We had had enough.
We started arguing the minute the sun peaked through the curtains in our newlywed apartment, and we didn’t stop until the wee hours of the morning when exhaustion had mercy and forced us to sleep.
Day after day. Night after night. I don’t even remember what we’d bicker over, but bicker we would until finally, we called some friends we trusted to come and help us sort our mess out.
I’ll never forget the jaw-dropping moment when I opened the door to find our friends standing there. The husband held a bucket of fried chicken under one arm and a six-pack of beer under the other. He didn’t even wait for me to say a word. He just walked right in. Plopped down on the couch, his wife right behind him, and said: “Start talking.”
So we did. My husband, Mark, told all the things I was doing. I told all the things he was doing. Our friends munched chicken and listened.
When we’d tired ourselves out, the room fell silent. Our friend looked straight at me and he said, “Here’s the thing, Leigh Ann. Everything you’re saying to your husband is true. He even needs to hear it, but sister, your tone sucks!”
This little phrase uttered with a longneck pointed in my direction (and a bit of chicken grease on his lips no less) were words that literally changed the trajectory of my marriage in an instant.
I was right in a lot of ways. I was on to something with how to bring about the change we needed. But dad gum my husband wasn’t listening because I was only focused on being right, not loving him with my words.
Watching the internet these days, I want to go around with a proverbial chicken wing in one hand and a beverage in the other and tell people their tone sucks. Do you know what I’m saying?
I know you’re seeing what I’m seeing. I know you’re threatening to leave social media forever because it’s just so toxic. And it is.
I know you see the arguments over EVERYTHING, and you just wonder if we will ever get along again.
I remember one particular Christmas morning when my brother and I were bickering over something (see a theme here?), and my mom and dad got in on it, too. My little sister stood up on the couch with all of her 3 foot 5 little self and yelled, “CAN WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?”
Dear reader, are you eager to see unity in the body of Christ? Do you wish things weren’t so divided?
Then I want to encourage you to do some self-reflection. I want to encourage you to take your eyes off everywhere else and turn your eyes to the ground you are standing on.
I want you to narrow your focus, and I want you to consider the words you’re speaking right in your own home, in your own place.
Are you cultivating a culture of love where you live and have your being?
Here are some things to think about…
Ponder the people you love dear and ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and insight into how to communicate love in a way they will hear, know, and feel. Spend time thinking about each person in your family. Each person is created by God, valued by God, and created in the image of God. Meditate on the gift of family. Prayerfully and intentionally give honor in your heart to the people in your home.
As you go through your day observe quietly and intentionally the people in your home. Notice where God is at work in each of their lives. Join Him there. On a practical (and immediately applicable) note, making eye contact with people is one of the most personal, relational things you can do. When people are talking to you, look up and make eye contact. Lean in and with your whole self let the person know you care about what they are saying and what is important to them.
One of the phrases we say often in our home is: Listen to understand. Don’t listen to respond. Are you truly listening to the hearts of the people in your home? Ask your family members questions, then really listen!
Speaking the truth is important, but speaking the truth in love is far more powerful.
- When you talk with your family members, are you saying, “Please” and “Thank you”?
- Do you regularly verbalize gratitude?
- Do you interrupt people when they’re talking?
- Would your family members consider you a peacemaker?
- Are there any words that you could speak that would give life to their souls?
- How can you help them find greater belonging within your family unit?
I believe as we change the culture in our homes, we will change the culture outside our homes.
As we practice being gentle, gracious believers in our homes, we’ll be gentle, gracious believers outside our homes.
As we learn to give preference and honor to those in our homes, we’ll begin to give preference and honor to those outside our homes.
As we learn to tame the tongue inside our homes, we’ll be like a cold drink of water outside our homes.
I leave you with this:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”