I mentioned previously that the Wilsons’ advice helped us get our marriage off to a strong start. The biggest and best piece of advice they gave was to never leave one another while out of fellowship. That isn’t that you can’t leave until you agree, but you can’t leave while you have unconfessed and unforgiven sin between you. The principle is not to let unresolved sin have any place or time in your relationship. It is a high ideal, but it is a good one to strive for. Matt also insisted from the beginning we never do “cop out” versions of forgiveness. It has to be plain dealing: “Please forgive me for [sin]” and “I forgive you.” “Sorry” is for regret that had no malice, no sin behind it and “It’s ok” is not acceptable, because sinning isn’t ok. This was quite stretching for me, but particularly after teaching and enforcing it with the children, as well as ten years’ practice, I see the beauty and the peace it gives to life.
Keeping short accounts leaves no room for resentment, no room for bitterness. It also means that even in the midst of argument, I am more careful in how I express myself, or where I let myself go — better to not sin in the first place than have to ask for forgiveness and make it whole and right again. It also means I can express myself openly and honestly and have confidence that we are both striving to reach unity and oneness, and in the ways we fail on our way there, restoration will be sought.
In short, remaining in fellowship has been life and health and peace to our marriage. It is a way to practice the love 1 Corinthians 13 commends: not irritable, not resentful, rejoicing with the truth, bears all things, keeps no record of wrongs. If this is an unfamiliar concept to you, here is a short video clip of Doug explaining it and it is a primary application in Reforming Marriage.
Now, I have been very encouraged and convicted of late by Rachel Jankovic — Doug & Nancy’s youngest — her articles, video clips and book: Loving the Little Years. One line in particular struck me in an article she wrote for Resurgence — “Homemade People.” She wrote:
They are learning about themselves by learning about the family around them. They are learning what kinds of jokes make this family laugh. They are learning about who God is and what he is like. They are accumulating experiences that could never be planned, never given outside the context of constant, unrelenting fellowship.
The phrase has stuck with me. I realized that what Rachel has been doing is taking her parents’ marriage advice and applying it to parenting.
It makes total sense. I feel a little dense.
It is so hard. I get a total fail on that front, even while crediting that piece of advice for the strength of our marriage relationship.
Yet, here I was wondering what “relationship” with kids would really even be or look like, because when other people talk about it, sometimes I feel like they are just on a different planet. How are authority and relationship even compatible, really? But, does God call us to relationship with Him? Yes. And how much greater is that authority and distance?
Unrelenting fellowship. Pursuing our children.
Don’t let fussiness, whining, tantrum, argumentation go, either by sweeping it under the rug or by just sending them away to deal with it themselves. “And don’t come back until I can tolerate you again,” is typically my not-so-hidden communication. Don’t leave each other until the account is clear and the relationship and fellowship completely restored.
Listen to this post!
What if instead of communicating, “I can’t stand you right now,” I communicated, “I’m not going to leave you until we are right and restored.” Which will build security in my daughter? Which would teach right dealing to my sons? Which is the right thing to do?
I feel that I don’t have the energy to take that dare, but perhaps that is precisely the point. It brings me to a place where I can’t do without God’s grace. It requires patience, steadfastness, unselfishness, and self-control that I can’t gin up, even with a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine). But those are precisely the qualities the Holy Spirit is here to give. And if I am drawing on His strength rather than my own, how much better a grace will my children see, know, and learn?
We all fall short; we all need short accounts kept for us.
This unrelenting love, this keeping short accounts, includes asking the children’s forgiveness when I sin against them. I do this sometimes, but not as often as I should — which is as often as I sin against them. If I break a promise, lash out, ignore them, become irritable or insist unreasonably on my own way, I sin against my children and must ask forgiveness for us to be in fellowship. I cannot require of them what I will not do myself. That is how hypocricy is taught and caught.
This is the parenting version of a “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” It isn’t warm fuzzies. It isn’t nicey-sweet Mama. It’s relentless. It is staying, telling the child, “No, I refuse to let you make your sin your pet. I will stand right here with you and not let you go until we are right and you have let go of your sin.”
This is building relationship.