; love always wins over any of that other stuff.

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How Do You Eat an Elephant? (Or: How Do Married People Stay in Love?)

Here’s what our First Impressions coordinator, Jeff McCaughey, has to say about the BIG ‘Til-Death-Do-Us-Part: Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 8.38.49 AM

After listening to the message at church on Sunday and thinking about the BIG question (“Is it possible for two people to remain in love for life?”), I have to say…yes!  I agree that it is possible!

I feel very fortunate to be able to say that I am married to someone who I have only grown deeper in love with over the nearly 20 years that we have been together.  All clichés aside, the truth is that I love her, I like her (there’s a difference), and I can’t imagine my life without her.

All that said, I really appreciated the fact that Sunday’s message didn’t imply that it is easy to stay in love.  I mean, two different people from two totally different family backgrounds–both of whom have different expectations and  different vantage points on life–put together sounds like a recipe for disaster when you think about it.

It is a complicated thing to merge two lives with the expectation that lasting love will result. However, I remember hearing someone once beg the question “How do you eat an elephant?”  The answer is, of course, one bite at a time.  As silly as it sounds, I think this represents a really good point.  How do we accomplish the huge task of remaining in love?  One intentional act of love at a time!

I think that as ordinary people we can accomplish really amazing things, including having a long lasting, in-love marriage, by simply taking the really small but important things seriously. Also, inviting God’s wisdom as we take daily steps into the unknown territory of marriage (or life or whatever we are facing) helps makes the mundane, ordinary relationship into a thriving one.