Lately, Claire and Wesley have been at each other’s throats a bit, which I’m sure is par for the course when you’re five and three-year-old siblings. Sure, they have shining moments where they play well together, share easily, and even handle their own conflict. But usually, well…they don’t.
I don’t know why it still surprises me when they don’t get along. Like it or not (for the record, I don’t like it), sin is a real thing and it shows up in all the relationships, perhaps most honestly in the young sibling relationship. This is one of the beauties-wrapped-in-a-burden of little children. Their inability to save face at any given moment is the very thing that gives us a shot at addressing the real issue.
Sometimes, I don’t handle it well. I’m short-sighted, only caring that they cut it out already because I don’t want to have to listen to the bickering. So I basically demand that they stop and threaten to take away all the things and send them all away from each other.
But, every once in a while, I get it right and actually do my job as a parent, which is to say that I slow down, recognizing the moment and task before me is the only important one, the only one I really have, God’s to-do list for the day which trumps my own, and that it’s ripe with potential. Because formation isn’t just what we teach, but also how.
We talk about what the problem is, how we can solve it, what each person’s responsibility is this time, say our apologies etc. Then we rehearse why God made families. It’s not something we think about often, but of all the ways God could have organized people, He went with the family. It must be a good idea!
I’m sure there are other reasons, but the kids can tell you that God made families so that…
- Everyone is cared for.
- We can learn to love like Jesus (which is to say when we don’t feel like it).
First, God made families for provision and protection, so that everyone would have what they need— from the basics of survival, like food and shelter and protection from outside dangers to the finer things of thriving, like affection and belonging and purpose. This is why it’s so tragic and dangerous when someone is without a family.
And it’s also why the Bible makes such a big deal out of caring for orphans and widows. Because they were the ones outside society’s safety net. The ones most vulnerable to danger and poverty, most susceptible to falling through the cracks, lacking any means to even care for themselves.
It’s the responsibility of those inside families to care for those outside them. This is a responsibility of God’s big, beautiful family called the Church. The family is the Domestic Church, after all.
But, of course, the second reason God made families is the focus of sibling squabbles. God made families so that we can learn to love even when we don’t want to. In a word— sanctification.
I’m convinced God’s most basic context for sanctification is the family. I fear we drastically overlook or underestimate it as such! Either we bypass each other, only concerned with our own personal agendas, or we just go our separate ways, never spending enough time together for things to get too messy. Family can be the hardest and most painful of relationships and that’s exactly the point.
We need a deeper awareness of the bajillions of opportunities we have to practice love— like accommodating each others’ tendencies with gentleness and respect, compensating for each others’ shortcomings with kindness and mercy, asking for and receiving forgiveness, bearing one another’s pain with compassion, putting another first with humility, and the list goes on. Because we don’t choose our families, (and because we live with them!), they provide us potential unlike anything else to grow in grace. (Again, because the family is a microcosm of the Church, you could substitute the word “church” for “family” and it would all still be true.)
You must have a community to be sanctified, so don’t forget to include your very own family.
Guys, this is all so hard! And, for me, a constant learning curve. But we’re going to keep at it, the kids and me. It’s holy, worth-it work, and God’s grace is sufficient.