"He called me a 'dumb butt'!"
"She said I was the worst person in the world!"
"It's because he pinched me really hard!"
"Well, she wasn't being FAIR!"
These are lyrics to what I like to call The Same Old Song. It's the song of sibling rivalry. Any parent with more than one child less than eighteen years apart knows this song well. We could sing it by heart. I hear it nearly every day in some variation or another. It makes my neck hairs stand up and the muscles underneath them tighten. But surprisingly, my first reaction is to join in! Let's add mom's voice to the mix and see what kind of tune that makes, shall we?
No. Lately I've been feeling it deeper. I've been showing my kids what their fighting really does to me. I show it in my eyes and I say it with my words, "Ouch. It hurts Mommy's heart when you guys fight." Not that empathy or compassion would even occur to an elementary school child, just ask the nearest bug (crunch). But I want to be as honest as I can with them. I don't want to hide my true feelings about them, whether good or bad. They have as much of me as they can get and I want to be authentic. So I've had to get past the immediate visceral response an explosion of tattle tales instigates in me. I've had to discover what really bothers me about it.
I desire peace. Not only is it pleasant to move around in, it also promotes healing. I desire unity. It's a beautiful thing that can create many opportunities for kids to grow into healthy people. I desire love. The most wonderful thing we can experience in this place. I want all of these things for my kids and their future. Fighting threatens all of that.
I realized something about God's family during this process. The Church has it's own sibling rivalry. How can we not? We are a race of polar opposites who make up the diverse parts of one Body, all with a slightly different function. Lots of misunderstandings and mistakes trip us up with each other. Some have impossible standards for others that God hasn't even placed on us. Others are barely out of the sin-darkened woods of the world. Not many of us have learned God's empathy or compassion; we are just like little children.
When we won't offer grace and mercy to one another and instead hold grudges and resist reconciliation, God's countenance falls. It's like He's pleading with us to stop. The Father looks upon us with patience and longsuffering of infinite proportions but also shows us the pain on His face. His Spirit give us a sense that all is not right between us. "First, go and be reconciled with your brother..." we hear it somewhere deep within. "But, Lord! How can I?"
At home, the tattler usually expects me to discipline the offending party. I've even been accused of favoritism because of my leniency or hesitation to rebuke. But I remind them that both people have a responsibility to reconcile in a fight. "What did you do?" I ask the tattler. It's a lot harder for them to come forward with that information. Sometimes it's hard for us to admit our sins to God, too.
God is changing us into the likeness of His Son through the means of His Spirit growing within us. This maturation brings unity and peace to the Body of Christ. As we allow God to do His work individually over months and years spent abiding in Him, we will find that we forgive easier. We reconcile easier. We long for peace and unity and love with our brethren even as we long for God Himself. Sibling rivalry in the home is similar to the immature state of God's children. We only need a safe place to learn and grow in Christ. We'll get there. Hope will keep us going.