Sometimes Love Looks Different

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I'm cooking dinner when Joseph walks sad-faced into the kitchen. He'd been playing basketball with his brother who is 3 years older and about a foot and a half taller. As he slumps on the stool beside our island, I'm trying to think of the best way to give him permission to open up to me. After a few seconds, I give up on being super creative or revolutionary in my parenting and simply ask, "What's wrong." And because he was frustrated and felt safe, he opened up to me.

I don't want to leave you in suspense, but I also want to respect my son's privacy, so I feel comfortable revealing that he was struggling with younger child syndrome. It's that disease kids catch when they're smaller, shorter, and simply still too young to beat their older sibling who has grown three feet in a month. Joseph was discouraged because he wanted to compete, but he didn't enjoy being dominated. I'm not sure anyone of us likes those kinds of odds. So I listened, gave him every bit of compassion I could muster, and then waited. I waited to see if he could handle a little bit of advice; was he content with me being a caretaker or could he absorb a little coaching?

His eyes seemed to want me to help him, so I said, "Hey buddy, I know you're frustrated, but you will grow one day. For now, though, you're going to have to decide if you can take being beaten to become a better player, or if you want to ask your brother to make some concessions to give you a fair chance. I'm sure he would be willing to institute some handicaps on himself, but you're going to have to be okay with knowing he is taking it a little easier on you. You're going to have to ask for what you want and be okay with the way it plays out." We talked back and forth a little more trying to decide which scenario would make him feel more comfortable, and then he went to his room for a shower.

Something happened inside me when I gave birth to my kids. I became obsessed with keeping peace among them. I wanted to make them stop yelling, stop hitting, stop picking at each other, stop throwing things at one another, stop, stop, stop. But controversy and tension among them happened every day and nothing I did or said took it away.

And then, on the radio one day, I heard this quote from Focus on the Family. "If your boys are fighting, they are bonding. Studies show that brothers who are willing to fight through things end up being closer than those who ignore and isolate themselves from one another."

My thinking paused and my breathing stopped as my furrowed eyebrows tried to digest the statement running through my mind. Brothers who fight are bonding and end up becoming closer adults? I didn't know if I believed it, but this moment caused me to make a shift in my parenting. Instead of keeping my boys from fighting, I was going to help them try to understand one another so they could fight well. I wanted to teach them how to disagree, how to express their frustrations, and when to simply learn to get over it. I realized that controlling their behavior so I could have a moment's peace wasn't doing anything but putting a cork in a pressurized bottle. Eventually it would blow. Instead, I needed to ask them if they wanted to get along, if they wanted to learn how to disagree and if they wanted to love each other well. They did, they have, and I pray they will continue to love each other well. 

I'm so proud of my kids for their effort to learn, change and grow. I believe Jesus is proud when we love each other well, too, so I want to leave you with my favorite verses on learning to love one another well:

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Romans 12:9-18 says, Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

I can't look into your eyes to see if you want any coaching this week, but if you do, I challenge you to choose a different section of this verse for each day this week and live it out. Maybe Monday you outdo someone by showing them honor. Tuesday you seek out someone who is poor and give them a meal. Wednesday you write an encouraging letter to someone you know has a grudge against you...and so on. Be creative, and I'd love to know how God uses this challenge in your life.

I pray you keep moving forward in your faith until next time!

~ Sharie

© 2017 by Sharie King.  All rights reserved.