Thursday, January 24, 2013

Peaceful Transition of Power

George Washington was quoted at the Inauguration of President Obama this week. The first president said that "the peaceful transition of power is what will separate this country from every other country in the world."  It seems to me that this is a good reminder for families as well. We should plan to make peaceful transitions of power part of our family life. After all, in every family, as in every country, eventually there is a transition of power.

Transitions of power, peaceful or otherwise, are going on all around us, all the time. With our children, each new stage of development leads to greater power for the child. Many parents have experienced the inevitable passage of potty training as a not-so-peaceful transition of power. Some children can't wait to be independent and do it themselves, while others don't want to be bothered with taking responsibility for their own bodily functions. Beginning in middle school there are battles for independence occurring nearly weekly. The empowerment of a driver's license or an eighteenth birthday can turn some children from agreeable family members to megalomaniacs.

On the other end of the spectrum, we see elderly parents clinging to power that might better be held by their children. They insist on continuing to drive after their eyesight and hearing have deteriorated to a point where this is no longer safe.  They want to continue to handle their own finances after their memory loss makes this impractical. Some aging parents make plans for a peaceful transition of power, making decisions about how things should be handled if they become frail or have memory issues. Others refuse to acknowledge that they are aging and make no plans, creating a very painful and sometimes chaotic transition of power when decisions need to be made.

We would do well to plan for orderly transitions of power in our families. Look ahead, and prepare our children to be responsible for themselves. Forecast that for them; let them know your expectations for their independence. Examine ourselves and see if we are keeping them dependent, or setting them up to fail, so we can keep them with us a little longer. It is helpful to look to our own experiences of transitioning to independence and avoid the mistakes of our own parents. It is wise to look around for people who transitioned the way we would hope our kids will, and try to imitate their success. On the flip side, we need to prepare for a time when we will no longer be able to have sole charge over our own lives; we need to prepare to make that transition of power peacefully as well.

Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven." Most of you reading this are in a season of independence and power. You may be acquiring power as you begin your time as a parent, or your power may be waning as your term as the leader of the family draws to a close. It is the nature of things, and we would do well to make these transitions peacefully.

We can make all our transitions of power with the assurance that the ultimate power rests in the hands of a loving God who holds us all through all the seasons of our lives, saying, as many American presidents have said at their inaugurations: "So help me God."

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