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In the Bible patience means “long-suffering.” Dave and Ann Wilson, with Bob Lepine, explain why this is so important for parents, and why showing gentle grace in the midst of irritation makes all the difference.
Bob: Do you treat your adult children like they’re still your children?—or like they are adults? Here’s Dave Wilson.
Dave: First thing I learned, when I started dating this woman and then got married, is her dad, from day one, treated me like a man, adult to adult. It struck me: I had not been treated by an older man like that. He wanted my opinions; he asked my advice. I almost snickered at first, like, “You don’t really…”; and he did! I remember feeling like, “He respects me, even though he shouldn’t! [Laughter] Because I know nothing!”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 14th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Do you find there is some tension in your relationship with your adult children?—maybe it’s because you’re still treating them like children and not like adults? We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I think what listeners are going to hear us talking about today—this is one of the top three questions I get asked by listeners, when I’m out talking to people, and they’re looking for help.
Ann: —and they’re desperate.
Bob: They want to know, “How do I have a relationship/a strong, healthy, loving relationship with my adult kids, who are starting to view the world differently than I view the world?—and starting to go in directions that I’m going, ‘Don’t go there!’
Bob: “’Don’t think that!’”
Dave: It’s amazing how our kids become adults; isn’t it?
Bob: —how they have minds of their own?
Dave: And they do think different.
Ann: Sometimes it’s sad. [Laughter]
Bob, it was fun for Dave and I to get to do this with you—to actually talk on this topic.
Bob: Yes; I think the listeners are going to enjoy the conversation they’re going to hear.
But before we take them to that, we’re pretty excited. We’ve been sharing with our listeners, over the last couple of weeks, we have some friends of the ministry, who have come to us and said, “We know that this has been a hard year for ministries like FamilyLife Today. We want to help at yearend.” They’ve agreed to match every donation we receive, during the month of December, dollar for dollar, up to a total of
Dave: That’s amazing.
Ann: What a generous offer and gift.
Bob: And it is a year where we are asking God to help us meet this matching gift. Every donation we receive this month is vital and important. We wanted to come to listeners and say: “I don’t know what you’re thinking about yearend giving. I don’t know where your family is financially; we know it’s been hard for a lot of families this year. But if you can make a yearend contribution, would you consider a gift to FamilyLife Today to help us continue to provide practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families?”
Dave: Yes; you said it, Bob. It’s been a hard year for everybody. There are people listening—maybe they lost their job—that’s extremely difficult and scary. I’ve got to be honest: “It’s scary for ministries as well. Who has ever gone through the kind of year 2020 was. COVID has shut down our events. We pivoted to online to try to help people; but in many ways, we are trusting God like never before for people, like you and me, to say, ‘I believe in this ministry, and I want to give.’”
Let me say—I know you’re going to be asked to give to a lot of different things; we are as well. Let me ask you: “Do you believe FamilyLife® is making a difference?” You’re not just giving to an organization; you’re giving to thousands/really, tens of thousands of couples/families. Ann and I are sitting here, a changed legacy, because of FamilyLife. We don’t talk about it a lot, but FamilyLife helped save our marriage and gave us a vision for what the future could look like.
That’s what FamilyLife does—we help—we say this all the time, but we offer practical help and hope. You’re giving to that. You’re going to be changing families like the Wilsons by giving a dollar; I hope it’s tens of thousands of dollars. What an unbelievable opportunity to be matched! That’s God using a family to say, “We know this is an important ministry, and we want to be a part.” I challenge you/invite you: “Join us. Make a difference. Ask God, and then do what He asks you to do.”
Ann: You guys, has there ever been a time in history, in my opinion, that it’s more needed? As we look at what has happened this year, across our globe and across our country, I feel like marriage and family is what is most needed to change our culture. It starts in the family, so this could be a great way for us to change the world.
