What Can A DAD Do About…
Strengthening Family Communication?
(Or How A Husband/Father Can Be “SAFE At Home?…Job # 1: Be A SERVANT!”)
(The following is the fourth article in series that deals with the top ten issues facing families today and particularly how a father impacts those issues. The 7th leading challenge facing families today according to the Southern Baptist’s Life Way research and education organization is “Family Communication”. Because this issue is so crucial, I will be camping out on this topic for the rest of 2007.)
“You are not safe for me right now.” My wife's words hung in the air and they just stopped me cold. I have heard about “unsafe” people for years from my wife as she is an awesome counselor who has effectively worked with victims of domestic violence for the past several years. But I never thought of myself as one of “those people” who fit that profile. Now my wife was calling me, “Mr. Fathering Forum,” Mr. “Really Nice Guy,” “UNSAFE!” How dare she!
My first response, to be honest, was not very noble. I thought to myself, “I am too ‘safe.’ She is just putting her psychological label on me. I am a safe person and if she doesn’t feel safe around me, then this is HER problem.” I also thought, “I think SHE’s unsafe by calling me unsafe now I feel ‘unsafe.’ She started this whole unsafe thing in her own mind. So there!”
This little delusion lasted for about a day and then I started to ask myself, “What if, God forbid, she is right about this?” The challenges in our family communication we experience may not just be about the overuse of technology (what I focused on in July) but it may come down to something much more more personal; something that is emanating from ME to my wife and my children.
The ironic thing is that our family motto for the past several years has been that we want our home to be “a SAFE haven and a shining lighthouse.” I was the one sabotaging the very quality that Cindy and I have sought to cultivate in our family.
I had become “unsafe” in the way my wife was experiencing me. I had reverted to my natural way for me to behave. I just left my old “default setting” on: being self-righteous, self-centered, critical and judgmental. Pretty ugly stuff, huh? But those are my natural tendencies when I do not appropriate my true, new identity in Christ.
Without my daily putting these tendencies to death by faith in His cross and trusting in His life in and through me, then that is what I will naturally live out. It doesn’t matter that I have been married for 33 years and I have much intellectual and deep experiential understanding about what it takes to make a good marriage. If I don’t humble myself and allow Him to exchange His life for mine daily I WILL be “unsafe.” I will go on writing to and teaching strangers about strengthening family life while alienating the very ones I love the most—my own family!
As I reflected on what it will take for me to become “safe” again for my wife (and let’s just throw the kids in there while we’re at it), I have thought about the word “safe.” Providentially, the four letters provide for me an acronym that as I trust Christ to live out through me I can focus on Him. And I believe it can be a helpful tool for you as well!
Here it is:
Let’s start this month with the first idea.
I know what my “self-life” tendency is. Jesus Christ showed us another way. He served his disciples, humbly washing their feet before He went to the garden, and then ultimately serving them and us by submitting to the cross for our salvation.
John chapter 13 says that Jesus Himself served His followers because He knew He was loved and was exalted in position. He RECEIVED FIRST from His Father and then He gave out. He served His disciples out of the overflow, secure in His love relationship with the Father. That is a model for you and me in our families. First we receive Christ’s love and then we respond to that love by extending what we have received to our family members. Just as Christ was a responder to the Father by initiating service, you and I respond to Him by initiating service to our families.
Here is an important thing for you and me to remember. We don’t accomplish this by imitating Him because we really can’t. This is done by faith, in participation with Him, through our death with Him (Galatians 2:20) and His resurrection power available to live through us as we step out in obedience to what He shows us to do. We go from living by default to living by faith in Him and who He says we are now as sons of the Heavenly Father.
Taking the initiative in husband/wife communication, picking up the slack in household chores without even being asked, actively listening, initiating prayer with your wife and kids, being the first to admit you are wrong in a conflict and actively looking for ways to encourage family members -- are all opportunities for you and me to serve our families.
And you know, the thing I have discovered is that when I do serve my wife or my kids I experience JOY in the process. He provides the payback in His own way and time! It is TRUE what Jesus told His disciples after he washed their feet: “Now that you know these things, YOU will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17)