The Gray Family: Jake, a paramedic/firefighter, and I, a Suzuki violin instructor, have been married for thirteen years and part of the East Mountain community since childhood. We currently have three children at home (ages 10, 9,and 7) and are in the process of adopting a one-year-old little boy from India. Jake and I enjoy using an eclectic approach in educating our children, who attend an online charter school and select classes at a local private school. Ultimately, our goal is to raise children who love the Lord and love people.
We look back at our own upbringing for clues as to how we might raise our children well. Or, in some cases, how we will do things differently. Jake was raised in a Christian home; I was not. Even with this significant difference. Our childhoods share a pervasive theme, though: loneliness. Relational conflicts weren’t resolved. Friends and churches were set aside repeatedly.
How can we grow from the experience? As a family, we purposefully seek to build relationships with believers and non-believers. We commit to being part of a church family. We cannot dispose of relationships. Our flesh will get uncomfortable at times, but we repeat the Gray Family Mantra:
“Relationships are hard work. Relationships are worth the effort.”
We hold close these scriptures:
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly…
3 Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
15 Speak the truth in love…
Bear with one another, and forgive one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
And we ask the Holy Spirit to help us handle relationships in a way that we cannot on our own.
When my son and daughter speak rudely to each other, we challenge them:
“You saw other siblings act that way and were appalled! Do you know you are doing the same? Do you know that you are being selfish? Take a moment. Ask God to help you behave as He would, then apologize and try again.”
When the neighbor kid across the street wants to play, but makes up stories that aren’t true, our children say, “Ugh. I can’t BELIEVE what a liar she is! I can’t stand her!”
Our response is:
“Lying is wrong and it’s frustrating to be lied to. She needs Jesus just like us, doesn’t she? Let’s have her over for a short and pleasant visit. Try not to take her stories too seriously, look for things to appreciate about her, and let’s ask God for opportunities to share His love with her.”
When we are in a new crowd and our daughter thinks no one is being friendly, we encourage her:
Our response is:
“Look around. Is there anyone else who is feeling left out? Can you show yourself friendly? Act toward her the way you want someone to act toward you.”
Relationships are hard, but God will use them to grow each of us. How are you teaching, encouraging and challenging your children to grow through life experiences?
(photos by Jasmine Mostrom)