Bob: For where we’re headed, as a culture, strengthening families may be the most important thing that needs to happen—that’s what we believe—and that’s what you’re investing in. If you can help with a yearend donation, go to FamilyLifeToday.com—make an online donation—or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Your donation is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, when you donate during the month of December. We’re grateful for your financial support.
We hope you’re going to benefit from the conversation you’re about to hear. Again, we had a chance to speak to a lot of couples, who had come to hear conversation about how we relate and love our adult children, even when things get challenging.
[Relating to Adult Children Panel]
Bob: We’re talking with parents all the time who are blindsided, I think, by the cultural divide and where their kids are landing on the cultural divide; they’re burdened. When we sat down with our kids on the first night of us all being together, I said, “The fact that you all were looking forward to being together with one another…” We would’ve just assumed, “Well, of course; they’re brothers and sisters; of course, they’d want to be together.”
But we know friends, who have family members, who live in the same town/they have brothers and sisters living in the same town, who don’t speak to one another in the same town. You can’t take for granted that everybody’s going to get along. You can’t take for granted that everybody’s going to have a consistent biblical worldview or that everybody’s going to be walking with the Lord. It’s the reality of the world we’re living in today.
We had the sexual revolution in the ‘60s that was challenging all of the norms. Well, today, we’re now eating the fruit of that season. Things that, 20 years ago, we would’ve looked at and said, “That would never happen,” are the norm and being celebrated in the culture. Our kids are being catechized by an ever-present world. How are things different? Everybody’s hyper-connected, so information is coming at us nonstop. It’s programming how we think and how our kids think. It’s leading us to this hyper-divided world we live in.
Ann: Bob, I heard you, even on radio for the past year—often, you’ll refer to
Ephesians 4—I love that you use that so much. Walk us through that in terms of: “How is that a foundation that can help us navigate the terrain?”
Bob: Ephesians 4:1-3 is a great place for you to just meditate/maybe memorize—that’s what I’ve been focusing on—just planting it in my brain. I read this passage; and I thought, “This is talking about how we should get along in the church.” But here, this applies not just to church; it applies to how we get along in our families. Ephesians 4, verse 1, says: “Therefore”—Paul says—“I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you’ve been called with all humility and gentleness with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
You look at that and say, “What’s the goal?” It’s down in verse 3; the goal is: “…maintain the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace.” Wouldn’t you love to think that, with your kids in your extended family, there was the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace? “Well, yes; that’s what we all hope for and thought that would happen naturally.”
Ann: Yes, but what if we don’t have unity of the Spirit?
Bob: And that happens in families; right? If there’s not spiritual unity in the family, you can still be pursuing peace and some level of unity/commonality—some level of being able to find the things we have in common that are biblically-undergirded—“We may not agree on some issues of doctrine or morality in the culture today, but what can we agree on?”
We’re going to talk more about this, because not everybody’s in the same place. Some of you in here are looking/going, “Our kids have walked away from the faith completely.” Some of you are saying, “Our kids still go to church, but it’s not a church we’d pick for them to go to.” There are all kinds of that thing going on.
Ann: Some of you may have heard our interview with Jim Burns, who wrote a book called Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Here’s a quote—he said he went to speak at this conference, and here’s what he said—he said: “Most of us have adult children who have violated our values and chosen a different path than we would have chosen for them.” When he did that, the crowd moaned in recognition. I think that’s really true; there’s this heaviness, like, “It hasn’t gone the way we had hoped.”
Bob: And the subtitle of his book?—Keep [Your Mouth Shut] and the Welcome Mat Out. [Laughter] There’s something to that. It’s not that we never have conversations or dialogue; but the welcome part should be where we’re focused rather than, “I’ve got to fix you in the 15 minutes while you drop by the house”; right?
You look back at this passage in Ephesians 4; it says, “Preserve the unity of the Spirit/maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” How do you do that? Well, you go back to verse 1; you do it by walking in a manner worthy of the calling. Our job, as parents, is to have a worthy walk so that our interactions with our kids would be how Jesus would interact with our kids if He was having those conversations with them. Sometimes we think what Jesus would do is He would just blast them, because that’s what we feel like doing: right?—[Laughter]—He’d fix them; He’d correct them/He’d say: “You’re wrong here,” and “You’re wrong there.”
