I HATE bickering. I hate it when my kids pick at, poke at, aggravate at, and are generally mean to each other. I think it's awful. It seems like just a ridiculous waste of time and energy. My usual response is to intervene and try to logically explain to them why this nonsense ought to cease. I'm sure you can guess how effective this strategy is.
I think the reason that it's such an abyssmal failure, is that I'm always trying to be in on the solution. And if the problem isn't about me....guess what? The solution isn't about me, either.
So, a few nights ago, as we were driving home from Gram's......the bickering began in the back. And I said
And it got louder and nastier. And I said
By the time we got home, tempers were hot - Firecracker took off as if she had been shot out of a cannon as soon as the van door was open. She wasn't coming into the house. She didn't live here any more. She didn't care. She hated all of us. And I very calmly told her that if she wasn't on my 6 by the time I was inside, she was locked out for the night.
And the LadyBug began to cry.
Crying is not a normal activity for the LadyBug. I resisted the urge to let my mouth hang open in stunned amazement.
Somehow, we all made it inside and by the time I had the Griz settled and changed, the Bigs were each squirreled away in separate corners with notebooks and pencils, hard at work on something. It turns out that they were writing each other letters of apology.
I hadn't said a single word during the argument or since we had been home about what they should and should not do or say. I asked the LadyBug later what had happened and she told me that she just had to say she was sorry because some of the things she had said were SO mean and nasty.
Because I didn't referee the boxing match, it got really ugly, really fast....but I think that was the best thing for them. I didn't get in the way of the real ugliness of bickering and fighting at its end point. I never want them to say the really mean stuff, so I stop them. But on this occasion, I let them fire everything they had at each other. And once all that nasty stuff hit the air and they heard out loud all the things that they say in the privacy of their hearts, they heard and understood how dreadfully unkind and sinful it was. And the reality of it brought them to a place of repentence (for the moment....I'm sure we'll sing this song a few hundred more times around here).
And I began to think about all the little bits of bitter nastiness that I've got stored up all around inside of my heart. We all have piles and piles of nasty, oozy, black stuff that we harbor in our hearts towards other people; those vile, wretched, stored-up hateful commentaries that we have written about our friends and enemies - they seem somehow tolerable because they are only in our own minds and hearts. But it's not tolerable to the great God who discerns our thoughts from afar. And whether or not you can justify these nasties in your own mind, I'm pretty sure that God's not buying your excuse. People injure us. People are rude and ugly (in many different ways). People are spiteful and impatient and have wicked tongues. But that does not excuse our bitterness, anger and resentment of them. Because every ounce of injury and rudeness, every cutting remark, every slight that I have endured...I have earned them all (and more) by the injury I've done to others.
And what's more, if we are to be all in for Christ, hard followers of a risen Savior......the whole stinking point is Romans 5:8 anyway:
But God demonstrates His
own love toward us, in that
while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.
We don't get to repay like with like. We don't get to get even. We don't get to wait sullenly until the other guy says he's sorry. Out of gratitude for the gift our very lives, our very next breath - we are to run to those who we ought to hate and shower them with mercy and kindness. We are to push through our feelings of distaste and mistrust and love those who have taken a big crap on us. We are to give our possessions to those who don't deserve them. And we're to do all this ridiculous stuff with a joyful heart.
That's just crazy talk, I know. But don't you want to live in a world of crazy people who love you, really love you in spite of yourself? Imagine for a moment what your marriage would look like. What your neighborhood would look like. Your workplace. Can you begin to imagine what your church would look like if you actually LOVED the people in the next pew - and they loved you.
Pray for me this week as I try on a little bit of crazy.