Solving This Relational Puzzle Changed My Marriage and My Parenting
By Demensio and Dolores Barton
Ever been tasked with drawing 4 continuously connected lines through 9 dots that make up a square (A lot like the one below)? Then the facilitator or friend puts you on the clock to resolve the tricky problem with only one clue, “You must think outside the box!”, and one rule “You can’t raise your pen or pencil from the paper while completing the puzzle!”
Go ahead and give it a Try.
I sure did! It was a very “Trying Experience”! It brings a smile to my face to think how elusive the solution was, but that is often the way it is in life. Many times we just need a little help getting out of the box.
Many of my wife’s and mine real life “puzzle” experiences have taken time to resolve, and for me, in particular, quite a few attempts to finally get it solved. Even so, like the box above illustrates, “We must be willing to learn new ways of solving problems”.
One of my most memorable brainteasers happened in the 90’s. My wife and I were well within our third year of marriage. Green as could be with big dreams and no budget.
Coincidentally, we were also in our third year of having decided to truly follow the Lord. We were just starting to learn about hearing from God and following Him. And like any good toddler, we were getting into everything. God had His work cut out for Him.
I think during those days, I was more of the instigator of our home’s toddler tantrums. It was sort of like my wife was the little girl in the class whose pigtails and pony tails beckoned to be pulled. (Actually, I would tickle her or do anything I could to make her laugh, I just liked seeing her laugh and smile!) Then, after a few playful taps or tugs, I would be off to the races before she could catch me, sometimes, nearly falling out in joyful laughter at my antics. I really enjoyed playing with her and I still do. I had not quite learned when to put the brakes on my play, after all, I was only about three at the time. Come to think of it, so were our boys.
Dolores and God sure had their hands full. God would have to holler sometimes to get my attention and to get me to stop playing so much, because I was starting to irritate my wife. So, I would comply with Him, until the next time.
Little did I know that over time these antics were having a side effect. My wife had started to learn how to ignore me, even when I was putting on a full comedy show with the boys, in the same room.
Things eventually began to click for me when I would be sincerely giving some heartfelt tidbit of advice and/or counsel to my wife, and she would not even remember it. If someone else said the exact same words, she would come running to tell me about this great revelation that such-n-such or who-n-ever had shared with her. I often mentioned that we had just discussed the same thing over a week ago, and she would just say, “Sorry D, I don’t remember that… but isn’t it great what such-n-so said…”
After enough of these episodes, that spiritual three-year-old had some really hurt feelings. I put myself in timeout. Okay it was more of a pout-out.
It was during this particular one that God, in His Fatherly goodness, comforted me and said, “Son, are you more upset because she got the point from someone else or because she didn’t get the point from you?” Then, He said something that was an epiphany for me, “You know, you shouldn’t care if she gets something I want her to have from you or not; just be Glad that she got it!”
All that I could say was “Wow!” It was at that time that the Lord led me to “Rethink” a verse that had become way too common to me. The verse was 1 Cor. 3:6-7:
1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NLT): I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
What really got to me was that I realized that it didn’t matter if the person getting the help was my wife or people in general for that matter. “Both watering and planting is important, but it does not matter who does it. Just let the job get done and rejoice that God helps the individual to grow.”
It was with this bit of baby’s milk that God fed me that day. His growth process was working in me even as we spoke. It was after that conversation with God, that I talked to my wife about what our Father had told me. She promptly explained to me that she had already known this! (All the while swinging one of her pigtails in girlish triumph).
That is how we decided to apply this same wisdom with our children. After all “Children are People too!” Not just anyone was allowed to speak into their lives, but we were now both open to them getting good counsel, from someone they were willing to hear, even if that someone wasn’t us. This paid off for us in spades when one of our daughters was going through a challenging time, where she was in need of good counsel. Only, we were not her first choices for that counsel. For us, “The goal accomplished is far sweeter, than appeasing our egos”. Here is the experience in her own words:
When I was 14 years old, my family went on vacation to Texas for the Southwest Believers Convention. I had been praying/wanting to go to this event for a long time and was very thankful that my parents were willing to cut out a whole work week and pay for us to go. This trip gave me a time to just get away from normal life and be refreshed. When we got back home at the end of the week, I knew that I was a different person, a better person.
My wife and many others are a witness to this truth. She was a changed teenager. There is an old saying that when we find wisdom, we should buy it and never get rid of it. Our daughter’s changed life was well worth the cost.
Oh; and by the way, here’s how you solve the puzzle.
It forms an arrow and as seen in Psalm 127: 3-5, Always make certain to aim yours well.