One evening Clay and I were sitting together with some leaders, discussing difficulties parents face with their children. Toward the top of the list was siblings fussing at one another. All of us in our home are sinners, Clay, me and the kids, and we've had plenty of opportunity to think and pray about how to deal with this! Wouldn't it be great if there were a pill or magic formula to get rid of all fussing and whining?
Fussing comes from a heart issue--it has at its root the basis of all sin--selfishness and self-centeredness. The attitude behind all quarrels and contention says, "I want my way. I deserve to be the center of attention. I need to have all of my wishes and desires met and everyone else is wrong when they violate my needs and desires."
However, another spiritual contention comes from pride--I know more than you--my religious philosophy is doctrinally more correct than yours, my educational philosophy is better than yours, I am less bad than you or I am better than you and so on. Pride is also at the root of contention.
Fussing is at the root of divorce, family separations, church splits, sibling rivalry, and any kind of contention that separates people. This plague of selfishness is running rampant in America today as we see promiscuity--which basically says, "I want my pleasure when I want it, but I don't have to take in consideration anyone else--gratification is more important than love and commitment." It also is an attitude that communicates, "If you aren't going to be mature and fulfill my needs then I have the right to move on to other relationships until I find someone else who can fulfill my needs."
I have always told my children that it is natural to be selfish, defensive, argumentative, full of pride, but it is supernatural to be mature, loving and patient, humble. Jesus disciplines us that we might conform to His image. He is the model for unconditional love, patience, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, encouragement, humility. He of all people chose to separate Himself from the grandeur of God to become one of the lowly, humble, poor humans of this earth. If He so chose in order to really show us what righteousness looked like, then we should ponder His simple, sacrificial, uncomplaining life in order to really take on His character and love.
Choosing to be an instrument of love requires us to obey His word and His will and to make a choice to be peacemakers and life-givers. Maturity is a process of practicing obedience and choosing love while also knowing that it is the Holy Spirit who lives in us, to work out His good pleasure and holiness through us.
Jesus is our model and yet even Jesus showed us that maturity and righteousness was a process of choosing to do the right thing--obedience--choice of our will--not paying attention to what he felt, but doing what he knew was right. This is the essence of the love and patience we need to teach our children and that we also need to obey.
Hebrews 5:8, in talking about Jesus' example while on the earth, says,"though He was a Son, (of God), yet he learned obedience by the things he suffered." Jesus learned obedience by submitting His will to the Father; by practicing doing what was right, which is why He's described as learning obedience.
So, all true love and goodness comes from obeying God and doing the right thing for His sake. When our hearts and the hearts of our children understand this, then we will have the right reason to choose not to be contentious and selfish. Loving God and therefore choosing to be loving to unloving spouses, patient with unlovely toddlers or teens, forgiving in church situations when we have the right to be offended, are all for the love of our Lord who was perfectly loving, patient and kind as the servant leader.
If we are contentious to others, or constantly critical of friends or people in our own life, how can we expect our children to "catch" the spirit of love? If we complain and whine and cry as a habitual response to life, how can our children understand the strength and grace of the unconditional love of Christ lived through us? If we tell our children to quit complaining or whining or arguing, and then proceed to complain against our in-laws or husband or argue with others, then we are not establishing a foundation for them to stand upon. If we are angry and impatient, it will create scars but also deform them in the ability to move beyond fussing to become healthy adults who can bring grace to relationships.
Eventually young children grow up and will see through hypocrisy. We don't have to be perfect--but we have to be humble and ask for forgiveness. We must seek to have integrity. Trying to tell our children they have to obey us and lording it over them in harshness will only suffice for a short few years. They will mature and see through the words to the heart and actions and will not follow inconsistencies. I do think parenting is the way God humbles and trains us in righteousness because it requires our best in order to be the best parents we can be.
I have had friends over the years who knew a lot of scripture and read a lot of books and put forth a righteous front, but who were critical behind people's backs or talked in judgment about people and in pious self-righteousness, convinced that they are justified, felt no conviction for their sin.
However, Jesus, while being reviled, did not revile in return, but kept trusting himself to God. Wherever Jesus is there is peace, gentleness, humility and grace--except for the Pharisees and religious people or the exceedingly, intentionally wicked.
Though as moms we tend to be so irritated at the quarreling and immature fussing of our children, it is no more attractive in adults. If we don't address the general selfishness of all of our culture, which has seeped into our own lives and is bolstered by our own natural selfishness, then we will not be able to address the issues in our own home. So, I have been convicted over the years, that creating a peaceful environment in my home must start with me. I am responsible to God to seek to love and serve others because of His love for me.