Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8, NIV
My sons are about 17 months apart and from the time the younger was born people have asked me how they got along. My answer was always “they’re best buddies and they do everything together”. Other parents would tell Mark and I stories of sibling rivalry and fighting that would make our jaws drop. We couldn’t relate to that….that is until recently. At almost 8 and 6 years old, a hostile dynamic started developing that saddened me more than shocked me. I am the youngest of four but by 13 years so I essentially grew up as an only child. My husband is 10 years older than his sister and so neither one of us knew how to deal with the constant bickering, unhealthy competitiveness and the belief that their brother was against them.
In seeking advice I found that people either accepted the fighting as a natural part of the family dynamic that you “ride out” or they tried to modify the expression of the angry behavior. Neither approach appealed to me. Behavior starts with what you believe so I asked the Lord to show me the root of their conflict. I waited and waited and then days later He gave me a one word answer “peace”. While I waited for Him to elaborate, the boys had a nasty argument and exchanged some hurtful words. I felt helpless and frustrated because I was still waiting on God’s insight since every way we tried to deal with it before failed.
After they explained their sides of the story, I had an overwhelming urge to have them look each other in the eyes and take turns telling the other “I know you love me and I forgive you. Thank you Lord that you forgave me.” Tell you the truth it sounded silly as I said it and the boys looked at me like I was crazy, but they did it and a peace came over them! Now I don’t share that as some sort of formula because at the time I didn’t even know the significance of those words other than the Holy Spirit led me to say them. However, over the next several weeks I realized the Lord was showing me something about the root of conflict in general.
At the cross Jesus both became our sin and took the punishment we deserved. His perfect work gave us peace with God. We went from God opposing us to God being for us. Do we really believe that? Are we sharing that with our children as we witness to and disciple them? If we as believers, at any age and stage of life, doubt we forever have a clean slate with God we’ll tend to anticipate conflict or rejection from everyone. That anxiety clouds our judgment causing us to misinterpret others intentions and overreact. If we don’t believe we have peace with God we won’t have the peace of God.
Only when we have peace with God can we believe that all things work together for our good because we are His and He’s called us. Only when we have peace with God can we move forward in favor with Him AND with people daily. Only when we have peace with God can we anticipate His good plan for us unfolding every day. Only when we believe we are completely forgiven can we forgive others.
When we believe God is for us we can boldly take our challenges with others to Him in exchange for peace that will guard our thoughts about them. With our minds guarded by God’s peace we are free to focus on the best about others in the midst of conflict and trust God to work it out for our good. As with most aspects of parenting, conflict resolution is more “caught than taught”. In believing the best about our spouses and our children, our children will believe the best about themselves and each other.
SOUL FOOD (Scripture References)
2 Corinthians 5:21
© Vanessa A. Harris and The Legacy of Faith, 2012.