This week I got to learn something about myself, and that is that I am a wimp.
But God is bringing opportunities to practice not being a wimp and I am excited about this.
Over the past month, there have been (now) four situations where my oldest daughter (age 8) has had some sort of conflict with a friend. Sometimes the mom told me about it, sometimes another adult friend told me about it, but I never saw it for myself nor did I have the chance to really get involved. After the third one (and like I said, all three being something I only heard of after the fact), I was beginning to feel really weird…wondering what character flaws were showing up and irking other people, wondering what was actually being said and done, how much was provoked, how much was immature and silly, how much was a necessary response (if any), and how much I needed to get involved and help her know how to handle these conflicts or keep them from happening in the first place. Ah, parenthood, right?
So I brought it up with my friend, who was hosting my daughter for a sleepover. We had such an awesome talk about this; it was truly the Lord giving us a chance to help our daughters and at the same time, help ourselves get over any insecurities we might have about admitting character flaws and things we need to work on. It is hard enough to realize these things about yourself…but I think it takes a whole new big mama dose of the Holy Spirit to be able to realize and humbly speak of these things about your own precious flesh and blood that you feel “surely couldn’t say or do that, at least without good reason”.
It was great. We decided we would allow the conflicts that may come up to be a learning experience for all of us; to somewhat expect little issues and if they aren’t worked out well by the girls themselves, us moms would step in and take our time to address it fully. We want to teach them how to get along, not leave it all up to them to “figure out”. We want to let them make mistakes and know what to do after that happens, because that is going to happen, and maybe even learn how to steer clear of those relationship mistakes in the first place.
So, there was a conflict and the next day we all talked about it. We made sure everyone’s feelings were validated. We called blame out where it was due. (A side note about this: it was probably easier for me in this particular instance because it was my girl who needed to do the apologizing. Its actually harder to be the one who was wronged because you don’t want the other to feel too bad, or make a big deal, etc. but I think it takes bravery on both sides. The one who was wronged has to really stop and say, “Yes, I need you to apologize, that is what’s fair” instead of “No, it’s okay, forget it.” The one who was wrong needs to stop and think about how it would feel if those words or actions had been done to them and then have a plan of action to make things right.)
The great news is: I think both girls walked away with a sense of what they would do differently next time. Taking the time to deal with it instead of just gloss it over, with parents and apologies involved, made it unforgettable. For example, Selah stayed up late writing apology letters (that is plural because her problems didn’t end with this one conflict with her friend! We had a rough day!) and then today I read a song she had written and left on the table. It brought tears to my eyes because it was two pages long (takes after her mama!) and it was all about how thankful she was that Jesus came to take away sin. It was a beautiful worship song, and this was one of those times that God used pain and realization of her own brokenness to bring her to His feet.
We all need that. We all need to see the brokenness so we can be made whole! In relationships, to be made whole! With God, to be made holy! With ourselves, to not beat ourselves up but to rationally and maturely handle this balance of what God is doing in us vs. what we have already conquered. Humility is to agree with God about the reality of our fallen selves; forgiveness is to let Jesus’s perfection cover us in that broken reality! We are not only allowed to, we are commanded to, walk in the freedom and joy of a forgiven and made holy person…and that’s going to require facing things and doing whatever we have to do to make it right when at all possible.
So, lastly, this just brings me to say–I have been a wimp in my relationship with girlfriends. I haven’t known how to handle conflict. I haven’t used the opportunities I have been afforded to truly grasp skills that would allow forgiveness and freedom…and fun 🙂 but I want to! And I think in stopping that cycle, in not allowing that to go on in how I train my daughters to relate with people, I myself am going to have to choose to be brave and stop and work things out with people regardless of how uncomfortable or afraid I am. I have always believed people could work anything out through prayer and talking, but I have still shied away from necessarily practicing that. It’s so scary! Will I be too brash or will I call out specks when the plank is in my eye? Will I make things worse? Will I sound so self-secure that I will freak people out who aren’t really in this same place of wanting to lay it all out on the table?
I don’t know, really. But I know I need to be brave and prayerfully handle, truly handle, issues when they come up. After all, our kids don’t necessarily do what we say, they do what we do! And God continually gives us extra worksheets, extra homework, to really nail down a characteristic of HIS in our own lives so that we shine forth who Jesus is to the world…Oh, I love that He is all about doing that! Makes any discomfort or pain much more manageable to have heavenly purpose behind it.
So here is my honest and open prayer: “Lord, help me learn how to love, to create safe spaces for people to be themselves (even if I don’t like or agree with all the pieces of who they are), and to have the humility to truly be myself even if someone doesn’t like all these pieces of who I am (because that’s actually okay). Help me learn how You would handle differences and bad moods and feelings, and help me give people freedom to be where they are, loving them right then and there instead of steering clear of them.” Can I hear an AMEN!? 🙂