“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand…For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks…” Matthew 12:25,34b
In this passage, Jesus addresses the Pharisees when they accuse him of being the devil himself. Jesus point blank tells them, “Every kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” (Sidenote: This definitely makes me really concerned about the future of the USA with the constant division between republicans and democrats, but alas, that’s not the purpose of this blog…)
Jesus then goes on to say, “Every city or household divided against itself cannot stand.” And that’s where I am focused this morning. The household. If you know me personally, you will know that my one constant prayer request for about 2 years running now is that we will have wisdom to know how to parent our children as individuals. Admittedly, parenting is a hard task, and I tip my hat to those who tackle it by themselves. Unless God puts me in that situation, I can’t imagine ever having to do it. With our oldest now in college, you would think parenting would be easier, but I’m not finding that to be the case. At times, I find it overwhelming, especially right now with a full-blown adolescent teenaged boy in the house.
Have you ever built a tower with Lincoln logs or Legos? Now, truth be told, I haven’t built very many, because my children never really played with those toys. In fact, Jacob told me the other day that he didn’t play with them because they left nothing to the imagination. (I thought they were so popular because you could use your imagination to build anything with them!) Not Jacob, though. He would rather create something out of paper and tape instead of putting together pre-made pieces that link together to form something. “That’s real creativity, mom.”
Top & Bottom Left: A self portrait Top Right: A set of aerodynamic wings he swears will be able to help him fly (if only he were the weight of a bird) Bottom right: a net, made from paper and tape, twisted together and tied in knots
Indeed, he has made some incredible things by being creative in this way, and it’s true, even when he was a toddler, he didn’t play with the box of Legos we had purchased. But if I gave him tape, paper and/or a cardboard box, he would play for hours. He somehow had a plan in his mind of what the completed project was supposed to look like, and he would execute the plans until the project was perfected.
Top Left - a revolver made completely from tape...not that I'm proud of my son designing a revolver, but you have to admit it's pretty cool. Top right: I believe this ended up being transformed into some kind of a shield Bottom Left: No, this isn't a pitchfork, it's a triton Bottom Right: "Rubberband Man", one of my personal favorites, made completely from rubberbands, no glue or anything else.
So if you by chance have played with Legos, imagine working with a partner and laying your foundational Lego pieces. You begin to build higher and higher, but you realize that something doesn’t look or feel quite right. You look down and realize the reason is because some of the foundation bricks you laid are no longer there. Perplexed, you discover that you’re not working with your partner at all to build one big edifice. You are working together, side by side to build the same thing, but your idea of how it should be done is quite different from your partner, so you end up with two smaller, less stable, very different creations. Your partner is building a creation and you are building yours.
When Jesus says “a house divided against itself cannot stand” I can only think of how important it is to be unified as parents in how we raise our children. This is easier said than done, as I'm learning daily! Our faith is the first foundation that everything is built on, but then it gets a little tougher. If you’ve struggled as a parent, maybe like me, you just don’t know what the right answer is. Do you make them do their homework or do you let them fail? Are you rescuing them too much or are you being the kind of parent that God wants you to be? Maybe you’re new to parenting, and you wonder if you should spank your child or if you can correct megative behavior with “time-outs”. Maybe your husband/wife doesn’t believe in spanking and you believe you should. Maybe you and your spouse are together building your own Lego creations...separately
As I read this passage, I am reminded that I do not have all the answers. There are so many “unknowns” in the realm of parenting. But this one thing I do know, the foundation of parenting must be firmly grounded in Jesus Christ. I find it interesting that Jesus later says “…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Last week was extremely stressful on me. Our family was out in California to take our oldest to college, and leaving her out there was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. My husband stayed an extra week, but I had to come home with our son so he could start his sophomore year of high school. The stress of getting back in the school groove, combined with a week of single parenting, combined with massive stress at work after being gone for 12 days culminated in a massive outpouring of anger on my son Thursday night.
After he went to bed, the Holy Spirit nudged me (kicked me, actually) and I realized that although the content of what I said to my son was 100% accurate and truthful, the way I delivered it was in no way a resemblance of my Heavenly Father. I’m so thankful He gives us fresh mercies every morning, because on Friday morning, the first thing I said to Jacob was that I was sorry for losing my temper with him. I asked him to forgive me, and he did. As I look back over last week, my daily quiet time was limited to reading the daily “Jesus Calling” while sitting in the bathroom. I was going a mile a minute dealing with life's stresses that I pretty much neglected my relationship with God. On top of that, I don’t sleep well when my husband is out of town, so suffice it to say I was one big mess emotionally, and I pretty much relieved all those stresses on my son. “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Yep, that’s what took place for sure. Again, I’m so thankful that God is a forgiving God who gives new mercies!
But back to parenting... “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Just like Jacob had a plan for each of his creations, as parents, I'm reminded that we must have a plan. We must have a plan for discipline, for teaching our kids the Bible, and for preparing them for life. When our kids were younger, my husband and I used to have an annual retreat where we planned out yearly goals for our kids and our marriage. It was always a time to evaluate what we’ve done right and wrong and a time to ask God to show us the next step. We no longer have annual retreats, per se, because at this stage of parenting, those meetings have to come much more frequently as we navigate the tender adolescent teenaged years. Trust me, they more closely resemble weekly, if not daily meetings, trying to come up with a plan that will help tackle whatever the daily problem is.
Top Left: Helmet (made to size); he eventually spray painted it gold, his favorite color Top Right: A working bow and arrow, made from post-it notes, tape, and rubberbands Middle Left: An army ninja Bottom Left: turtle spinner
So my thoughts are this: Do you have a firm foundation in your home and marriage? In Texas, we have to actually water the foundation of our homes to avoid cracks. Figuratively, are you watering your foundation with the Living Water of Jesus Christ on a regular basis so your heart overflows His love? Are you consistent in your discipline? Do you have a unified creative plan in place for each of your individual children? Do you regularly have marital staff meetings to evaluate your family and set goals? Are you working together to raise the kids or are you workig your plan and your spouse working his, hoping one of you is doing something right. And as you work those plans, are you spending the necessary time in the Word so that your heart is filled with God-thoughts and they outpour through your lips?
All these random thoughts about family, children, and being creative as a unified parental front do really hit home for me. Parenting is tough. Sometimes I want to give up. Sometimes I feel like I can't find a creative way to fix the problem. Sometimes I try to tell God this isn't what I signed up for. (Honesty is the best policy, right? And I'm just being honest here!) I'm just so thankful for God's Word and how He allows phrases to jump out and hit home in my heart, right when I need to be reminded of them the most. I'm thankful, too, for a Godly husband who leads our family but mostly for a loving God who loves me in spite of my sinful outbursts and mid-life temper tantrums.
--- Beth Banfill