Protecting Our Relationships

Relationships matter—whether at home, at work, in our neighborhoods. I believe God created women with tender, emotionally-alert hearts so that we could be the relational buffers. The nurturers and tone setters.

Stressers come, and people won’t always live up to our expectations. We may not always understand why they do the things they do, or perhaps we wish they’d do things differently. Regardless, we are to love. Deeply, faithfully, consistently. Today our guest Jennifer Henn shares a time when God showed her how to reveal His love to her daughter. As you read her testimony, prayerfully consider who God’s called you to love. Are you protecting that relationship or inadvertently tearing it down?

Hannah sat at the computer long after I thought she should be finished with her assignments. Gripping the back of her desk chair, I started to swing her around to face me, then thought better of it.

Why can’t she just do her work? She’s falling behind, but refuses my help.

The online school we’d decided to try was turning into a disaster. I was torn between wanting her to toughen up and do the work, and getting through the year without hating each other.

I believed she could do better. What kind of punishment could I give to bring the situation under control?

Without harming our relationship.

A woman of ChristShe’s a preteen, and several women told me this was it; I had four years of hell coming. I wanted to prove them wrong. And I knew anger would destroy what I really wanted. I wanted us to have a Hallmark movie type of relationship. The kind where she’d trust me enough to tell me about the guy she has a crush on or ask me for advice.

My grip on the chair loosened. Worst case scenario, she’d flunk every class, then I’d look like a failure. Can I live with that? So what, it doesn’t matter what people think of me. I know she’s smart, and we can bounce back from a difficult seventh-grade year. But if I’m a tyrant while trying to get the school work done, our relationship might not recover.

My shoulders relaxed. Almost smiling, I said, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it.”

She turned with a mixture of question and doubt in her eyes, “What?”

“Don’t worry about it, it’ll be okay.”

She studied me. She knew how I felt about getting school work done. Any minute my scorn might return and I’d start lecturing.

But I didn’t.

Within weeks of deciding not to fight, we discovered she needed glasses. Not being able to see the computer screen clearly had a lot to do with her inattentiveness. She got her glasses that November and spent the day walking around saying, “Look, I see leaves on the trees instead of a blob of green.”

Things like that make you feel guilty as a parent.

She continued to struggle.

One day, I sat at her computer to complete a days’ worth of studies. I went through the work and followed all the instructions. Each subject took me over an hour.

Second guilty moment: why hadn’t I done that before?

I’d looked at the program and separate subjects multiple times, but until I worked it, I didn’t get it. The program was labor intensive. The school said you didn’t have to do everything listed in the assignments, but I could tell it’d be hard for her to discern which parts she could omit.

After that, we worked together more, and I encouraged her, but we both experienced plenty of frustration. After a lot of hard work, it looked like she would fail every class. I didn’t think she’d actually land on my “worst-case scenario,” but here we were.

Because this online school was a public charter school, she was required to take the state of Georgia end of year exams at a satellite location. The exam covered core subjects. When the test results came in, she had met the requirements for math and history. In language and science, she exceeded the requirements.

Next year, I’ll start her in eighth grade, but not in online school.

The difficulties of the school year didn’t ruin our days together because I set my goal with a long-term mission in mind—relationship.

Not worrying about her grades caused me to set aside my pride and control only what I could, namely my responses. Since then, there’ve been plenty of times I’ve acted poorly, or we’ve argued, but we don’t hold grudges. And today I pinch myself; it’s a dream come true. The “four years of hell” didn’t happen as others predicted, and my daughter says she loves spending time with me.

That’s what I’ve always wanted.

Proverbs 14:1

The wise woman builds her house [on a foundation of godly precepts, and her household thrives], But the foolish one [who lacks spiritual insight] tears it down with her own hands [by ignoring godly principles]. (Proverbs 14:1 AMP)

During a time of failing classes, a temporary condition, God gave me the grace and strength to build up a house that thrives.

Let’s talk about this! I’m pretty sure none of set out to damage our relationships, but it happens. A careless word here, a selfish act there. I’ve found, living selfishly and shortsightedly comes much too easily to me. I have to make a continual and concerted effort to put others and relationships first. One way I do this is by planning relationship-building time into my week because I’ve found if I just let things happen as they may, I can easily get swept up in my to-do list and forget about what matters most—those precious friends and loved ones God has given to me.

What about you? What are some ways you intentionally build into your relationships? What are some things you avoid doing in order to protect them? Pop on over to our Facebook page to join the conversation!