Monday, November 7, 2011

LEARNING TO SYMPATHIZE

Reformation Celebration 2011.  Cousins Katelyn and Michaela just
after their team won the barrel pushing contest!




"A parent loses his opportunity for good to his child, 
if he fails to have sympathy with this child in that
child's weakness and follies and misdoings.  
It is in every child's nature to long 
for sympathy at the point where he needs it most; 
and when he has done wrong, or is feeling the force of temptation, 
he is glad to turn to some one stronger than himself, 
and make confession of his faults and failures. 
If he comes to his parents at such time, and he is met with manifest sympathy,
he is drawn to his parents with new confidence and new trust." 
- Henry Clay Trumbull



The girl teams had to push the barrels by hand; the boys had to get on to roll theirs!

 
 
 
CHOOSING SYMPATHY


The Lord has been speaking to my heart about the value of sympathy.  The above quote has been continually brought to mind day after day and week after week.  And as I read the Word my thoughts continually go back to one word:  Sympathy.

Isn't it kind of the Lord to not only show me the importance of this area, but to give me no shortage of opportunities to show sympathy at the same time?

Earlier this week as I planned to carve out just a few moments to work on this post one child bounded in my room asking me to read with her.  I agreed and put my laptop aside.  As I picked up my nearby coffee to take a sip I heard a crash-  she had knocked over the lamp at the side of my husbands bed (for the second time in the past few days).  Broken glass from the light bulb was on the carpet.

Then, before I had the chance to respond, another daughter ran in exclaiming, "Oh good.  You are on your bed.  Your bed is so cozy!" she hollered as she dove right on- knocking into my arm and spilling my coffee all over my white comforter.
I did my best not to respond at all at that moment.  As I took the comforter off my bed to place it into the washing machine I closed my eyes and thought: Sympathy.  I smiled.  This was an opportunity.

Sometimes- often- I find that sympathy is a choice.  And something I am working to cultivate in greater measure.


The Reformation play.  Faith (Isabeau) caught in the woods and sentenced to
imprisonment for ministering to the Protestants.




THE HABIT OF SYMPATHY


I say that I am working at cultivating sympathy, because there are times when I do not feel it naturally.  And there are plenty of times when I fail to be sympathetic. 

Today I failed.
  I asked one of the girls to water our strawberries and when I looked outside she was watering a rock.  A rock.  In an area that I had spent quite a bit of time weeding just a few days before.  A few inches over were the strawberries- as parched as ever.  But that rock... well, it was getting all the attention.  And I did not feel very sympathetic.

I hollered out the back door asking what she was doing and you know- I believe she had no idea why she was doing what she was doing.  She was just experimenting.  Making her own waterfall.  And although she needed guidance- she also could've used a little sympathy.

Just as with other good habits, practice makes progress.  I see the value in choosing to be sympathetic with our children's weaknesses and being the person they can trust with their failings and hurts. 

The Lord helping me, I need create a habit of sympathy.  



Fun friends- Morgan and Michaela (M and M)


SYMPATHY BUILDS HEART BRIDGES


I have really been amazed at the power of sympathy in wooing and winning the hearts of my children. 
Recently two children had a conflict.  As I met with both girls individually with this thought of sympathy in mind I found it to be such a bridge between our hearts.
 
A conflict that could have ended simply as an irritant became the Sovereign grit that worked to smooth and polish their hearts for His glory.  By being sympathetic- both with their failings and with their hurts- I had entered into their world. 

I had gone beyond patiently waiting for an explanation so that I could dole out a punishment to really hearing where they were.  And as I did that, something amazing happened.  They become exceptionally reasonable.  There were no walls or defenses up and they could hear my counsel easily.  As I shared a perspective from God's Word they knew the truth of it and were even thankful for His wisdom in allowing conflict.  There was genuine repententance and an anxiousness to reconcile.
 
There is power in sympathy.

As the girls worked on their daily writing assignments this week I found the following worked into their papers:

"Mama is sweet and she builds people up...  I thank God for her every day."

"My mom is the best mom there is... If I am having trouble we can talk about it."


