It was a normal Sunday morning until I walked out of the service to gather my kids from children’s ministry. I quickly noticed my 10-year-old daughter across the lobby talking to an adult. Well, actually, the adult was talking to her and Jaime’s face indicated it wasn’t a pleasant conversation….
When I asked what the conversation was about Cathy informed me that she learned that morning that Jaime hadn’t invited Stephanie, a friend of Jaime’s and Cathy’s daughter, to her upcoming birthday party. She wanted Jaime to know that Stephanie’s feelings were hurt and wondered why Jaime hadn’t included her. Gratefully, I walked up before Jaime had the opportunity to respond.
I thanked Cathy for her thoughts (somewhat insincerely, I admit) and let her know the decision about not inviting Stephanie was one we had thoroughly discussed. I asked if we might talk about this later, then excused myself to find the younger kids. I’m sure Cathy picked up on my frustration with her, just as I had her frustration with Jaime. As soon as I put my arm around Jaime’s shoulder the tears started flowing. When we got home to have a private conversation without little ears around, Jaime expressed how embarrassed she was and asked me to call Stephanie’s mother to invite her to the party.
Whether or not the invitation list was adjusted isn’t important. What is important is what God did in my heart. When I later told Benny about the interaction, anger boiled up in my heart. I didn’t understand why Cathy approached my young daughter about her concerns rather than coming to me. Jaime’s embarrassment and hurt feelings weighed on my heart. I could understand her struggle. I, too, was bothered that my 10-year-olds feelings hadn’t been considered and felt it was wrong for her to be corrected by an adult over such a personal family matter.
Especially since Cathy was someone Jaime loved and respected.
But God is faithful. He tenderized my heart and helped me to see that my anger was just as wrong as Cathy’s inappropriate interaction with my daughter. The Holy Spirit brought conviction that my self-righteous willingness to elevate another’s sin as more weighty than my own was not only sinful, but wasn’t providing a good example to my daughter of how to resolve messy stuff that happens in relationships. Cathy was wrong. But so was I.
Here, though, is the most important thing I learned: I was doing the same thing to my husband (and others) as Cathy had done to Jaime.
When my husband did something that I didn’t think was right I too often went to him instead of going first to his Father. Just as I thought Cathy should have come to Benny or me to discuss her concerns about Jaime, I was neglecting to go to God in prayer before I approached His child….a son named Benny. If she had come to us, we could have heard and responded to her concerns and protected Jaime from the incident. Or if we thought her concerns had merit (in this or some other circumstance) we may have thought it would be helpful for Cathy to speak to Jaime with us there.
The point is this: perhaps Jaime and I needed to think through our reasons for not including Stephanie. Frankly, there had been some concerning interactions and attitudes with her that were the basis of the reasons why I nudged Jaime toward a smaller birthday party that year. Looking back, perhaps I was a little peeved at Stephanie and her parents for the way she treated others, including Jaime. Or maybe Jaime was wearied by Stephanie’s insistence to be included in everything that happened with their group of friends.
But Cathy should have still come to me.
When someone we know is doing something concerning our inclination is to (1) ignore it or (2) address it. Ken Sande calls the former response “peace faking.” For the sake of not rocking any boats or jeopardizing a friendship, we keep quiet. We may think we’re being gracious and forbearing (and perhaps we are) but sometimes we’re simply adding up a score that can lead to bitterness. The second option is not always the wrong one, but perhaps we’re quick to vent our frustrations or correction without first seeking to understand the person. Ken calls this “peace breaking.” I’m guilty of both.
God has called us to be peacemakers. Making peace can be a tough challenge that makes a bigger mess before it gets cleaned up. But the first step in approaching anyone’s child is to first talk to their parent. Especially when that child belongs to God.
I wish I could say I’ve consistently talked to Benny’s Father before cornering him to share my concerns. I haven’t. In fact, I’ve prematurely shared my thoughts with numerous of God’s other children without approaching Him first. I’m grateful to know that when I blow it, and give in to either peace faking or peace breaking, there is a throne of grace to which I can run for forgiveness, mercy and help. Because Jesus Christ brought reconciliation between God and His worst enemy — me! — I can trust Him to bring peace between me and others.
20 years later I still think of Cathy and Jaime. Lord, help me not to speak to one of Your children until I talk to you first.
P.S. Cathy and Stephanie aren’t the real names of those in this story. But Cathy was and remains my dear friend. Jaime still loves and respects her. That’s the gospel in real life. I asked her forgiveness for my self-righteous anger and she asked Jaime’s and my forgiveness for her selfish insensitivity. That meant that after I went to Cathy’s Father to talk to Him about the situation I sensed His permission to approach Cathy to share about the log in my own eye and the speck in hers. More on that next week!