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"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

-Ephesians 6:4

Do you remember sitting in the backseat of the car as a kid aggravated when your sibling put a hand or foot inches near or on your side of the seat? Sometimes you might decide to do the same to them, so they might scream in objection and not only manage to irritate them but maybe even get them in trouble. The backseat became a battleground with inevitably someone yelling,“Get off my side!”

As a mom of 5 grown children now with only one currently desiring to follow the Lord, this verse has been key to maintaining healthy relationships with them. My husband and I raised them in the Lord’s discipline and instruction, and now we must faithfully pray for them and love them as they choose their own journey of faith. It is our responsibility not to provoke them to anger, and this oftentimes means just listening to their point of view in order to gain wisdom as to where they currently are on their beliefs.

God’s Word reminds us that pushing our beliefs off on them when they are currently not open for discussion is like the siblings in the back seat. This type of behavior does not reap the fruit of righteousness in anyone’s lives. It just provokes irritation, frustration, and many times, anger. My oldest daughter will often remind me that I am getting too close to the edge by gently saying, “Did you really need to say that?” In those moments the Lord reminds me that He loves my children more than me, and He is calling me to pray for them and trust the results to Him. It isn’t our job to be the Holy Spirit to them. He has the best handle on this.

We also cannot blame the enemy for distance in our relationships with our children, if we are letting our flesh rule the way we conduct our conversations with them. It is not only selfish to push our agenda onto our grown children, but it may even damage our relationship for years and prolong their search for truth. We must example our beliefs by our respect toward them. We need to stay sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, so we walk through the door when they open it. This gives them the freedom to walk through their own journey of faith but also leaves room for us to be available for conversations to understand each other.

May we learn to love them like Jesus. He is present in our lives even when we ignore Him. He never forces Himself on us but waits with open arms when we decide to seek Him. Since this is true for us, it’s true for our wayward children too.

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