With five kids in the house some kind of conflict is inevitable. No matter how well they get along, fights still pop up from time to time.
As mothers, our instinct is often to rush to defend our children. But when you have multiple children, you’re forced to take a step back and find out what’s really going on.
A couple of years ago, my middle child came to me crying because his siblings wouldn’t let him play the board game they were playing. My first impulse was to march into the other room and tell the other children to let their brother play.
I couldn’t imagine why they would treat him this way. Middle Child is usually our most pleasant child.
And I know what it’s like to be excluded from a group.
But I went against my impulse. Instead I went to them and asked, “Why won’t you let Middle Child play with you?”
Their answer surprised me. But it shouldn’t have. Middle Child had been going through an unpleasant phase.
They told me that he was being excluded from the game because every time something didn’t go his way, he would knock all of the pieces off the board and onto the floor.
This wasn’t at all like him. This was the behavior we were desperately trying to cure our Foodie of. But there Foodie sat calm as a cucumber, while Middle Child stood accused of throwing a temper tantrum. I was in an alternate universe.
Again I wanted to question what they were saying. How could this be? But Middle Child didn’t deny it. What they said was true.
In that moment I couldn’t be on Middle Child’s side.
I wasn’t necessarily on the side of my other children either.
I had to be on the side of right.
Middle Child was wrong right then.
(WARNING: Stepping up on my soapbox.) This is why I get leery when we start calling excluding someone from a group bullying. I’m not making light of it. As I said I know what its like. Often though it’s just bad behavior that needs to be corrected. Sometimes it’s thoughtlessness. Occasionally it is a form of bullying. But other times the group is protecting itself. We need to learn to tell the difference before we start labeling children as bullies. (Stepping down now.)
I still loved my Middle Child. I still wanted to rescue him. But I also wanted, and still want, him to grow up to be a decent human being.
With that in mind I had to tell him that he was behaving badly. I had to tell him that his siblings were justified in excluding him. They were simply reacting to his bad behavior.
I wouldn’t want to play under those conditions either.
Sometimes we grownups behave badly too. Like on Tuesday morning when I was pouty and irritable with my husband. Oh I had my excuses. I hadn’t slept well, and woke up not feeling well. I had a pinched nerve in my arm… and so it went.
Basically I made it all about me. Again.
Feminist ideology that makes all men bad and all women virtuous has crept into the sub-conscience of even the most conservative Christian women. When there’s conflict in our marriages our first instinct is often to defend ourselves, and to condemn our husbands.
But that makes things worse.
Sisters, we are not always going to be right. We are not always the victims in our marriages. Sometimes our husbands are going to react in unpleasant ways to our bad behavior. And we’re not being bullied or persecuted when someone is reacting to our bad behavior.
Please know that I’m not talking about abuse here. It is never okay for a man to react with physical violence. It’s not okay for us to react that way either, ladies.
I’m talking about things like avoiding coming home from work, or spending the evening on his computer. All those little things he used to do for you? Maybe he stopped because you didn’t express any appreciation. Maybe he withdrew emotionally because you withdrew physically.
Maybe he headed off to the showers without saying a word because you were pouty and irritable. Oh wait, that was me.
If we want God to fight for us, we have to be on the same side as He is. But when we’re behaving badly He can’t be on our side.
He’s always on our side in the larger sense, in that He wants what’s best for us, but when we are wrong that means He can’t take our side.
We are His daughters, and He loves us, but our husbands are His sons, and He loves them too. God can’t have favorites. He can’t be partial to one side or the other. He always stands for right.
Just like I had to tell my son that he was wrong that day, when I am wrong God has to come along side me and say, “My dear daughter you’re wrong this time.”
Just like Jesus had to get harsh with the moneychangers. (John 2:14-16) He didn’t love them any less than He loves us. Yet he made a whip with His own hands to drive them from the temple with.
Grace is a miraculous thing. But grace isn’t a license to do what ever we want. That’s turning the grace of our Lord into lasciviousness. (Jude 1:4)
And forgiveness doesn’t mean that we are free from the consequences of our actions.
There are many applications here. God can’t be on our side when we’re murdering innocents, Or when we’re celebrating a lifestyle He has said is sinful. Or when we are pridefully thinking we’re better than anyone else.
God’s primary characteristic is love, but His primary concern is justice. It would be both unloving and unjust to allow us to continue to behave in way that would harm us or someone else.
A parent must always act in the best interest of their child, and God must always act in our best interest. Even if it means He can’t be on our side.