This is the final post in the series. Part 1, Part 2, Part 2b, Part 3.
When we first moved into this area eleven years ago, I commented to my husband about how beautiful a certain tree looked down the road. He glanced at it and quickly assessed the situation much differently than I did. "The tree is beautiful now but give it a few years and it won't be so nice." What did he see that I didn't see?
A few feet above the base of the tree there were two strong limbs going in separate directions. My husband rightly pointed out that unless one of the two main limbs was pruned the tree would eventually split apart. The tree was developing two leaders. I began to watch the tree. After a storm, the tree would always lose a few more limbs. The tree began to look a more haggard and beaten. Eventually, it didn't look at all like when I first saw it. Just two weeks ago, the tree split in half and had to be removed.
Our family was the same way. Nice looking out the outside but we had a fundamental problem in the structure. Thankfully God intervened, a proper pruning was done, and the "tree" was spared.
Here's some of the things that God taught me during the 18 month "sabbatical".
A family cannot have two leaders. Eventually, the strength of the family is weakened and in the worst cases a split occurs. That is not to say that this is the only cause of divorce but it is definitely a problem. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Relationships. The children are the limbs of a tree. When the tree is strong, the limbs remain firmly attached. But a weak tree will produce weaker limbs. I am a major branch in the tree but not the leader. My primary role is to be the best supporting limb for my husband so that he can provide direction and not have to struggle with me. As a result, the whole family prospers.
Fear. The fear that my husband wouldn't lead our family was very strong. What would happen then? And there were times when I was tempted to take over. But I realized that we serve a big God who loves my family more than I do. My obedience to let go was needed in order for my husband to begin to lead. Scripture says that in 1 Peter 3, "You will be like the Godly women of old if you do what is right and do not give in to fear."
Academics. I realized that I was using academics as a vehicle to direct the family. What the children learn and in what manner will determine much of what they become. High standards are important but they can also become an idol that will distract from God's purposes. Harvard is a nice place but heaven is where we're aiming.
We are always being purned. There is never a point at which the process ends and we become the "perfect family". God is continually remininding me of my role in the family. But when I give in and obey what is right the results are always better than I could imagine or achieve on my own.
A final story.
During the Christmas holiday season a few years ago I had made a list of things to do to get ready for Christmas Day. As I set out the Saturday before Christmas to work through my list, God prompted me to ask Steve if he needed my help. He had decided to wash the floors and carpets that day. Not a favorite job of mine, so I was glad to see him doing it. Grateful for my help, he asked if I would go to the store and buy a few more scrub brushes. It was the busiest shopping day of the year, and going out was the last thing I wanted to do! I had already made my list of things to accomplish. How were they ever going to get done?
A part of me wished I had never asked. But I went. And what should have been a 30 minute trip took nearly 2 hours. When I got back home, he asked if I would mind helping him scrub for a while. "Why no honey, of course not." (I was thinking something totally different!) So I had to once again set aside my plans. At this point everyone was in on the action. What child doesn't love bubbles and a chance to make a floor soaking wet in the middle of winter? I began to relax a little and enjoy the moment.
As we were scrubbing, my eight year old daughter Katie came up and whispered, "Momma, do you know what? We have a happy home".
"Yes sweetie, we do." I replied. "And I wouldn't trade places with anyone."