For twenty minutes, my husband and I “talked” inside using our outside voices. With our adult kids home for a rare weekend, we were so loud that it woke them up. They scurried downstairs to find out what the commotion was all about because nothing says “Happy New Year” like your typically peaceful parents sparring. Admitting later that they can count on their fingers the number of times they’ve witnessed such a feisty disagreement, this was a popcorn-and-movie kind of event that they didn’t want to miss.
I’ll never forget that morning. In fact, smack dab in the middle of what turned into a three-hour family meeting, I snapped a picture of our two eldest sons taking charge. One, who already stood six feet, three inches tall, climbed on a kitchen chair with a Bible in hand. The other planted himself next to his brother with a coffee mug raised high as a show of solidarity. Both swooped in with their arsenal full of debate and mediation techniques with plans to save the day.
In the midst of the tension that most families may have run from, we got serious about Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue (or strive for) peace with everyone, and holiness — without it no one will see the Lord.”
While I believe my home is the heart of my most important ministry, it’s regrettably the place where my sin bubbles over more often than anywhere else. I fumble through many days begging the Lord that His power would be made perfect in my weakness. Home is where I am most exposed, the most exhausted, where my family sees the good, the bad, and everything in between.
But because of this, it’s also where the transformative power of Christ can be best seen in me. It’s the place where He’s most likely to begin chiseling away at my sinful heart, drawing me closer to Him and showering me with His sufficient grace.
This was one of those moments. I looked around the room, and my frustrated heart swelled with hope for this next generation of future family leaders.
I’ve made a myriad of parenting mistakes over the decades, but I’ve always placed a high priority on open dialogue, no matter how uncomfortable. Our children have watched us push back against what’s easy as we prioritize peacemaking because we know that choosing the hard and holy road of reconciliation with our family, neighbors, co-workers, and fellow church members brings Him glory. As we attempt to reflect the heart and character of God, we reach beyond what’s possible in our own nature and tap into His power and strength.
So committed to flushing out the conflict that reared its morning head, all nine of us invested the necessary time to create a safe space where all could be heard.
Our son took the lead. “Mom, what I’m hearing you say is ___________. Is that correct? Is that what you’re feeling?” In some parallel universe, he started implementing helpful listening techniques on his own parents.
“So, Dad, when you mention Mom doesn’t understand, can you validate that maybe she does understand but doesn’t agree with you?”
I chuckle now thinking about this exchange, but it also fires me up because small moments multiplied over time matter. How we pursue peace and model it for our children or the neighbors or our co-workers has a long-term, multigenerational impact on others. Yes, even what we model amidst discord trains and disciples the next generation of world changers, the next leaders of families, a new culture of biblical communicators. After the visceral communication challenges surrounding the pandemic, it’s a nearly paralyzing concept at times, but the dedicated effort is worth it.
Don’t grow weary or give up hope. Don’t listen to voices that steer us toward apathetic leadership. Prioritize the importance of peacemaking because someday soon you may have raised children who moderate your next healthy, marital discussion.
Full disclosure: While my husband and I hugged and kissed (our kids made us), we didn’t leave in agreement. Committed to our love for each other and the gospel of peace, it was necessary to agree to disagree. That’s the reality of marriage, friendship, and church community. Every discussion doesn’t end with a beautiful bow. But as we finished the family meeting, our son’s college roommate who joined us for the holidays declared, “That was refreshing!”
“Refreshing?” I questioned.
“Yes. For me to watch that all unfold was so refreshing. That’s not common.”
I got teary eyed. Our conversation was heated and messy, yet as waves of love, repentance, and humility ushered in, we still modeled the hard and holy work of family as we allowed the transformative power of Christ to be seen in us. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it.
As Christ followers, we are called to be uncommon. I’ll take that label, won’t you?