But how was Jesus with unbelievers? How was Jesus/the people He blasted were the self-righteous Pharisees. Look at the four words that are in this verse: “humility,” “gentleness,” “patience,” and “bearing with one another in love.” Let me walk through those.
Humility means that your kids know that you believe: “I can learn from you just like you can learn from me.” Would your kids say, “I know that Mom and Dad listen to me and respect my opinion, and they can learn stuff from me”? Would they say, “They’ve demonstrated that, and I know that’s how they think and what they believe”?
I find a lot of kids today/adult kids, who would say, “Oh, my mom and dad think they’ve got the corner on the truth. They’re the only ones who know; they never listen. They don’t understand.” There’s got to be a humility that says, “I want to hear/I want to know what you’re thinking. How’d you get to that conclusion?” We’ve got to be having those conversations.
Ann: It’s so hard too. Isn’t it hard to do that when our kids are saying these crazy things?
Ann: Yes, it’s hard! I’m fearful of what they’re saying and what they’re going to do with their beliefs or whatever. I think I’m interjecting—I don’t now, but I used to—because I’m thinking, “Oh, don’t go there; because I know where this could lead for you.” It’s hard for us, as parents, just to be quiet and to listen.
Dave: Bob’s right. Great listeners have to be humble. You can’t listen well unless you’re humble. Your arrogance means, “I’m not really listening; I’m going to tell you.”
Ann: —and “I’m better.”
Dave: Humility means, “I really think you have something of value for me to learn. Son/daughter, let me try to understand. Help me.”
Bob: You know, when they were teenagers, and they would come home and they would say, “Well, So-and-so said that he was gay today.” Everything inside of you is like, “What?! Tell me the whole thing.” You freak out. [Laughter]
We try to help folks: “You have to practice, with your teenagers, your not-freak-out face: ‘Oh; oh, that’s interesting. Tell me more.’” [Laughter]
Dave: You go in the other room and freak out.
Ann: Yes, you freak out there. Dave and I freak out together, and then we go back in the other room.
Dave: We have a freak-out room in our house. [Laughter] It’s where we go. [Laughter]
C.J. was talking about his friend, who was smoking pot?
Ann: Yes; I think he was in high school. He was talking about this kid that smokes pot. I said, “Oh, is he that bad kid?”—those were the first words out of my mouth. This is years ago. He said, “Oh, is he a bad kid because he smokes pot, Mom?” I say [biting tongue], “I don’t know.” [Laughter] But it was good for me; it was helping me to catch the things that come out of my mouth.
Bob: We had to learn how to do that when they were teenagers. Now, when they’re 30, and they come home and start saying things, that you have the same freak-out: “You believe that?” “You watch that?” “You listen to what?” “You’re voting that way?!”; right? [Laughter]
Bob: You’ve got to: “Interesting; tell me more.” I mean, we’ve got to practice this kind of humility that says, “I want to see how you got to that place. I want to know more about…”
Dave: What you just modeled—the second word—I was going to ask you: “So talk about gentleness. You just sort of showed us what gentleness—but gentleness—what does that look like?”
Bob: Gentleness means you’re not harsh with your kids; you’re not angry with your kids. You are kind; you’re gentle.
This is interesting; I read this in a book, where an author said Jesus—“The only thing He ever said about His character”—you know what it was? He said, “Take My yoke upon you, for I am meek and lowly of heart.” Humble and gentle is what He was saying: “I’m humble, and I’m gentle.”
Gentleness is this response of grace and self-control in a moment when you’re freaking out. It’s controlling your anger/your frustration. It’s demonstrating mercy, and love, and compassion, and kindness instead of coming with this anger or this frustration that you feel.
Ann: That’s good.
