A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
One of the really beautiful things about having adult children is that one can sit back and take pleasure in conversation between them without having to be the monitor. They reach the age where they enjoy each other and appreciate who each has become.
I’ve just returned from a family birthday dinner. My two children, spouses, and four grandchildren were all there, chatting, beaming, loving on one another. Even the grands were laughing and teasing each other and sharing funny pictures they’d created with their IPhones. I could resonate with the Psalmist who said, “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (Psalm 133:1) The evening ended with the children’s enthusiastic discussion of where we should all go for vacation next year.
I am certain my children love and appreciate each other because of family traditions that began generations ago. I watched my mom and her two brothers interact and knew that they had been taught respect and love for others and for themselves. And they learned to entertain each other. It was fun hearing them tell stories of growing up with neighborhood children parading in and out of the house. Everyone always sensed they were welcome.
When my brother and I were growing up, if we got even close to arguing, my mom would make us recite to each other, “… be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32) That wasn’t so bad, but after we’d spoken Scripture to one another, we had to hug and kiss. That was deterrent enough to keep us on the straight and narrow.
We spent nights with our grandparents, often sleeping on the big feather bed with little Grandma sandwiched between us. We’d roll to the center, and when the bed slats shifted, the whole contraption fell to the floor with the three of us laughing hysterically. We’d put the bed back together, and the process was repeated until we were all so tired, we didn’t bother with the slats and just slept on the floor.
Dinner time at home was special because the rules were suspended. Except for good manners. One night my dad put giant marbles in his pocket and told us he was so tired, he thought his eyes would drop out. Suddenly, he managed to make it appear that his eyes were falling out of his head. My brother laughed so hard, he and his chair fell over. And then we all had a turn doing the marble trick.
Simple little times of laughter and fun with our parents and grandparents who were otherwise the unquestioned authority figures in our home. But everyone knew how to laugh and to ensure that we were all included.
There are so many encouraging stories and admonitions in the Bible for parents and for families – from the single person, to the widow, to the orphan, to large or small families. We learn to train children in the way they should go; we’re admonished to model Christ-like behavior and to discipline with gentleness and care; and we’re instructed to pray for and with each other. Mostly, we learn to love
Then as our children grow up, it’s funny how they replicate what they’ve seen and heard. And it’s so good to see them loving each other.
Father, thank you for working in all our lives and for making up the differences when we fail as parents and family members. Help us to support and encourage our children as they pick up their responsibilities as parents. And help us to remember that we made our share of mistakes. Thanks for your patience. AMEN.