No, I did not pay them to write sweet things about me...  I would have, but it didn't cross my mind.  ;)   This was all due to the power of sympathy- and the Lord helping me to employ it. 
I can think of plenty of times when I have not been as sympathetic as I wish I had (cringe).  But how thankful I am for the Lord's mercy and the opportunity to begin again each day.
There is power in sympathy.  It is the power to build heart bridges. 
 


Part of the cast from the Reformation play- our wonderful director (Joel) in the center. 
These are such great kids.  Really great.



A BEHAVIORAL PROBLEM


The other day while our children were playing at a park, my husband was talking with another father. The father was complaining that his son was a real behavioral problem. Within minutes the little boy (about 4 or 5 years old) was crying. It appeared he had fallen down in the bark. "Is your leg broken?" the father shouted across the play yard? "Are you bleeding?" he continued. "Get up and stop crying." the father commanded. The little boy turned his head and quieted his crying. The father laughed and shrugged off this interruption to his conversation. 

A few moments later one of my daughters ran up to me and quietly explained that the little boy had not just tripped- he been pushed off the platform which was about five feet off the ground by another child. And when he had hoped for sympathy and tenderness by someone who cared- he was mocked publicly for his crying in front of the bully who had injured him.

Ouch. We can all relate to this.  By that I mean that as parents we have all misjudged a situation at some time or another.  My desire is not to judge that father- in fact, you may notice that I rarely use examples of others failings in my writing (I have enough of my own). 

But I wondered, could it be possible that some of this little boy's "behavioral problems" might be mended by a small dose of sympathy?



Fun loving cousins- Lydia, Mercy and Hailey.






CAN WE BE TOO SYMPATHETIC?

I know that we worry about the implications of being overly sympathetic with our children- especially boys. If we sympathize with them when they are injured we fear that we will create whiny, wimpy children who run to Mama for every little offense, right?  And isn't there a place to say "shake it off"?  Absolutely there is. 

Once we know the scenario, we might need to ask our kiddos to stop crying or shake it off.  Once we know the scenario...
 
And I hope you realize that I am not suggesting that we should ever reward spoiled or demanding behavior or overlook disobedience.  Not at all.  Not ever.  We cannot overlook issues and call it grace.  That is not grace- it is negligence.  But sympathy doesn't over look.
 
Sympathy is a spirit needed in times of childish foolishness; when a child is struggling with temptation; in times of injury and when a child has failed and is in need of being restored. 
It is a sincere concern for our children's souls and creates a strength of character, not a wimpy character.

Instead of a child needing to demonstrate how hurt they are for an ounce of attention, we let them know we are concerned and on their team right off the bat. 
When enter into their troubles and concerns, we win the opportunity to direct their hearts toward godliness and they will hear us when we let them know this is one of those times to shake it off. 
  
We can be too hands off- ignoring what is really happening- but we cannot be too sympathetic.


Faith (left) played Isabeau a brave Huguenot who ministered to the needs of the saints and her friend Kelsey (right)played a heartless aristocrat who relished in the sufferings of the Huguenots.  Kelsey is a real sweetie in real life.




BEARING ONE ANOTHER'S BURDENS-  IT'S THE LAW


We need to guide and correct our children often.  We live in a fallen world.  But as I was working through this idea of sympathy it occurred to me that this might also be called bearing one another's burdens.  Which happens to fulfill the law...


"Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression,
you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.
Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 
Bear one another’s burdens, and  so fulfill the law of Christ." 
Galatians 6:1-2



John Mac Arthur says this about bearing one another's burdens:

"The troubles of this world are manifold and relentless...  We worry. We grieve. We stumble. We strain under the toil of our daily labors. We feel the guilt of our fallen condition. Meanwhile, we are assaulted with adversities of various kinds. Those are just a few of the many worldly burdens that frequently keep our thoughts from rising to heaven.

