Some years back now, I had a wonderful experience in speaking with my son, Mike, who was headed away from home to help lead a bunch of younger boys at Kanakuk, a Christ-centered sports camp, and then immediately to attend Manhattan Christian College and Kansas State where he earned a dual degree in ministry and business. (This is also where he found the love of his life and his wife, Jeri. But that is for another blog post! They are pictured together here.) We were anticipating the many changes that he and we were preparing to encounter in this new phase of his life and then also looked back on his years being reared in our home. I asked him for his input and insight into my style of relating to him as a father. I was interested in knowing if he felt that I had pursued him well and had taught him enough things and the right things.
There were several very affirming things we were able to say to one another. (Like the timeliness of our "serious talks"..i.e. not too many!...my involvement with and enthusiastic support of him in his childhood activities and the interest I took in his friends' lives.) But one thing stood out to us both as we reminisced on our family experience.
I can best say it the way that I read about it in a book I had recently read called, The Anatomy of Peace, a collaborative effort written by the Arbinger Institute. One main point they make is that we tend to focus on "correcting what is wrong"...especially when there is relational tension or challenge...instead of focusing on "helping things go right" in the broader context of the overall relationship. It relates to creating an atmosphere of peace...first in our own hearts, then into the relational mix and finally into any "problem solving" that becomes necessary.
God has kindly blessed our family by minimizing "strife" and granting us a measurable degree of "peace" in the prevailing environment of our home. (If we have failed, it is probably that we didn't learn how to express our frustrations and offenses a bit more openly. But I'm not sure...I'm still praying and talking through this one.) This provided the needed "breathing room" for the members of our family to live from their hearts without fear of any major rejections or injustices coming back upon them. As parents, we have been careful to "choose our battles wisely" because we can't create the kind of atmosphere that "helps things go right" in our homes and...that children need to flourish as human beings under God...if we are constantly "picking fights" by finding fault with and striving over the relatively minor imperfections, annoyances, unfulfilled personal preferences, immaturities, mistakes, foibles and anything or everything that tends to "bug us".
To capitalize on a rather humorous saying of Jesus--we will inevitably end up swallowing "camels" if we attempt to strain out all the "gnats" of family life! If we become angry, intolerant and petty as parents/siblings, we may "strain out the gnats" and get our way, but we will "swallow the camels" of losing our connection with our kids' hearts. The "art of graceful gnat swallowing" is needful if we want the forward movement that comes from "riding" the camels of our lives instead of being seen "ingesting" them!
A VOICE OF HOPE
Michael Sullivant's Blog
I am a child of God, husband, father, grandfather, spiritual father, author, speaker and hope coach.