Dave: I remember—boy, this is 40-some years ago—hearing Gary Smalley, Sr., who’s now with the Lord—talk about how to open up a closed spirit. Anybody remember this?—this is on VHS tapes. He’s talking about, in a marriage, when your spouse is closed up. You’ve said something/you’ve done something that hurts her or hurts him. He used a fist—they’re just closed—and he goes, “You can’t open that spirit. You try; you speak.” And again, I might be getting this wrong; it’s been 40 years, and I had hair back then. [Laughter]
Here’s the thing—I do remember him saying, “The only way a closed spirit comes open again is humility and gentleness.” He didn’t even quote Ephesians 4. But I remember he said, “If you’re approaching a son, who’s closed to something you’ve said or done, just get down on the floor, below them.
Ann: “Get on their level.”
Dave: “Don’t tower over and power up. Come in gentle/humble, and give grace. That spirit may not be quick, but it will begin to open up.”
I think it’s so true with adult kids; they’ve felt that: “We’ve been powered over for our lives.” We go from parent/to child to adult/to adult—that’s a hard transition for parents to make—it’s not as hard for the kid. They want it; they expect it.
The first thing I learned, when I started dating this woman and then got married, is her dad, from day one, treated me like a man. It struck me: I had not been treated by an older man like that. He wanted my opinions; he asked my advice. I remember feeling like, “He respects me, even though he shouldn’t! [Laughter] Because I know nothing!”
Ann: I think, by the time we were in high school, my dad would have a topic. He would look around the table, and he said, “What do you guys think about that?” Then he’d say something was going on at work; and he’d say, “What do you think I should do?” To me, that demonstrates that humbleness/that willingness to still learn and hear our ideas.
I know he’s not going to do half the things we ever said; but the fact that he would listen to us, look us in the eye, and said, “Ah, that’s interesting. I like how you’re thinking, and I like where you’re going with that.” He may not have, but it made us feel good.
Dave: Think about this, Bob. As you’re talking about Paul’s writings: humility, gentleness; here’s a big one—the next word—“patience.” With your kids, what does patience look like?
Bob: You know what it means, literally—long-suffering.
Dave: That’s the definition of parenting, right there. [Laughter]
Bob: The word, patience, means you suffer/you endure; you stay under the weight of something for a long time. The word translated, patient, in the New Testament is a Greek word that literally means to put your anger or wrath away—to put it far away from you. The first quality of love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13: “Love is”—what?
Ann: [With audience] “patient.”
Bob: —the first thing. That’s not what we think of when we say, “Define love.” We don’t think: “Patience.” But long-suffering is the first thing; to be patient is to be long-suffering as opposed to being hasty with anger or punishment/to endure patiently as opposed to losing faith or giving up.
You don’t give up, because your hope is not in your child or how they’re responding. You hope is in the redemptive power of God in everyone’s life. Anytime I’m talking to parents—today, I’m walking over here, talking to parents—the mom says to me, “Our number-two son, last month, moved in with his girlfriend. He was the one, who said, ‘I’ll never do that to you,’ because his older brother had moved in with his girlfriend before they got married. My son said, ‘Yes, I’ll never do that to you, Mom,’ and now he has”; right? You look at that—and you feel guilt, and shame, and “We’ve failed,” and all of this—you think, “Man, these bad choices...” You can start to feel like there’s no hope left.
I say to parents, all the time, “The story is not over. God specializes in beauty from ashes.” Ashes—ashes are as bad as it can get; there’s nothing left but ashes—and God can make that into something beautiful.
Ann: We have some really good friends that have a 40-year-old son, their oldest. He’s been married/divorced; he’s living in their home now. He struggled with a job; he struggled with drug addiction. It’s been a long, hard journey. They’ve had to be patient, and it’s been really hard.
And yet, we were there one night; and when everyone is in bed, I heard the mom put on this praise and worship. She walks around the house, singing over their house, claiming and praying for this son—that Jesus will grab hold of [his] heart. She’s praying on her knees, and she’s doing battle on her knees. That’s a good place to go with our adult children, especially.
