Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Stay Together," and Other Stupid Things Moms Say

Since my children were tiny there has been one event that defined their day – if they could go down to Grandma’s house. My mom and dad live next door and the houses are within shouting distance, but just barely. A wide open pasture stands between us and the greatest risk to my children’s safety are the handful of cows who share more in common with lap dogs than their other bovine relatives. When they were smaller I would watch them out the door and call Mom to be expecting them, both of us would stay on the line commenting on their progress from our respective windows. We would only hang up once the gate into Grandma’s yard had been hurdled.

When I was small I did the same thing, my grandma lived next door too. Every day as the door swung closed behind me my mother would call out, “Be careful.” Now if you know me very well at all, you know being careful in no way appeals to me. If I have to be careful, I would just as soon not waste my time. I have raised my children with this mentality and they are fabulous risk takers, but since a mother has to yell something out the door to her children, I had to come up with mine.

Now, there was no cognitive thought put in my selection of words, but this morning as I yelled after them I found myself wondering why I hear myself saying, “Stay together.” There is an inherent risk in my children staying together and it can involve bloodshed and bruises on a good day. The truth is they fight. Not your usual “Did not, Did too” fights, it’s more of the apocalyptic nature which I am convinced is simply preparation for Armageddon. So all wisdom would dictate that I encouraged them to stay as far from each other as the forty acres allows. God knows they are safer facing the cows than each other sometimes.

Even they see this and complain about having to tolerate the other. Lydia could make case that would convince a Supreme Court justice, and Lauren has a way of putting her head down so she can figure out a way to circumvent my command (in a completely defendable manner, of course). What they don’t see is that I have a reason for them sticking together and it is more than one of them might need a kidney one day.

I want them to learn to walk together in the midst of conflict. I want them to face challenges and difficulties with turning to attack the other, and sometimes I catch glimmers of hope. Too often we face a hard situation and our answer is to blame someone else, let our tempers flare, and demand to be vindicated or martyred for our stand. Separation is easier than relationship. Peace at all costs demands we sacrifice friends and loved ones because often they seem to be the source of our problems.

Sometimes they are. Lauren would not have anyone to yell at if Lydia picked up her dirty clothes, and Lydia would not have a reason to be inflamed if Lauren did not try to boss her. In their child minds the answer is simple, remove the offending party.

As adults we know this truth far too well, and so often we simply stop inviting people into our lives. We keep them at arm’s length where they have not opportunity to do anything that might hurt or anger us, and therefore, we never have to deal with conflict. The problem with this approach is we never learn how to truly love someone who remains at this distance. Sure we can have nice thoughts, wish them well, or even share pleasant Sunday afternoon meal, but we will never know them well enough to love.

Paul warns us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Many people think that this means go to church on Sundays, but I think there is a bit more to it. Church is a great place to start, but how many times is that where it ends? I love to go to concerts, and sit next people at every one I go to, but I am not there with these people. I know nothing about them, their life and habits in no impacts mine, nor does mine theirs. To say our relationship is shallow would be an understatement, nonexistent comes much closer.

In some respects the relationship among concert goers is far superior to other relationships we may have, if we use peace as the criteria. I believe peace is a good thing, but it can’t be everything. Jesus even fought with his disciples, correcting their misconceptions, going to toe to toe with them when they dared disagree, but he never cut them out of his life. He never washed his hands of them and said he was done trying to get along with quarrelsome men. He understood that when you walk with someone there are going to be difficulties, problems, possibly a shouting match or two, and maybe even some punch thrown somewhere along the way.

The quality of the relationship was not defined by the absence of conflict. It was defined by the ability to resolve conflict and build stronger relationship through confronting conflict honestly. Coming to gather as believers should entails conflict, fights even. It means we are really walking together, and if we can stop seeing conflict as the death knell of friendship, we could begin to appreciate the diversity of thought and method that God has equipped his body to use to reveal his desire for relationship to the world.

The girls are growing up, and after over a decade of duking it out, hours of hysteria, they are learning to appreciate the strengths of the other. Strengths they have tested and found to be worthy of their trust through conflict. I don’t worry about them leaving the safety of our house when they are together, because I know that even as they scream at the other, no outside threat better come near.
My hope is that we all have someone yell at and to yell back at us as we work our way through this thing called faith.


Olde Hermit said...

Love this post!

Emily said...

The best lessons always come from the ones we love the most.

Anonymous said...