I posted this on Instagram last Saturday night, with stinging, teary eyes and a grateful heart:
Keeping short accounts with one another is impossible when seeing through pride-colored glasses. The eight of us found ourselves in the bunk room tonight: confronting, weeping, confessing, and facing some of the ugliest truths about the way we've been treating each other...especially in our hearts. Stress reveals what our hearts beat for. And tonight, we were grateful that the Lord didn't allow the sun to go down on our anger. Tonight it was clear: He doesn't just paint beautiful sunsets, He mends ugly hearts.
We often think of family meeting times as opportunities for parents to instruct and correct their children. It is...however, this past weekend, it was Troy and I who were struggling to communicate with one another, and our children who were coming alongside of our confessing and forgiving...and exhorting us with the truth. It set me to thinking about the difference between our family worship times and family meetings like the one we had.
I'm not so good at writing how-to posts. In person, I overflow with practical tips and tons of counsel, but my writing style and heart is slow to write tutorials on life things...for fear of being taken for formula. Every family's different; just because yours doesn't look or sound like mine doesn't mean God's not at work among your people and your particular situation. My desire is to point us to principles, to the bigger picture, to God's faithfulness and not our own. So when I posted the other night that our family had a major meltdown and breakthrough family meeting, questions came pouring in about how to implement such a thing.
I want to help. And will share some thoughts later. But, I (took the easy way out) and asked Mr. Simons for his thoughts. I know I'm biased, but I find him to be deeply encouraging:
There is a constant need for our family to be in the Word and praying together: what we call family worship. Consistency in family worship is vital for our spiritual health. But there are those times when there is clearly something wrong, where sin has a foothold and it has shown itself in family relationships. That's when you need a different kind of meeting, one in which you deal with the raw feelings and out of control emotions by confessing, asking forgiveness, and reminding one another of what you know God's word has to say about what has been going on.
I would venture to guess that these kinds of meetings are less necessary when there is a vibrant and consistent family worship since part of family worship ought to be these very elements of confession and applying the word. We hope to have a family culture of honest confession, being quick to ask forgiveness and eager to impart grace to one another. But there are times when you NEED an ad hoc meeting to address something that is best not left in the heart and imagination to grow stronger with time.
I learned this past weekend that God can and does use our children to bring conviction. My sons might not be able to vocalize their theology like Ruth and I can, but they sure know when we are not living it out. It is not easy to take a rebuke from your children, but when it is clearly spoken out of respectful concern we need to readily and humbly accept it.
So, here are some things to consider when your family is in need of a reset, restore, or return to what's important- kind of family meeting. (Ruth and Troy collaboration!)
"Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up."
Our children learn when we attend with interest. Do almost anything to get their attention. You don't have to pull out the flannelgraphs, but don't read scripture monotonously either! Sometimes, when we gather at the breakfast table, we play a dramatic audio Bible reading from Faith Comes By Hearing. When they see that you love the Word, prayer, them... they will be inclined to pay attention.
Like yours, our family is a work in progress. We are not perfectly consistent with family worship or family meetings. We let bitterness get the better of us, and we harbor unforgiveness. We often wait too long to reconcile or to deal with hurts. We don't always set the best example for our kids, and our kids aren't always respectful. We need Jesus and we need to see his sanctifying work in our lives each and every day. That's what family worship is all about, and that's what meeting together accomplishes.
We pray you find something useful here for your family's encouragement. Don't strive for ideal...just start somewhere. And as C.K. Chesterton was known to say:
Because of grace,