Closing out a year always causes reflections on the previous year. My word for 2019 was “Prayer” and my focal verse was Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” I have listened to podcasts on prayer, read a handful of books on prayer, and prayed for growth in prayer. God brought passages on the importance and power of prayer into my Bible Study Fellowship study, in my Journey Group class discussion, and as focal points in sermons. God truly expanded my understanding of prayer and developed my application of prayer.
One of the main areas where I needed (and still need) growth in prayer is for personal communication. While prayer is our communication with God, we desperately need to pray for the Lord’s help in our communication with His people. Ephesians 4:1-3 says, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” That seems like a tall order for little ole me. I mean, does Jesus know the people He has placed around me? Does Jesus know how difficult it is to respond to others in gentleness and patience? Even just in my own home, living in the unified mind of Christ seems pretty impossible with my own family members. So I began to pray for unity between myself and others: at home, at church, and in the world.
At Bible Study Fellowship, I was assigned to lecture on Acts 15. In this chapter, the church is growing and expanding to include the Gentiles. The requirements for salvation were discussed between the church leaders and they desired to clearly communicate their decision to both the Jews and the Gentiles. This decision came from the Word of God, the testimony of Jesus, the apostolic ministry, and the revelation by the Spirit to the leaders. It was important to make sure the message was understood by all and that there was no misunderstanding. So the Jerusalem Council sent a letter to the church with personal messengers to confirm the intent so that nothing was lost in translation from heart to text.
How often do issues arise because of text messages today? Tone can be misconstrued and misspellings can change the entire meaning of a sentence. In can feel like we are maintaining relationships through our social media scroll, seeing the highlight reel of the lives of our loved ones, or by sending a quick birthday message each year; but the personal connection from a physical hug, an understanding look, and even a truthful confrontation is lost when we rely solely on screens. As I prayed for my personal communication style with others, time and again I was reminded to be physically present whenever possible. I could walk down the hall and have a conversation, grab a meal or coffee to catch up, and make the time to be with people and know people. I could make the effort to understand others and be understood by them. We are to live in peace, unity, and understanding with each other because Jesus prayed, “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21) Because of this, we should seek to communicate with understanding and clarity. In our unity we are witnesses of Christ and His power within His body.
Ok, I can be more present and available in my daily interactions with those around me. I can have a conversation with the moms at school drop off. Each week, I can seek out the woman at Bible Study who requested prayer and ask for updates. Instead of prioritizing my “down day at home” as an introvert, I can prioritize the friend I haven’t seen in a month and schedule a play date. We were made for community and the Lord granted us the gift of His Church to encourage one another. The more we meet together the more opportunities to grow in humility, gentleness, patience, and peace with one another.
But what about my communication style with my family? How am I speaking with my children during the daily mom grind? The majority of my communication occurs within the walls of my own home. With three young boys, I have plenty of opportunities to communicate clearly and speak the love of Christ into their hearts and minds. Time and again, I can use my words to point them to Jesus or to point out their failures. As their mother, my job is to teach and train them in life and godliness by teaching them to follow Jesus and His example. I am set apart to model this behavior and to provide an earthly image of parenthood through which my children may understand their relationship with their Heavenly Father. This is my highest calling towards mankind… and I blow it every single day.
I react to my children in the most unkind ways. I take offense at their actions and take it personally when they do not consider my feelings in their disobedience. While discipline is necessary to train children, I often go into dictator mode and it becomes about them conforming to my way instead of conforming to God’s way. I fall into the trap of seeking to create tiny image-bearers of myself and not image-bearers who rightly reflect the character of God. How can I correct my communication style with them? How do I pray over my attitude and where do I even begin to make adjustments?
Do you know the best part about prayer? God HEARS and He ANSWERS! The Lord already knew these areas of weakness in my personal communication and He directed my attention to these areas all year. When I would feel overwhelmed with where to begin, He would whisper His truths over my heart. Romans 12:18 was a constant refrain this year as my boys seemed to be in a relay race of disobedience and disrespect. I would cry out to God, “Do You see what You’ve given me to work with? These little hooligans are not making it easy for me to respond lovingly and patiently! I already responded patiently three times, so now I can explode, right?” Then His Spirit would remind me of that verse in Romans, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” This verse does not say to live peaceably with those who are also attempting to live peaceably with you. This verse implores believers to do everything in their power to live at peace with others. So when my boys talk back; as far as it depends on me, I must live peaceably with them. When my boys break something (a toy, a decoration, a wall,each others’ heads); as far as it depends on me, I must live peaceably with them. When my boys willfully disobey and therefore, cancel a much anticipated outing for the entire family; as far as it depends on me, I must live peaceably with them. And when my potty training toddler (who is definitely old enough and smart enough to know better) goes in his underwear AGAIN; as far as it depends on me, I must live peaceably with him.
The actions of my children do not determine my actions. It is not a cause and effect situation. I have the opportunity to communicate to them through the power of the Spirit and speak gracefully and gently to them. I have the opportunity to choose kindness and patience every single time; not only the first, second, and third times. As I communicate with my children “Let [me] pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19).
This year I focused on and practiced prayer. In this study of prayer, the Lord showed me my great need for improvement in personal communication. I expected to see the Lord grow and stretch me through personal prayer and I was eager to develop regular and intimate communication with the Lord, but I did not anticipate this overflowing into my communication with other humans also. This should not have been surprising, as the Church is the body of Christ. My communication with the family of God and my own personal family will directly reflect my communication with the Father, the Head of the family.