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.