Paul made this duty (of bearing one another's burdens) a high priority. It was the centerpiece of his admonitions to the Galatian churches. The first half (or more) of Galatians is a defense of justification by faith and a series of arguments against the false teaching that threatened to place those churches in bondage to the Law. In Galatians 5:14 he reminded them: “The whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

How is that love best manifest? “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2).
The first and preeminent example of burden-bearing Paul mentions involves dealing with the burden of another Christian’s sin. “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (v. 1). That, of course, isn’t a different approach from the steps of church discipline Jesus outlined in Matthew 18:15–17. It merely explains how that process is to be carried out (gently and meekly), and it underscores the true goal (restoration, not punishment or public rebuke per se).



Sarah and her sweet friend Eve.


In other words, the person restoring the sinning brother isn’t to approach him as if he were a master over him but meekly — as one who is willing to help shoulder the burden so that the one who has stumbled can get to his feet again.

Verse 2 then simply states the underlying principle as an imperative (“Bear one another’s burdens”). Obviously, the precept applies to all kinds of burdens — not merely the burdens of those who stumble into sin. When Paul suggests that burden-bearing “fulfill[s] the law of Christ,” he makes it clear that he has the whole moral law in view. Every act of compassion and self-sacrifice on behalf of our brethren is a practical means of displaying the love of Christ and thereby fulfilling the moral demands of His law...

Do you want to fulfill the moral requirements of the Law? Love your neighbor. How do you love him? By bearing his burdens.

It’s interesting that Paul would emphasize this theme in an epistle written to confront people who were falling into legalism. It’s as if he were saying, “You want to observe a law? Let it be the law of Christ. If you have to impose burdens on yourselves, let it be through acts of love toward your neighbor.”
 
Is that not often the job of parenting- gently restoring our children?  It is a fulfilling of the law.


Our three oldest girls at dress rehearsal.




THE MOST IMPORTANT CHANGE



The following inscription is found on the tomb of an Anglican Bishop in Westminster Abbey:



“When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits,
I dreamed of changing the world.

As I grew older and wiser I discovered the world would not change –

So I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country,
but it too seemed immovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing
only my family, those closest to me,
but alas, they would have none of it.

And now I realize as I lie on my deathbed, if I had only changed myself first,
then by example I might have changed my family.
From their inspiration and encouragement I would then have
been able to better my country,

And who knows, I might have even changed the world.”



We love these brothers.





 

There are traits we so desire to see in our children. Grace, patience, kindness- even sympathy.

But I wonder if they first need to be seen in us. 
 


Game spectators on hay bale seating.


 
 
 
Blessings friends,




_________________________________________________________

 
 
 
Photos:  From our Reformation celebration.  This year our attention was focused on the French Huguenots (from whom we are descended) and their persecution following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes which had granted them some religious freedom.  By studying persecution we hope to prepare our children and ourselves in advance for persecution that will surely come to each of us in some form or another.  "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted..."  2 Timothy 3:12. 
 

A statue at the cemetery marking the St. Bartholomew's massacre.

14 comments:

  1. This is a great post, thanks for sharing your wisdom :-) and btw LOVE LOVE LOVE those pictures!!!!

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  2. Thank you for a wonderful post! It was exactly what I was needing to read today. Such a hard balance to achieve, but I know for certain that I could use more sympathy in relation to my children. Your pictures are beautiful!!

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  3. Wow! What a great post. Learning to sympathize can take us on quite a journey can't it? And yet, it is so important that we show our children this side of our heart (even if we must force it under certain cercumstances). I can look back at my own childhood and clearly see vivid memories of times when I was shown sympathy. I remember feeling so close to that person and literally feeling their unconditional love. Of course this means I can also remember times where there was no sympathy and it sheds light on some of the reasons our relationship failed to blossom.

    Deep, deep stuff here. I just loved this post! It's a real eye opener now that I am a mommy to three very beautiful (and often times clumsy) little girls. I definitely want to show them (and my sweet hubby) more patience and sympathy in their moments of weakness so our relationships will continue to thrive!!

    *by the way - loved all the pictures of your sweet daughters! they sure are getting big! where does the time go? oh, and how is your little Lydia doing? We continue to pray for her health*

    Blessings to you and your family!

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  4. WONDERFUL post! Sympathy is something I really need to work on. Thank you so much for your wise words!

