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Re-framing problems as opportunities, being diligent about determining who owns the problem, and allowing for flexibility in solving problems are important in any relationship if our hope is to know each other more deeply. And these skills are absolutely essential for adult children who face the possibility of caring for their aging parents. A great example of this aired in a special about caring for aging parents on ABC in 2011. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ElderCare/sibling-situation-caring-elderly-ailing-parents/story?id=11592489
This story demonstrates that by being attentive to unique strengths and limitations among the siblings, they allowed for flexibility in solving the problem, which led to an overall better solution if for no other reason than the siblings were growing closer to each other rather than letting their anger and frustration win the day. Sometime our conflicts really do provide the opportunity for us to grow in intimacy with God and to grow in deep, loving relationships with our family regardless of how that family is structured or what crisis that family might be facing.
So what if the emotion with which you do things in a family actually matters? What if anger produces one kind of outcome and love produces a different kind of outcome? That would be a torah of family to ponder by day and by night. If the energy we bring to our problems is anger, lust, or fear, it won’t work; but if the energy is loving, then it will work. The energy in families needs to be genuinely warm, kind, gentle, joyful, playful, and easygoing. And those things can be the hardest to do inside the family.
Consider that the next time a problem comes up in your family, you might think of it as an opportunity, figure out who owns the problem, consider that person’s developmental readiness for solving the problem, and if they’re ready – let them solve it. Your job will be to enjoy watching someone you love learn and grow and change and become all that God has created them to be. That sounds like a pretty fun job!
We are familiar with the Torah of Moses, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, but what about the Torah of Yahweh?
Let’s start with Yahweh. Yahweh is the personal name of God. When Moses experienced God in the burning bush and asked God’s name, God replied “I am who I am. Or I will be who I will be,” meaning “that which causes to be” or “my nature will become evident from my actions” (Jewish Study Bible Footnotes Exodus 3:14). This is Yahweh. I am. Yahweh, God, is the verb “to be”. This is a different way of looking at the world – God revealed through the reality of how things are, how things really work. When I think of God as “I am”, I can look at a situation with curiosity and ask questions to understand what is real about what’s happening so that I can pay attention to how God is revealed in the midst of the situation.
Torah can be understood as the lawfulness of something – how it works. So, one way of looking at the concept of the torah of Yahweh is the lawfulness of reality – how life works.
When I begin to pay attention to how life really works rather than focusing on how I want life to work:
- I recognize that my kids have to develop their own relationships with each other and I can’t make them get along.
- I understand that I can’t control what my child thinks or feels or wants, but I can create a safe environment within which my child can gain a better understanding of what he/she thinks and feels and wants and learn how to express those desires in a respectful, considerate way.
- I realize that I can’t make my adult sibling call me on a regular basis, but I can pick up the phone and call him/her.
- I grieve with my aging parents over the losses they are suffering as together we work through solutions instead of dismissing their loss as I make arrangements and solve problems for them.
We can ignore the way life really works and continue to react to the way we think life should work, but that can get a little frustrating over time. I might think that I should be able to walk onto a tennis court and play without stretching first (like I could when I was 16) without getting injured, but that’s not how life really works in my 40’s. I might want to run to Target with my two year-old when he/she is tired, but I shouldn’t be surprised if the outing involves a complete meltdown, because that’s what happens when we get tired. I might even think that my dad should willingly give up the keys and move into a safer environment like an assisted living facility, but that will be frustrating for both of us if he doesn’t participate in the decision-making and maintain as much independence as possible in the process.
When we start paying attention to how life really works and look for God’s compassion and love in that reality, then our solutions can become more collaborative and more creative