It’s not too soon after the instruction to complete a chore in my house that the fighting begins. Being made to do something you’d rather not do, coupled with doing it with someone who annoys you, is a powder keg recipe. Today was no different. It began with disrespect, as my daughter allowed my son to do more work as she flapped her legs in the air on the couch. This, of course, couldn’t be overlooked by my son and a stern lecture began. A stern lecture is not something she will ever stand for, so before he could even finish, she had to return her own thoughts at an even louder volume and back and forth they went, out “angering” one another. Sigh!
As I called them to the table to yet again talk about love and treating one another as God desires, I pointed out the focus of their concern and the focus of their blame. “Who are you concerned about as you fight? Who do you blame as you fight? Now, who would God have us be concerned about? Whose actions would God have us reflect upon in a fight?” Naturally, who they were concerned about and whose actions they were focusing on were opposite how God directs. As I asked these questions, they knew the truth and responded with truth as if it were the worst thing in the world to admit. The pout! The folded Arms! The staccato responses! If it weren’t such a serious issue to learn, their reactions would have been laughable.
Truthfully, my heart was grieved with the arguing again! All too often, I match their volume and I match their frustration in anger. Today, likely due to today’s sermon that gives peace and joy to the hearer, I sat them down and gave them a task. For my 10-year-old, who would not even consider that she causes my son’s frustration by her delays in cleaning to inopportunely exhibit her interpretive dancing, and instead gets angry at him, I told her to go to the book of James and find the verse that says to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry”. I told her that it should be somewhere in the first couple of chapters of James and to write it down five times once she found it. She grabbed a Bible and, in a huff, started to look. For my thirteen-year-old son, I told him to look in Proverbs for a verse that speaks of folly or quarreling and to tell me the verse once he found it so he could tell me what he learned about it. As he went to grab his phone, I said, “Nope, I want you to do it the old-fashioned way.” Eye roll! Sigh! Then he grabbed a Bible.
I waited for each of them. My daughter eventually says with tears in her eyes, “Mom, none of these verses begins with be”. I responded, “It is there. You need to read the verses to find it, not just look for the word be. That is why I gave you this task. I want you to read God’s word. I am always talking to you about being more loving, but you will never be able to do it on your own. Human beings are selfish. We can’t do it on our own. Jesus is the only one who can change your heart. Would you like me to read with you?” She nodded her head yes, so we began to read. As she read the first verse, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.” I stopped and I said to her, “Do you know that this was Jesus’s brother who wrote this book. Do you know that, while Jesus was alive, he didn’t believe that Jesus was God, and he mocked him. It wasn’t until after Jesus died, when Jesus revealed himself to James that James believed in Him.” As we talked her attitude started to relax. She was more open to this exercise. Only Jesus changes hearts!
At this point my son stopped us to let us know that he found a verse.
Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
“So, son, what did you learn about this?” You can imagine where this is going, right? According to him, my daughter was foolish for despising his counsel. “Hmmm! No Son, I want you to find a verse where you learn something about your own actions, not your sister’s actions.” Another eyeroll. He’s perfecting them at this point. He resumed looking so my daughter and I continued to read. As we found the verse, she asked, “Do I have to write the beginning part or just the part starting with be?” When I told her that she needed to write all the verse, I could see her getting frustrated again. I said, “Why is that part of the verse important?” She settled and responded, “because it tells you that you should pay attention.” Yes, you need to heed these words. They are important. After writing them out, I asked her what she learned, and she said that she should have listened to what her brother was trying to say. Brilliant!
My son found another verse,
Proverbs 12:16 Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.
When I asked him what he learned, he gives his sister the side-eye and says, “Well, I don’t want to call her a fool, but”. He wanted to once again focus on my daughter’s actions. Her folly for her immediate annoyance. “No, son, I want you to focus on your own heart.” At this point, he was shut down. He couldn’t find the humility necessary to see himself over his sister. After being given time to settle down in his room, he was able to come back. He told me that he didn’t like the ambiguous task that I gave him, that he would prefer clear, step-by-step instructions. I responded that, at thirteen, I need to begin teaching him how to begin searching and finding things in the Bible, on his own. My discipline of his behavior was to drive him towards the message of life and truth.” Finally, He was able to acknowledge that he could choose prudence over folly, and he chose folly. “Yes. Wonderful. You cannot control your sister’s behavior, but you can control your behavior all day long. How often is this our own heart? We see so clearly that someone else is “more” in the wrong, and there is no question that she was, so we want to focus on that, and we cannot see ourselves and our own actions. A lesson to learn, however, is that it was easier for my daughter to admit what she had done and apologize for it, than it was for my son.