“NOAH! Jesse is touching your Nintendo!” Grace is sitting at breakfast, munching her toaster strudel. She is our meddler, our fire starter. She is very good at her job.
Noah comes tearing over from the couch, bent on annihilation. I try to stop him in his tracks – “Noah, NO! He barely touched it – he’s already put it back!” But I am too late. Noah flies past me to his brother with open hands; hands that grab his brother’s arms and squeeze and pinch in unison. Noah shakes with the effort. His teeth are gritted. He says nothing – only squeezes. This is almost worse than yelling alone, because I can subdue yelling quicker than physical violence. There is no need to tell you, of course, what this did to Jesse. He still bears the bruise.
Jesse receives M&M’s for using the potty. Noah is sure to ask for his own. Grace gets something from the treasure box for cleaning her room. Noah screams it’s unfair, that he needs something, too. If a friend is picked as classroom helper, Noah will make sure to inform his teacher of when it ought to be his turn. Anything he deems unjust warrants hitting or squeezing or pinching. He can go from quiet to raging in a blink.
Noah always gets his pound of flesh.
I’ve often thought how foolish these struggles are between my children: the fighting over a television channel, the screaming over the last honey bun, the terrorizing that accompanies a stolen toy. They don’t speak to each other afterwards. They slam doors and throttle each other. I slide unwillingly into my role as referee multiple times a day. How easy it would be to compromise and be done with it!
Enter conviction, stage left. Funny how these miniature people magnify our own shortcomings.
“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:18
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
Sometimes God’s word requires a bit of interpretation. But you don’t need a Master’s of Divinity to figure out that the Lord is telling us to stop the fighting and let it go, already.
I’m prone to blue-face parenting just like everyone else. I repeat and cajole and sometimes it’s like screaming into a hurricane for all the good it does. Really, the only way for me to get this message through to my kids at this malleable stage in their lives is to model it first.
A very good friend of mine recently closed off certain areas of her life – and certain people – for no apparent reason. She took up with other friends, completely redirected her interests, and let other relationships (including ours) completely lapse. I was shattered. We had lived our lives side-by-side. We had traveled together. Our children were in the same class. But now she was suddenly shutting me out as easily as turning off a light. For weeks, I fumed and deliberated. I complained to Matt and my other friends. I grumbled constantly and carried a grudge that I’m certain seeped through my skin each time I saw her.
Finally, I gave up. I realized two things: (1) there’s no art, as Shakespeare said, to find the mind’s construction in the face. I didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. She was searching for something. Maybe she just needed time to find it. (2) There is no injury so great that the Lord cannot repair it. Whatever she’s done to me is not mine to repay.
Lord, may my life be a paradigm of forgiveness and grace. May I learn to let things go and practice loving over grudge-holding.
And please, Lord. Let Jesse stop touching Noah’s Nintendo.