We were spinning out of control. Our family was simply too busy, always running in different directions for the children’s sports and school. Saturday mornings were the same and on Sundays we scrambled to church. The middle boy complained about having to go anywhere at all while the oldest was always needing a ride to band and water polo practice. The youngest signed up for every event, club, and team, requiring the rest of us to shuttle him around. Our world revolved around them (though mainly him)… until the world came to a screeching halt on Thursday, March 13.
While I don’t want to minimize the deeply tragic effects this pandemic has had on many, and will continue to have on many more, I sense that The Lord is redeeming the days as we endure them. Though the global economy will surely suffer, God’s economy is on the rise. God values family. While we value our families too, the reality is that many of us have been too busy to invest in them as we should. We have all the time in the world to pour into our families now.
Shelter-in-place, safer-at-home, social distancing
We have our shelter-in-place and you’re sheltering with your people at your place. Safer-at-home is our focus. As we sequester away with our loved ones in an effort to stay physically safer, the added bonus is the safe haven it affords us emotionally, relationally and spiritually as a family unit. Embracing this slower pace, is allowing us to purposefully embrace one another. As we lay down our busyness, let’s get to the business of loving one another!
Sitting at the table together for breakfast we’re opening up the Word. “Read The Good Book and other good books” has always been our family motto, but in recent years we’ve been too busy. We’re not too busy now. We’re not too busy for what we say we value most.
Before you think this transition has been easy let me confess that the first week home felt like we were all under house arrest. The days were filled with fights, brothers bickering, and constant complaints. Slowly but surely, however, the boys have started to relax. They’re playing together in ways they haven’t played together in years. It’s as though they’re remembering how dear they are to one another.
Perhaps it has to do with the fact we’re not running from one self-focused event to another, instead the kids are able to focus on each other — they’re serving meals, doing dishes, helping a younger sibling with math, giving up the corner seat on the couch for someone else during a family movie, climbing the hill to pick oranges and squeezing them for breakfast, shooting hoops and working in the yard together… so much togetherness.
Perhaps you’ve heard the familiar phrase, “What the devil intended for evil God meant for good.” Did you know those words are Bible based? In the book of Genesis we’re told the story of a man with many sons, and the youngest was Joseph. For many reasons the older brothers despised him. They came up with and carried out an evil plan against their young brother; beating him to a pulp, ripping his robe, throwing him into a pit to die, but selling him as a slave instead.
Years later, when God had redeemed his life and saved the entire Hebrew nation through him, Joseph told his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:11, NASB).
In His recent book, You’ll Get Through This, Max Lucado wrote:
“Nothing in [Joseph’s] story glosses over the presence of evil. Quite the contrary. Bloodstains, tearstains are everywhere. Joseph’s heart was rubbed raw against the rocks of disloyalty and miscarried justice. Yet time and time again God redeemed the pain. The torn robe became a royal one. The pit became a palace. The broken family grew old together. The very acts intended to destroy God’s servant turned out to strengthen him.
“You meant evil against me,” Joseph told his brothers, using a Hebrew verb that traces its meaning to “weave” or “plait.”
“You wove evil,” he was saying, “but God rewove it together for good.”
God, the Master Weaver. He stretches the yarn and intertwines the colors, the ragged twine with the velvet strings, the pains with the pleasures. Nothing escapes His reach. Every king, despot, weather pattern, and molecule are at His command. He passes the shuttle back and forth across the generations, and as He does, a design emerges. Satan weaves; God reweaves.”
The NIV translation says it this way: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
“The saving of many lives.”
After two and a half weeks at home as a family, not going anywhere, simply being together, I’m thinking that God is up to something special. It not that He’s unconcerned with the bell curve, but He’s ringing it like a bell, calling families back together. Distancing us from others so that no distance and no distractions remain to stop us from being intimately social together.
While I believe God is actively in the business of “saving many lives” these life-threatening days, He’s also in the business of “saving many families.” God is saving us from our busyness so that we might get to the business of loving Him and loving one another. He’s saving us from the damaging effects of being so ridiculously self-focus and activities-focused keeping us from focusing, truly focusing, on each other.
Of course, all this togetherness may feel like it’s tearing your family apart. I’m sorry if that’s the case. If you want to throw in the towel and throw all the people out, you’re not alone. This charge to parent for days on end with with no end in sight, and no school or sports to give reprieve is hard. And the hard is amplified if your togetherness is miserable. Hard parenting struggles may be another sort of bell, signifying that there is more hard parenting ahead. However, we can decide to see the issues in our homes as a gift today. We have the time (at long last) to finally face the issues we’ve been enduring (or avoiding) head on.
Our kids don’t need another baseball practice with us cheering from the stands. What they need is life practice, obedience practice. They need to practice clearing the table and making their beds and putting others first, with us cheering from the kitchen! This is the time, this is your opportunity to help them.
If you are struggling in your home with multiple little people melting down over their online schoolwork, throwing fits and acting disrespectful, let me encourage you to partner with the Lord in the days and weeks ahead. As some of the evil tendencies in our children’s nature and immaturity rise to the surface during this solitary sort of confinement, let’s choose to see the time at home with them not as a pain to endure but as an opportunity to take advantage of. We’re usually too busy to deal with their backtalk and disrespect, whining and complaining, but we have the time to tackle some of those issues now.
Choose a few recurring issues you see in your family, whether it’s their unwillingness to pick up after themselves of your family’s lack of time together in the Word, and make a plan to use this evil time for good. While Covid-19 has reached it’s sickly arms around the whole wide world, The One who made the world is reaching His arms around our homes, repurposing the evil for good, reweaving our families back together again.
Need help dealing with some of your children’s most common struggles, and your own struggle to stay calm and kind as you’re all cooped up together? Grab a copy of TRIGGERS: Exchanging Parents’ Angry Reactions for Gentle Biblical Responses. The chapters are short and applicable, and will leave you different than they found you — that’s right, they won’t just change your child’s behavior, they’ll help to change yours! When your kids do wrong… you can still do right.
Although we are social distancing, you can join us for a Book Study in our Facebook page, Gentle Parenting with Amber and Wendy. Use this unexpected time at home to pinpoint some your kid’s struggles — struggles you’ve been too busy to address for far too long. You’ve all the time in the world now, so let’s partner to carefully correct them together!
What the devil intended to kills us, God is repurposing to save us — as families. Don’t miss out on this momentous time in history by crying and complaining about your kids. With a little intentional parenting you may actually look back and say, “That was when our family finally learned to be loving, honoring, obedient, self-sacrificing, and kind.”
This piece originally appeared at WendySpeake.com, published with permission.