Tonight I experienced how God can turn my stupidity into solid gold for his purpose. The three Hines kids' bickering and meanness seem to have become steadily worse over the past few days. Two hours after they were sent to bed we still heard arguing from their downstairs bedrooms. I thought if I went down to pray with them they might settle down, but it didn't work out that way. When I witnessed their gleeful disobedience I kinda snapped, and told them how disappointed I was with them because of their blaming, lying, bullying, and generally hateful behavior toward one another. Not satisfied with that scathing rebuke, I told them that even though I had come down to pray with them, that I wasn't going to waste my breath because they didn't seem to care what God, their parents or I think about their behavior.
When I told their parents what I had said, Neal told me he didn't agree with the message I communicated to them, that they could easily misconstrue what I said as having given up on them. He was afraid they would conclude that God could also give up on them and ignore their prayers.
I was shocked by that take on my little lecture to the kids, and could see how he was right. Immediately, he called them all upstairs to have a family conference about it. He handled it brilliantly, asking each of the kids if they really wanted an unhappy family life, and explaining for the n-th time that each is responsible only for his or her own behavior, and that trying to force one another to toe the line creates only bitterness and destructive conflict in the family. Though the three bore generally hangdog expressions, Evi the middle child first seemed to express sincere regret and made gestures of reconciliation toward her elder sister.
Then Neal asked if I wanted to add anything. Feeling perfectly crestfallen, I hadn't intended to chew on my foot anymore, but I tried to speak honestly with them. I told them that what I had said was from my frustration at their behavior, and not from my heart, but that I really loved them more than I could ever say. I said I was deeply sorry for saying what I had, and wanted them to always come to me for prayer, comfort and help anytime. Then I asked them to gather around and I thanked God for already forgiving me for what I had said in anger, and asked him for his love to flow through each one of us so we'd love not just our family, but everyone he sent our way. I asked God to help keep me from loosing my temper again, and each of them said it was okay and they understood how I might speak from my anger instead from my heart.