The Ground Rules
"No son of mine is going to school looking like a confused cockatoo!"
I heard Rick loudly declaring from the downstairs bathroom. Our son Chip was in sixth grade at the time and had just moved from the "I care nothing about my appearance" phase into the "My unique looks will totally define my coolness to my peers" phase. As his parents, Rick and I were both struggling. The clothes, the hair, the attitude—this was all new territory for us.
We had, I admit, skirted the perimeter of this alien place with his older sister. But her serious, conservative nature had made for only a few short trips off the straight and narrow. Chip was a different story. We knew his adventuresome, on-the-edge spirit was going to be a major challenge to our nerves, our comfort level, perhaps even our sanity.
I heard the bathroom door slam and Chip's voice rise in irritation.
I sighed. How many times that week had he and his dad clashed over everything from television shows to bedtime? We definitely needed a better system to hash out these issues with both of our children. We needed a way for our family to work through issues objectively. Responding on a purely emotional level wasn't working for anyone.
After his run-in with Chip, Rick felt as defeated as I did and agreed there had to be a better way. We prayed, we talked, we went to the Scriptures and to more experienced friends for counsel. What we ended up with is a model for handling conflict that has made a tremendous difference in the lives of every member of our family. We believe it works so well because it's based on three scriptural principles: God's unchanging nature, human responsibility, and grace.
These three principles are made clear in Matthew 11:28-30, which became our family's guiding passage. It says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Although our children are now grown, they have often cited the model that grew out of these wonderful verses as playing a vital role in the strength of their faith, as well as their understanding of Scripture and God himself.
The Core of the Matter
We introduced this new way of handling problems one night after dinner. We got out the Bible and read the passage from Matthew. Then we explained how it related to our family.
We told our children that without God's absolutes to guide us, our lives become weary with confusion and burdened with sin. To avoid these conditions, we need to pay close attention to our source of peace and rest: Jesus. In verse 29, Jesus says to learn from him. He also tells us that there is a yoke to shoulder—basically, we need to submit willingly to his authority. That's where responsibility comes in.