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?
Ruth Mills says
Amen, amen, amen! Thank you for sharing, Jen. This is a jewel. Bless you
Thank you, Ruth.
Have a wonderful Wednesday. 🙂
Elizabeth (Betsy) Hall says
Yes, it is hard work! It is what we are called to be and do as Christ followers. As for parenting, it is the hardest job in the world!
Amen to the above, I know I pray each generation will improve!!! All for the glory of Christ!
Yes, Betsy. Praying for the future generations and that they will rise up to His calling for His glory. 🙂
Pearl Allard says
“ 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.”
This. Thank you. Hope in the real life we live.
Isn’t it something how we are so exposed between the walls of our own home. The Lord is so kind and gracious to peel back the layers of my heart as I keep desiring to be more like Him. Imego Dei.
Beth Williams says
God commands us to not stay angry. Ephesians 4:26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, It is easy for our sins to show up at home. We get tired, someone says something & wham you’re having a loud disagreement. That happens quite a bit at my house. We always make up before going to sleep. I tell him I love him & I’m sorry for whatever I did. Always wanting to keep peace & calm in our house. Thanks for a great devotional.
Jessica Sommer says
I thought that verse leaned toward handing our anger over to God before the night comes – and having faith that He will provide fresh grace and mercy in the morning. Some of my extended family live in a perpetual state of anger – so nightfall won’t change their perspective toward peaceful resolution – ya know?
Yes, Jessica. This is definitely a two way street, isn’t it? It’s nearly impossible to pursue peace with another if that person wants nothing to do with reconciliation and then you’re absolutely correct. We are responsible for our own heart issues.
Thank you for sharing about your extended family. I can only imagine how challenging that must be when your desire is for a life giving relationship but they’ve dug their heels in grasping and being fueled by anger. The enemy has a hay day there. Praying that the Lord equips you with wisdom as you pursue them in love, yet balance the challenges that brings..
Thank you, Beth, for your insight.
What a gift you have to be able to completely make up and put things to rest before the sun sets. While I haven’t found it completely possible to deal with all the issues before the sun sets, we acknowledge our love and commitment towards each other, pray that the enemy doesn’t get a foothold and often continue the next day. Remembering Ephesians. 4:26. 🙂
Have a wonderful Wednesday. I always appreciate seeing your name pop up in the comments.
Jessica Sommer says
Such a great reminder to choose the path less taken. i have a request for your next devotional: how to teach our children the way of peace when their extended family does not (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc) & how to avoid familial disagreements turning into chasms of silence. Thank you!!!
JENNIFER E HASSEL says
I smiled to read how your sons modeled what you taught them. Simply beautiful. I’m sure part of your heart soared to notice this aspect of the drama despite your anger or feelings of hurt while in the midst of it.
Yes, Jennifer!! And while I felt crazy sneaking a picture (we were an hour into the discussion ;)), I wanted to capture the moment as a mom. It’s too easy to remember all the hard, grueling times and this was so precious to see them stepping into adult leadership even if the discussion was hard.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Jennifer excellent words. The world see everything we do as well as our family. They judge us. But they might not the world say it to us in person. But especially if not saved. They say if they see us slip up or do something wrong. They say if that is a follower of Jesus. That is how they live. I don’t want to know. I live my life the way I am. Even in our families not saved. As I am the only along with my Husband saved in my families. Both my Mum and my Dad side of the family. So I have to extra careful when with them what I say and do I round them. That I am living for Jesus in front of them. In word thought and deed. So one day my prayers will be answered and they will want what I have and is to know Jesus for themselves. So I also have to do this in and front of the world. Were ever I go. Make sure everything I do and say is about Jesus. So I shine for him. Especially in this dark. God see the way I live for him too. I have to live as Jesus lived when on earth. Loving people of all walks of life. Not preach to my family that they need to get saved. As that will put them of. As they will say don’t preach to me. Keep that part of your religion to yourself. One time my Nephew was playing football with other teams from different parts of Northern Ireland. He was about 14 or 15 then. I can remember my sister his mum’s words. When up stay in the part of Northern Ireland were the football was. One time she was at home. I was put of my all the preaching posters up about. You must be saved and different scripture verses too all over the place. My Sister my Nephew mum said. You know what there was too much of it. I don’t want to know. The people who is put it up you think they were preaching to you. So it put me of she said. With all the stuff like that about. About getting saved and the scripture verse. No it wouldn’t make me want to go there for a holiday. I could see her point. As it was like Bible thumping to my sister. As you can be too pushy and put people of. Even though the people they put the signs up about getting saved and the Bible verses. Meant well. I could see how it would put people of wanting to become a Follower of Jesus. So I pray for my family and I try my best when with them not to say anything about they need to be saved. Just live my life for Jesus in front of them. Plus when out in the world. They people will see and my family that I am different. I live for Jesus and want what I have. That is to know Jesus for themselves. Love Dawn Enniskillen Co.Fermanagh N.Ireland. Keeping you all incourage in my prayers. Xx
Thank you for sharing, Dawn. You always comment with so much of your heart and we appreciate that. 🙂
Have a wonderful Wednesday across the pond. xoxo
Dawn Ferguson-Liitle says
Jen thanks you for your kindswords. Love it when you write incourage. Plus all the other people. I do pray for you all. As I love all the work you do and the writing you do for Jesus. Yours inspire me along with the others. If don’t see you this side of earth see you glory one day. It will so lovely to chat you. Thank you for everything my the Lord richly bless you all the way from my side of the world. Love Dawn xx
Jen, I congratulate you on raising outstanding Christian men & women! Sure in our “older” age, we sometimes get out of sorts; but we are human beings striving to be more like Christ. GOOD JOB!
Oh how I love this story! The realness of it all is refreshing, just as your house guest stated. Family life, marriage, relationships of all kinds face difficulties and different opinions. There is a middle ground and it has Christ right there. May I always look for in the face of disagreements with my own husband.