A Perfectly Amazing Present
How do I get my 15-year-old to want to hang out with me again?
Why does it feel like my spouse doesn’t exactly “like” me anymore?
Maybe you have a person in that family that just doesn’t seem to want to be with you. You are stuck with wondering what to do. Do I give them space? Do I reach out? Am I doing something wrong?
As we help people in their marriages and with their children, we were recently posed with the question, “how do we reach our son…he feels disconnected from us”.
Bob immediately threw out the question, “Do you trust him?” They both immediately (and in unison) chimed, “No!”
The fact was, this son had demonstrated behavior that disqualified him from trust. So, discipline was in order. Privileges taken away. Consequences in place. All the important mechanisms that help shape our children to understand that sin will lead to pain.
And it does. Sin leads to destruction and ultimately death. But sin does not separate us from God’s love. God, in his love pursues me while I was still lost in sin:
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners…and since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Romans 8:6-11 loosely translated from NLT).
We started asking them more about their son. We asked about his passion, his interests, and most of all, his heart. Their faces lit up as they described the time he went on a missions trip and stood up in front of everyone and told them about how Jesus accepts Him without question. They talked about the fact that he was strong and talented enough to pay football, but that he just didn’t have the heart to fight. The more they described him, the bigger their smiles became.
I love how God speaks and brings such a gentle answer to our deep and heartfelt questions. I then asked the question, “Your son sounds like an exceptional person. Would you like to give him an incredible present?” They said, “yes...maybe that’s what he needs…a present?”
“I think I know what your son is craving and longing for more than anything. I think this present would change everything for him”. “What is it,” they asked.
Trust. Why don’t you sit down and tell him that you’ve decided to give him the gift of trust. He can stop beating himself up and he can stop trying to jump through the hoops to earn your acceptance”.
You have the opportunity to draw a line in the sand, step over that line and give your loved ones the gift of trust. Sure, they may mess up again, but because there is trust, they will be safe enough to move towards you instead of away from you when that happens. The flow of relationship runs freely as love is your goal and trust is a highly valued gift.
Believe in the “real” version of your family members
Did you hear in that story how the conversation turned when the parents began to talk about what they loved most about their son?
Every personality has a redeemed and amazing side to it. The person you love might be more of a fighter than a lover! So when you read about this son (above), you think, “wow, must be nice that their son has a soft and warm heart, it’s easy to see the beautiful part of that!” Well, maybe the one you love (your spouse, your loved one) has the gift of passionate persistence and lion’s heart of a leader that will push through resistance and “fight” for truth and justice.
Don’t try and mold and shape the person you love into who you think they should be. Discover and focus on the truth of their identity and embrace the gift that they are. Remind yourself, even keep a grateful journal of all the fabulous qualities that come with this gift God created!
Believe the best instead of assuming the worst
Your loved ones can “feel” your judgment, even if you’re not saying the words aloud. Take every thought captive! If you want to think of negative attributes about someone in your life, you can gather up more than enough evidence to prove your Right-ness and how you’ve been wronged. That could very well be true, however:
A wise person demonstrates patience, for mercy means holding your tongue. When you are insulted, be quick to forgive and forget it, for you are virtuous when you overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11 tPt).
Believing the best rather than assuming the worst in your loved ones is an invitation to draw them near. For your own sake, start releasing your angry or hurt feelings and thoughts. Stop your mind from obsessing about the past, and focus on the present and future. Turn toward what is going well, what you’re grateful for. Your giving attention to the garden of your heart, you have to pull some weeds, sure, but mainly focus on planting flowers.
Live in the land of acceptance
This is not denial! Yet, how do we pursue our misbehaving family in love without condoning their mistakes or behavior. You can accept that person without approving of their behavior. But that doesn’t mean blasting them with reminders of how unapproving their behaviour has been. On the contrary, you will emphasize 100% acceptance. Open arms. Caring words.
We were recently speaking with a couple last week, and we simply asked them to give each other some safe-space to heal before we tackle the relationship issues. The marriage relationship cannot be healed until the two precious individuals within the marriage first become healed and whole.
As we were Skyping with them, we felt led to ask them if they would agree to live in the “Land of Acceptance” together. They thought about…looked at each other…paused for a moment, and then both said, “That actually sounds like a good place to be”.
Even if your loved one hasn’t invited you to live in the land of acceptance, you can start by letting them live there with you. What a concept!
Don’t demand appreciation
Living in the Land of Acceptance means you simply can’t make your loved ones jump through hoops. I know it’s not easy. I recently reached out to a distant family member by spending a significant amount of time, money and creative effort to send a present. It’s been a few weeks and I haven’t heard whether they received it, or whether they appreciated it. Yikes! Something in me wants to jump up and down and say, “Hey! Hey you! Did you get that amazing present of love I sent you, or what?”
All of a sudden it sounds like my love-gift wasn’t much of a gift at all? That’s because it comes with a stipulation! Chose not to be “that person”. I want to give without expecting anything in return. Not always easy, but Bob was so amazing with his word picture. “Audrey, you built a beautiful bridge. Now, it’s up to them if they want to come towards you. But, aren’t you glad you built it?”
Yes, I am! Plus, I don’t want to tear that bridge down by suddenly having expectations, or make it difficult by placing a tollgate and demand payment for a restored relationship. I want to keep that bridge alive, full of love and ready for any moment that distant relative wants to come over and deepen our relationship. And I will build another one and another one. Why not? When you love, you can’t lose!
Be generous with the gift of trust
Let’s not be stingy with trust. It’s risky, I know. But Jesus took a huge risk on me, by loving me first. He demondstrated His love. He extended His hand. He built the most safe and beautiful bridge imaginable. And I love this about Him!
There was a day about twelve years ago, when Bob gave me the gift of trust. I couldn’t have performed enough to ever earn it. I couldn’t have cried and been sorry enough to deserve it. Yet, he offered it to me out of his love. It’s the most beautiful gift Bob has ever given me in this lifetime. I cherish it. I treasure it, and I live up to it.
*Disclaimer: We are fully aware that there is a place for earned trust through changed behavior. This is not permission for someone to mistreat or abuse you in the relationship. Prayerfully consider if there is someone in your life that would benefit by your gift of trust.