Next to learning to love God with our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, what is the second most important thing we pass on to our children?
Loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.
“Who is our neighbor?”
The super obvious answer for so much of our lives is: your family. Your spouse, your children, your siblings, your parents. This is neighborhood living at its finest, up close and personal, where all good intentions melt like the sugar facades they are in the heat of real life and all of its friction and need and opportunity.
Here is where love puts on skin, finds an audible voice.
That sounds so obvious. Of course we’re to love one another. We’re a family! But it’s amazing how distracted from that main goal we can become. So busy doing as a group of people, pushing the older ones along, dragging the littles behind, snipping at the spouse as we accomplish school and work and housekeeping and extracurriculars and church. We can forget! Love your neighbor.
This remembering requires a shift in perspective and approach. If building relationships, and teaching how to appreciate differences and resolve conflict and work as a team — if those things really are important, it changes how I see life and how I do things.
I alluded to cookie decorating with the children. As tongues got out of hand and fingers got grabby (and I was already tired and not terribly excited about frosting to clean up), it would have been easy for me to put the kibosh on the whole thing with a harsh lecture about behavior, The End. Instead, thanks to the Holy Spirit’s reminders, I realized that this wasn’t a bad turn of events, but an amazing opportunity. Of course I would love for us to gather together and have there be nothing but laughter and love, but in order to get there someday, we need to practice it now. So, deep breath, I corrected the words. Instructed us to share. Reminded us to affirm. I put on a smile and even scrounged up a laugh. And most of all I refused to feel like the whole event was a flop. God can turn our most human moments into an opportunity to see and repent.
Recently I’ve followed the patterns of a friend and started adding some sibling time into our daily checklists. I’ve found what I’m sure you’ve found: certain siblings connect easily, and others are oil and water. Instead of avoiding the oil and water, I’m determined to put them together as often as possible and see them grow! Sibling conflict doesn’t have to mean failure; we can see it as an opportunity. I recognize that God put us all in one house for a reason, and it’s that we would grow in love, in breadth and depth of appreciation for all sorts of people, and I believe that my children will leave knowing how to work and play and live in love.
Maybe the atmosphere of your home feels overwhelming and a million miles from love. May I encourage you to pray and believe God for some wisdom and strategy? But most of all, believe God. Don’t believe lies of cultural norms where siblings are allowed hate and the future looks like decades of dysfunctional Thanksgiving dinners. Press into the will of God for your family and each of your children. This I know: when we ask for help in this area, God will pour out nothing less than the full measure of His power and grace. He is on our side in this endeavor, for sure.
Teach them to love, and they’ll be world changers.