My dad’s family, for better or for worse, likes to sing. There are various singing styles from the operatic, classically trained cousins to the rag-time piano playing uncle whose merry voice is matched only in volume. Of course there are a couple of silent nodders, who would sit in the back of the room during ad hoc chorale fests, who didn’t sing (in some cases for good reason) but would appreciate the harmonies and the messages of the songs. Opa was my favourite. He would sit, usually fairly tight-lipped, eye twinkling, head slightly cocked to the side and would hold his hands with all his fingers touching but not clasped; sometimes his fingers would move ever so slightly to the pulse of the hymn or chorus we were singing.
And to be honest the family could sing. Most of the aunts and uncles grew up in churches where choirs were a mainstay, and that musicality translated down to the children; harmony was no problem. Because we were decent singers someone had the brilliant idea that our family should make a choir and do some sort of special number at my church in Niverville. I assume this was a grand event because several of the family members were scattered around the globe but were home and thus included in the choir. It was kind of an awful affair for a child of my age (probably a happy pre-pubescent 10 or 11) to have to sing in front of anyone, let alone together with your entire extended family. And as it usually the case, my vocal dissent was overruled by happy relatives, who patronized me and then scolded me and then dragged my sorry behind along.
I know that we did at least two songs, but I only remember one, Jesus Loves Me. Beautiful, simple, true. It was the perfect trans-generational hymn capturing the innocence of childhood and the lovely simple faith of those older. We did all four verses. (There are actually five, I just checked, but I’ve never even heard the middle stanza so it clearly isn’t theologically important. Besides four verses is quite long enough!) We practiced too. At grandma’s house the very birthplace of the idea, and then at church on Sunday morning several times. We had our places on stage. We had our parts in the harmonies. Unfortunately somehow in the thrill of the of the show, half the choir became confused and so where we should have sung, “Jesus loves me, He who died. Heaven’s gates to open wide” there was clearly audible this fascinating rendition, “Jesus loves me, He who died, close beside me all the way.”
“Jesus loves me.” Check. “He who died.” Check. “Close beside me all the way?” HERESY!
This is the point, when you sing in a choir, it is paramount that you are on the same page.
I once went on a missions trip to Mexico and witnessed worship in our little host church in a very different way from what I knew in Canada. In this precious congregation of 30 or so people, everyone would start to sing before the guitar started and would continue to sing in the key of their choosing (at a tempo of their choosing as well) while the guitar player simple strummed to add strings to the cacophony.
Do you know what your kids hear when their mom and dad don’t share a parenting strategy? At best it’s a joke, at worst its a cacophony. (Which is not a judgement on those wonderful Mexican brothers and sisters; their worship was authentic and divine. This just doesn’t work for parenting!) If you want to have a guaranteed confused child, just contradict your spouse as you discipline or reward different behaviours. Are you on the same page for meal-times? What about video games – or the amount of screen time? Do you support one another in front of the kids even if you quietly aren’t sure that the strategy of your spouse is sound, or even sane.
Can you imagine if God parented us the same way we sometimes we parent our children? We wouldn’t know if He was happy or mad with us! We wouldn’t have just rewards or discipline! I like what Jesus says in Matthew 7:11 (HCSB) “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
See God is good! He loves to give His children precisely what they need. But do you know what is the best part of this verse? The acknowledgment that even though we are human parents, struggling with sins of our own, we can and do give good gifts to our children. That is pretty hopeful!
One great gift you can give your kids this week is to discuss with your spouse any areas where you have been at odds with each other’s parenting. Work it out. Negotiate. Give and take. You are both probably a least a bit right in your thinking anyways! You’re kids will appreciate a harmonious home.
(Did I actually just pun that? My apologies.)