Bob: I think some diagnostic questions to help you figure out: “How I am at patience?”—“Are you easily provoked by your adult kids?” [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, yes.
Bob: “Do you find yourself easily annoyed or angry when your adult kids don’t act or think the way you think they should?” “Are there times, where you’re interacting with your kids, and you start to feel your jaws clenching, and your muscles tighten?”—right? If that’s the case, then that shows that there’s some lack of patience. You’ve got to learn how to trust in the Lord, and say, “God’s in the midst of this,” and find your rest in Him.
So humility, gentleness, patience; and then this last word is “forbearance.” Tolerance is what it means, which has to do with those areas in a relationship, where there are habits or patterns that annoy us. This doesn’t mean that you tolerate or you forbear where there’s evil. It just means that, when there’s somebody, who acts or think differently than you, you can show grace in those situations—not with overt sin or evil—but with those situations, where you just have to learn: when those things irritate you, you can have grace in another person’s life. That’s what forbearance looks like.
Bob: We’ve been listening to a session we had, not long ago, with a lot of moms and dads/parents of adult kids, talking about how we continue to build a strong, healthy relationship with our adult children, even when we don’t see eye to eye on things.
Dave: I smile; because I can feel the room even now, months later. There was tension, because there was real conflict with adult children—they have different opinions/different thoughts. You have them over for dinner; and there are topics you can’t bring up, because you’re going to disagree, and they’re making decisions you don’t agree with. Man, oh, man—like you were just saying—to have forbearance, and grace, and mercy in those moments is godly.
Ann: I’m surprised. I thought, when our kids were 18—or really, when they’re done with college—I just kind of like: “Okay; we did it; we’re done. We’re sending them off. We’re launching them.” I didn’t think I would worry this much or care this much or still continue to have conversations or conflict—like, “Oh, it keeps going”; and it can be even more difficult. To have these conversations is really helpful.
Bob: Yes; we recorded a podcast, awhile back, with our friend, Jim Burns, who has written a book called Doing Life with Your Adult Children: Keep Your Mouth Shut and the Welcome Mat Out is the subtitle of the book. The podcast links are available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s also a link; you can download the entire workshop that we did together on this subject. Or you can order a copy of Jim’s book; we’ve got that in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Again, the links are all up at FamilyLifeToday.com—that’s FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’d like to call to order a copy of the book, our toll-free number is 800-358-6329—that’s 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” If it’s easier, call and order a copy of Jim Burns’ book, Doing Life with Your Adult Children.
We mentioned this earlier; we are hoping and praying this month to be able to take advantage of a $2 million-matching gift that has been made available to us, here, at FamilyLife. Friends of the ministry, who put this matching-gift fund together—every donation we receive during December is going to be matched, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $2 million. We’ve heard from some of you; thank you for getting in touch with us. If God has used FamilyLife Today in your life in any way over the last 12 months, and if you can make a generous yearend contribution, we’d love to hear from you right now. Again, your donation will be matched, dollar for dollar, thanks to the matching-gift fund.
And we’ll send you, as a thank-you gift, two items: a copy of my book, Love Like You Mean It, that’s all about how we can apply the definition of love found in
1 Corinthians 13 in our marriages; and we’ll send you a flash drive/a thumb drive that’s got more than 100 of the best FamilyLife Today programs of the last 28 years—programs about marriage and parenting, relationships; programs that feature Dennis and Barbara Rainey/feature Dave and Ann Wilson, many of the guests we’ve had on FamilyLife Today.
That flash drive and my book are our way of saying, “Thank you for your generous yearend donation.” You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to donate: 1-800-F-LTODAYis the number—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the transition parents need to make as we raise our kids from being their caretaker to being their coach; ultimately, to being a consultant. We’ll talk about why it’s so important to make that transition; that’s coming up tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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