I can hear their angry words from the kitchen. It feels like the hundredth argument between them already this morning. I sigh and glance at the clock.
How can I teach a brother and a sister to be kind to each other and to really love in word and deed? What wise words would convince them it is better to give than to receive? What form of discipline would train them to put the well-being of others before their own?
The truth is I don’t know how to solve all these sibling spats in a way that points them to God and teaches them selflessness.
How do I slay the ugly monster of self in each of them? I see it so clearly because I see it in myself. Self raises her ugly head with a voice to match and demads things go her way. Self manipulates and twists to promote her own agenda. Self is greedy and jealous and – well – selfish.
All my first instincts fall short.
I’m tempted to say, Who had it first? But I’ve never seen that in Scripture.
I’m tempted to respond with angry words of my own. There is something in Scripture about that.
I send them both to time-out until I can figure out what to do.
It seems my words about being kind and giving and loving often fall on deaf little ears. They answer my questions correctly, apologize and forgive each other, then shortly after they are fighting over something else. When will they learn? When will I see heart change in them?
When will I learn? When will my own black heart change?
What is causing the fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them.
James 4:1-2 (NLT)
I sit down in between them on the time-out step and ask them to tell me about their behaviour. They tell me it wasn’t kind. The little one says God wants us to be kind. She’s heard it before. She knows what to say. They say sorry and hug and forgive each other.
All is forgiven and forgotten… until the next time.
How can I lead these precious little ones into greater obedience if I still struggle with the same things?
We are all in desperate need of grace.