By Jen Akin
Nothing is more explosive in my relationship with my children than when my selfishness comes up against theirs. This happens primarily between 3:30 and 5:30PM on most school nights. Tired and hungry, we circle each other like tigers in a cage waiting for one false move. (For the record, the cage tends to be my 2010 Honda Civic.) Seem melodramatic to you? Yup – that’s part of this rough time of day too. Nothing is right, everything is wrong.
But I have a choice. I can throw up my hands and point fingers at whomever is the issue at that moment, or I can hold out my hand and extend grace. I can conjure up all my strength and ammunition, guns ready for battle, or I can rely on the Holy Spirit to enter in with supernatural, redemptive wisdom and direction. I have the choice to enter in with humility and ask good questions, listen carefully to the answers, and consider the heart of the young person before me. I can choose to value relationship, entering into conversation with the sense of two persons made in the image of Christ seeking common ground. A good way to move forward together with our day. I have a choice. Righteousness or selfishness.
As I read Psalm 34 recently, I reflected on David’s predicament in front of Abimelech. Running for his life, not wanting to cause further trouble, he pretends to be crazy. In response, Abimelech dismisses David, who is free to keep moving. He is safe. In response, this worship leader writes a song that speaks praise to the Lord and implores those who hear it to “seek righteousness.” I can only imagine the thanksgiving that David felt as he wrote and how being delivered from perilous circumstances has strengthened his devotion and love for the Lord. Who wouldn’t want to seek after righteousness in response to their life being saved? Well…sometimes…me.
Far from seeking peace and pursuing it (v14), I often dig in my heels, raise my voice and threaten to take away whatever screen time anyone has until Labor Day. Why? Because I wanted peace? Not exactly a brilliant move if that is what I was going for. My selfishness hits their selfishness and no one wins. The tigers are still circling, the tension heightens with my kids, and the conversation escalates to a hurtful place. And righteousness…well that isn’t even on the radar.
True righteousness lives in releasing control and desiring obedience. And I’m finding that seeking peace isn’t the absence of disagreement (v19), but is learning to listen to where the Holy Spirit is leading – even when a young man is incessantly whining about playing video games before doing homework. It’s about keeping an ear out for the whisper that directs one way or another and following it, rather than our own motives. This is the response of someone who understands that their life has been saved in the name of grace and mercy. Righteousness, not selfishness. I have a choice.