Family Feuds: Redeeming the Moments

Finding God in the Chaos

Last night we had a situation in our home that stirred up chaos and turmoil. It felt for several hours as though all hell had unleashed its power on us. Out of respect for my children, I will not share details or names.

Having grown up in a home where unbridled rage had us all walking on egg shells, we have tried to make our home a safe place for everyone. Safe from violence and abuse, but also safe to be real, to struggle, to share feelings and express ourselves. What is stuffed down and bottled up has the most potential for destruction. What is spoken and addressed can be worked through.

Our home has an abundance of love. Each child has unique love language, unique needs and the desire to be validated. Hugs, tons of them, are what the youngest two prefer every day. Our older three children no longer like hugs all the time. We try to honour and respect that need for space, even though my love language is physical touch and hugs are an important part of communicating affection.

In parenting we try to set healthy boundaries while still encouraging age-appropriate independence. My guess is we err on the side of caution, without being totally over protective. We try to encourage our children, communicate with them and stay in touch with them through the various stages of their young lives.

Our home is normal. We have disagreements, spats, and days when we wouldn’t mind space and distance from each other. Sometimes the spats get out of control, though not often.

Last night was one of those nights for several children. We went out for dinner as a family and were enjoying ourselves when it started. A little teasing, a little antagonism here and there, gradually escalated to hostile behaviour between two siblings.  Tim & I took turns playing ref and coach, trying to get them to see things differently, getting in the middle when necessary–not literally, as it would have been rude to get on the table–and hoped for a peaceful resolution. When Tim went to pay, one of them had to accompany him. On the drive home, one sat in the front seat of the van with Tim, the other in the very back. I was in my own car, which, even though my A/C wasn’t working, was a pleasant and peaceful drive.  I played my favourite music, at my favourite volume—loud. (Some teenage habits die hard… especially if you lived through them in the 80’s.)

We dropped the children off and I joined Tim in the van to head out for about an hour on our own. Things between our ‘Cain and Abel’ were not entirely resolved, but there was no reason to be concerned. We’ve walked this way before and wouldn’t expect things to escalate to a dangerous level.

Sitting in the living room near the front window, when we returned home, was one of the two feudists, looking like a violent thunder-cloud in human form.  One of our youngest sons ran to me and announced that the other child had run away while we were out.

That’s a jolting announcement when you return home from a quick outing. My mother heart immediately prepared to abandon the rest of the world in order to find my child in the dark. Tim tried to assure me that there was nothing to worry about and if I waited, our child would return soon. Not easily detoured from my agenda, after calling out a few times, I jumped in my car. I’ve had friends lose their children for months at a time. It can happen to anyone.

I was barely out the lane when I saw a shadow running barefoot toward home down the sidewalk. Relief. Pure, relief.

I backed into the driveway, parked the car and headed for the front door. We were barely on the porch yet when our second youngest son flew out the front door, tried to grab his sibling. At first I thought it was a wrestling move—his way of handling the stress. Just as suddenly, he turned, ran toward me, threw his arms around me and began sobbing uncontrollably.

That is when I realized just how terrified he had been.  After we spent some time exploring the emotions and fears, saying bedtime prayers and doing good-night hugs and kisses, I asked if they were ok and ready to sleep.

They nodded. “But I was really scared,” one said.

“I know. It is scary,” I said. My own childhood memories were pushed aside, needing to deal with the situation, but I was very aware that this would be a trigger. I’ve learned to recognize the signs, to lay them aside so that I can be there for my children and support them in their own struggles.

Fighting for the Next Generation

Back downstairs the real battle was waiting. We had not yet heard the details of the story. We took them, one at a time, to hear them out and explored their hearts, the triggers, and their feelings about what had taken place.

Both of them have been bullied in school and the way they have chosen to deal with it, the vows they have made, played powerfully into the events of the evening.

We asked a lot of questions, helping them to understand their own responses but also helping them understand the other party’s needs and perception of what had happened.

Partway through the first conversation, our second youngest son reappeared, holding his Bible. He is quiet by nature, a very deep thinker. He held out his Bible and showed me the verses I had underlined when I gave him the Bible for Valentine’s Day.

Hope and release welled up inside of me as I read the verses, not to mention that my heart burst with pride. He had turned to truth, to his Heavenly Papa, when all seemed so wrong in his little world. He found peace and comfort in the Holy Spirit. I knew he would be ok.

1 John 4:16,18-19
16 God is Love… 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him[b]because He first loved us.

Something happened to my heart, as my little guy turned and disappeared, as quietly as he had appeared, and went back to bed. The tears started and would not stop. We have fought hard for our children, so that the chains of generational darkness I come from would not be passed on. That the violence, aggression and hate would end with us, and not destroy our children and the generations to come.

I was overcome with grief and yet just as powerful was the awareness that the love of God is the answer.

After we discussed the events of the evening, we asked three main questions, and together explored the answers.

  1. What do you think God thinks of you?
  2. What do you think Daddy thinks of you?
  3. What do you think Mommy thinks of you?

We followed the same process with the second child, affirming each of their identities as God’s children and ended with Tim and I each praying a blessing over each of them.

They apologized to each other and the older one went to the younger siblings and took ownership for the fear and trauma brought on them by the evening.

“Remind Me Who I am”   ~ Jason Gray~ 

When all was said and done, I thank God for last night—all of it—because it opened the door to doing battle at a new level for our children and the next generation. Everything that came out, we discovered, had been there for many years. It would have gone with them for life, but instead God allowed healing to begin.

Superficial ‘niceness’ does not compare to the bond that is created by going to the next level, unearthing the lies that are hidden there, and finding our true identity in God. I am so proud of my kids for being willing! I saw their hearts at a whole new level last night!

Don’t fear the hard times in family. Behind each battle lies territory that we are meant to reclaim. If we look beyond the battle to the reward, and dare to fight for our children rather than with them, it’s the best thing that can happen!

© Trudy Metzger 2012