Monday, May 17, 2010

What are you growing?

“…put aside all envy” -1 Peter 2:1

Envy is simply wanting what someone else has. The age-old push to “keep up with the Jones’” is alive and well today in the family. That competitive stress to “stay ahead” can infiltrate and affect us personally and underscore our parenting. Our values loom at the foundation of every decision we make for our families. And if those decisions aren’t based on love and nurturing, then they are less than the best and can even be catastrophic.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a man in Chicago, who neighbors say was obsessed with his lawn, fatally shot his neighbor whose puppy urinated on the man’s well-manicured grass. The man had won the neighborhood’s lawn up-keep award but was also known to have threatened people who dared to set foot in his yard. Witnesses said a man was walking his fox terrier, when the dog stopped to urinate in the yard. The two men began arguing when the homeowner pulled out a gun. The other man said. “next time you pull out a pistol, why don't you use it?” At that point, witnesses said, the gun went off and the man fell to the ground.

The stress of keeping up a yard, the pressure of a hundred hour work week, the anxiety of financial stress can all have negative effects on the chemistry of the family. Truth is, there isn't a “family scorecard” out there that keeps track of how well we’re doing in the game. In all my years of counseling and work at Shelterwood, I’ve found that the most peaceful families seem to be the simplest families. We know that all families struggle and all families are a bit dysfunctional. But the scales tip when the parents are providing an unhealthy competitive push on the family system.

I remember reading a story about a mom and dad who were raising a family of 2 boys and 2 girls. Most days, their yard was a mixture of jump ropes, soccer balls and frisbees. One day, a single man with an immaculate yard across the street had had enough. He crossed the street and, after tripping over a tricycle in the driveway, indirectly confronted the father, “If you ever need any help with your yard, I’d be glad to help you.” “Well thank you,” responded the dad, “but while you are growing grass, I’m growing kids.”

How’s the “kid growing” going in your family? I’m not here to judge any family because families vary widely and family decisions are up to parents, but are you about family or about the “Jones’?” Simply put, are you growing kids or growing your bank account? Are the 2 high-end vehicles really necessary? Do you really need that huge mortgage payment or is the simple house just fine? Do your kids really need to be involved in an activity every single night?

I’m only challenging you to step back and prayerfully take the pulse of your family. Bank accounts, cars and sports are great but only if they’re lassoed and controlled. When the yard becomes more important than the kid, we’re in trouble. Of course kids need to have structure and of course they need to help keep that same yard nice, but it’s about motive. We don't need to be about pleasing our neighbor, but about pleasing our God. And He is pleased the most when we’re a loving, flexible and relaxed parent.

So pray for wisdom. That new car? The golf game? That new house? Maybe it’s time to give up some things to get back the simple: a loving relationship with your family.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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