An ear-piercing scream reverberates through the air and my heart drops. Bracing myself for whatever awful thing just happened, I run into my kids’ playroom. My mind races to the worst-case scenario. I imagine the embarrassing conversation I will surely have with my husband, as I explain why we have to visit Doctor Daddy in the ER. Fighting against my instinct to panic, I tell myself I need to exude calm in the midst of chaos.
What I hear next sends tumultuous waves of incredulous relief over me. A little voice, full of all the righteous indignation she could muster, exclaims, “He took my Lamby and threw her on the ground.” Neither of my children was backing down. “But she took my new crayons and broke them on purpose!” A finger-pointing drama ensues and I legitimately feel like I should be allowed to add “crisis negotiator” to my resume.
But sometimes, parenting means your heart goes from the pit of your stomach to over-the-moon all in the same day. Of course, I’m not going to pretend that every argument ends with rainbows and butterflies. Occasionally, things just get ugly and we fall short. But thinking back to this particular incident, and the intensity at which my children went from “storming” to “performing” reconciliation, encourages my spirit. Inevitably, God uses children to uncover deep truths in profound ways. Through the heart of a child, God revealed three steps to seek reconciliation in a divided world.
“You broke my crayons on purpose! I’m so mad at you!” he exclaimed.
Understanding leads to empathy. Seeking to hear and understand is the foundation for reconciliation. We must start as good listeners. James 1:19-20 says,
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
In the midst of discord, simply restating someone’s words or reflecting their feelings helps them feel understood. When we identify someone’s thoughts and feelings, we correctly position ourselves to build a bridge with empathy.
“If someone took your crayons and broke them, how would that make you feel?” he asked.
Empathy leads to forgiveness. It’s not enough to simply know what the problem is. It is crucial to empathically connect how our knowledge of the issue impacts our own feelings and the feelings of others. If you struggle to correctly label your feelings or the feelings of others, it is important to find someone who safely models healthy emotional expression. 1 Peter 3:8 tells us,
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”
Empathize with another’s suffering. Identify the possible role our actions play in that suffering. Only then, can we have humble hearts to forgive or ask for forgiveness.
“I’d feel mad. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” she responded.
Forgiveness leads to reconciliation. Ultimately, we should attempt to lovingly restore our relationships if it is safe and possible to do so. Jesus is the ultimate example of understanding the issue of sin, empathizing with our feelings and experiences, and building a bridge of reconciliation through his sacrificial love. Colossians 3:13 urges us to,
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
In the end, we are all children of God. We, as parents, have the responsibility to lead our children and model the same Godly reconciliation we strive for them to emulate. Never underestimate the impact your peace-bringing has on the Kingdom of God.
While this may seem like a small, insignificant blip on the radar of my kids’ childhood, perhaps instances like these are actually microcosms of our broken human condition. How can we as Christians stand as ambassadors of reconciliation in a society saturated with polarization and division? Everyday, I see the feuds unfolding across social media and in person; it appears at times that our society values the Academy Awards over the Nobel Peace Prize. In some ways, we appear no more rational than the child lamenting a great injustice, clenching a fist full of broken crayons.
How are you bringing peace to your little corner of this divided world? I pray God continues to open doors of reconciliation and gives you the courage to walk through them.