Sunday, March 1, 2015

What really matters?

My Unedited Journal, March 1

Recently, while driving to an appointment, one of my older kids and I were discussing the roots of anger. The crux of our discussion centered on household pet peeves. The “little things” that people did or didn’t do in regards to our house “rules” had formed a mountain of angst that had begun to affect my child’s demeanor and tone of voice.

After asking some open-ended questions and listening to the answers, I remembered a phrase that had helped me overcome my own frequent bouts of frustration and aggravation.

Why does it matter?

Years ago I’d realized that I too was majoring on the little things when it came to house “rules” and this focus was affecting my peace and more importantly my relationships with various members of my family. 

Why did it really matter if someone left their towel on the floor again?
Why did it really matter if someone forgot to do a chore, spilled milk again, or put the carton of juice back in the refrigerator when it only had an ounce left?

In the grand scheme of things, these pet peeves were….petty.

I explained to this child that my angst had to do with inconvenience. I didn’t want to be inconvenienced by another person’s lack of attentiveness to our house “rules”.

But life happens and inconveniences will never go away.

Life isn’t fair and frankly, as a teenager I learned that the idea of fairness is an allusion.

I explained to my child that what began to matter more than the inconvenient habits of family members was my relationship with those same family members.

I was responsible for my attitude towards them just as Jesus is responsible for his attitude towards the law-breaker. The Bible says that Jesus did not come to condemn them, but to invite them into empowering and life-giving relationship with Him.

I shared that the more I focused on God’s love for me, the more I cared about the little things that I did that hindered my relationship with Him. No matter what I did, big or little, God never withdrew from me. It’s like in the Garden of Eden. Although Adam hid in his sin, God the Father came to find him.  God always pursues us even when we break His house “rules”.

So now, no matter what infringement to the orderliness of the household, no matter how many times someone forgets the “simple” requests that I make, no matter how many times they leave their bedroom light on all day, I make sure that any quick frustration that comes up is dissipated by my desire to keep peace and harmony flowing between me and the offender. This doesn’t mean that the offender doesn’t get a consequence. For example, I have a mason jar in which my kids have to put a dollar if I find their bedroom light on for more than 30 minutes when they are sitting somewhere else in the house. With a big family, our electric bill can get sky high! This has proven to be a successful deterrent. I am no longer angry or aggravated when I address the particular child. I simply remind them of the consequence.

When the cup of water spills on the table for the second day in a row due to a younger child’s carelessness, I take a breath, remember their age, and remind myself that I am still training them to be aware and careful. The inconvenient timing of the spill should not determine my demeanor and interaction with them. With every infraction, I want to model God, who continues to pursue our hearts with kindness, even when consequences (like giving them a paper towel and showing them how to wipe up their mess) must be meted out.

Peter denied Jesus three times. Yet Jesus pursued Peter in his shame not to accuse him or berate him, but to affirm and reestablish him as his disciple. Maintaining relationship is what matters to Jesus.