    Thanks for posting the wonderful pictures of Reformation Day, it is great to see all of those sweet faces!

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  5. Mrs. Stam- Thank you. You are very kind.


    Laura- Yes, it really seems to be a hard balance at times... and then there are the other times when I just struggle to do what I know I ought. : )


    Kelly- Amen! Thank you for appreciating these girls sprouting up right before our eyes! Lydia has been doing amazingly well the past couple of weeks. We have had NO seizures. I still jump whenever I hear a thud in the house, but what a relief that we are experiencing a respite. Thank you so much for your prayers.


    Gabe! Thank you my friend. We miss you all and wish you could have been with us. We'll have to upload the video of the play once it's edited so you can see the girls.

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  6. Great post! Speaks to me more than I'd like to admit.

    Love the pics of the Reformation Celebration. I was very sorry we couldn't make it. Looks like fun and I would love to have been there.

    Hope you are well my friend!

    Lots of love,
    Sommer

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  7. Oh, I have struggled in this area recently. Thank you for all your examples and scripture. What a special reminder to me today, to ask our loving Heavenly Father to change my heart. Thank you!

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  8. Sommer- I looked for you and was sorry you were not able to make it. Now (this week) would be a good time to connect- give me a call if you have the time. Miss you my friend!


    Sheri- Amen! We must ask the Lord to be at work in us. He tells us that He causes us to want to do His will and works so that we may do it. "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Philippians 2:13 Blessings sister.

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  9. I'll try to give you a call tomorrow(Sat.)! I miss you too!

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  10. How do you biblically suggest that your husband needs to show more sympathy? I can see the father you described at the playground clearly...My husband is a good man and God is changing him more and more each year (just as He is changing me)! I'm concerned because I see the hurt in the children's eyes and when they come to me for sympathy, he scolds them for that too. I do not desire to disrespect my husband or loose the hearts of our children. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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  11. Hello Anonymous friend.


    Well, we all have our blind spots, don't we? I know that I do. As your husband's best friend and help meet your desire is of course to do him good and not evil all the days of his life (Proverbs 31:12).

    So, what does that mean in cases where we see something we fear will come back to bite our best friend?

    In Scripture God tells us that the neighbor who flatters spreads a net for the feet of him being flattered (Proverbs 29:5), but a faithful friend corrects (Proverbs 27:6). The flatterer never mentions his neighbor's blind spots- he is only there for the happy times- and is not troubled with the dangerous path (called a trap) that his neighbor is taking.

    As our husband's best we do want to be faithful and that, at times, may involve kind and gentle encouragement in one direction or another.

    1. Do you think that your counsel is hearable? If not, look for areas in which you can minister to his needs- physical needs, training the children in the off times, gentle speech etc. before you broach the subject.

    2. Use an example that he can relate to. In 2 Samuel 12:7 Nathan used a fictitious example to help David to see what he was doing. Sometimes, as adults, we relate better to ideas such as: "What if your boss handled a situation this way? Do you think that maybe that is how the children feel?"

    3. Never correct your husband in front of the children. For one, if we do that, we undermine ALL authority in the home- including our own. Secondly, you will inadvertently put a chip on the children's shoulders as they get the impression that they are being mistreated.

    4. Always use the sandwich approach (start by highlighting an area that is a real success, insert the area of concern and wrap up with how you see the Lord working to change both of you and, again, how he is succeeding).

    5. Always pray first; ask the Lord for unity of spirit and wisdom about the correct time to speak (not when he walks in the door, not on an empty stomach etc.) and go with a gentle and humble spirit.


    I hope this helps.

    Blessings to you,
    Rebecca

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  12. A more expanded answer with related Scripture here:

    http://growingupgodskids.blogspot.com/2011/11/being-faithful-friend-to-our-spouse.html

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  13. Rebecca,
    I loved this post about sympathy. Something the Lord has been showing me of late. With older children it is as needed as with the little ones, maybe even more so, and I have a house full of both, so lots of opportunity to show sympathy and gentleness.

    Thank you Rebecca for using your gifts for building up your sisters in the Lord, I am very grateful, and I love you!

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  14. Thank you Susie! I love you too!

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