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"Mom, Dad, I'm Moving In With My Girlfriend"

Art of Relationships podcast titled "Mom, Dad, I'm Moving in With My Girlfriend", episode 127.

How are you going to respond to this shocking news? In this week’s Art of Relationships podcast episode, Chris and Tim discuss how responding with warmth, love, and patience can reinforce respect and acceptance in your relationship with your children. Diving deeper, they talk about the power of childlike love, faith, and affection to draw people closer to Jesus.


Speaker 1:

Welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.

Chris Grace:

All right. Well, it's really good to be here with you again today. So Tim, one of the things that we've been doing on this podcast is talking about things that have impacted us, that have stuck with us when it comes to relationships. It could be maybe a theme from a book or a movie or a quote. It could be something like that out in culture that we can recommend to others to maybe read. And it was really fun to do that. I think, let's do it again. What do you think?

Tim Muehlhoff:

It'd be great, would love to do it.

Chris Grace:

So Tim, when you think about relationships... And you've not only written a number of books, you've read a lot of books, you've assigned a lot of books. Some of these have stood out to you, which one for you is something that you're like, "Gosh, this book, there was something about it that grabbed me." Do you have one?

Tim Muehlhoff:

It's been kind of fun, this whole unknowing of what we were going to do, like part two of what we did before where we mentioned the Gottman book, Why Marriages Succeed, Why They Fail, and Brothers... No, not Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky. It's been fun just thinking all day about which Muehlhoff book you're going to pick first. I'm just waiting on pins and needles. I'm sure our listeners are waiting as well.

Tim Muehlhoff:

So I'm going to pick a book. It's kind of a technical book, but again, it's from Oxford University Press. It's just one of these books, they say some things and you just go, "Okay, I haven't stopped thinking about that." The book is called Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations. Vern Bengtson is one of the authors. You know him, Chris?

Chris Grace:

No, I don't.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Oh, okay. So he came to Biola. This is how I was aware of the book, Chris. He came and did a chapel. And here's what he said in the chapel that literally caused tidal waves across campus. Here's what he said.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And again, let me just say real quick, all of us who have kids and we're people of faith, this is what keeps us up at night. This is the topic right here is, "I want my kids to obviously embrace our faith. I want them to walk in faith. I want them to be followers of Jesus in their twenties." We all want that. And it just scares us to death, think that maybe some of our... And by the way, if that's you, when your kids is not walking with the Lord, well okay. Again, this is where we like to dispel these what we call attacks of Satan that you're the only godly, committed Christian parents who has a child not walking with the Lord. That is just not true. We know many situations and all of us fear that. And the sun's going to come up tomorrow if that's true. And God is relentless, he's not going to stop pursuing and things like that. But that'd be good to do an episode on that, Chris.

Chris Grace:

Yeah. The great pursuer, or the Hound of Heaven, he's called because he never gives up.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Right. So here's what he said that absolutely caused a tsunami. He said this, "So when we're talking about the transmission of faith that your child is now an adult walking in the faith, here is the priorities. Here are the key influencers. Third on the list: moms. Second on the list: grandparents. First on the list: dad."

Tim Muehlhoff:

Noreen was at this chapel because she helps run chapels here at Biola University. And I heard it as well. And she said, "Well, I'm going to go take a nap because apparently nothing I do matters." And I said, "Well, I'm going to take a nap because the whole world's on my shoulders." So what did he mean by that? So everybody was buzzing. Everybody's buzzing.

Tim Muehlhoff:

So this is what he said, "Moms get discounted because it's expected of them." Like when mom's a virtuous person, when mom is a follower of Jesus, when mom attends church, the kids are just like, "Well, that's mom. Mom's just got a pure heart, man. Mom's just awesome." Dad doesn't get that from the kids. So when dad makes a decision to go to church, it's like, "Oh, dad is intentionally going to church." And he said that is augmented by the grandparents. If the grandparents are saying the same thing that the dad is saying, like, "Hey, you make time for church. Religion is important. God is important," he said that's really powerful. So he said the single greatest deterrent to your kids' walk... And again, dads, I hate to say but this is us, is a distant cold father who does not go to church is probably the greatest hindrance to kids embracing that faith. Chris, what do you think?

Chris Grace:

Well, yeah. I do find this experientially, Tim, that is in seeing relationships that I've been a part of and watching people, I can tell you that his quote and idea resonates quite a bit. And I love how you said that we almost give moms... It's not because they're rated so low in love and kindness and impact. It's just when it comes to our spiritual life, in our own walking with Christ, what he's saying I think is that there's somebody who plays a very powerful role and it's that father figure. So Tim, what do you do when you are growing up this way and you don't have that father figure and yet you're trying to figure out, "How do I do this? I'm going to have kids one day and yet I didn't have that." So what do you say? And, probably something just to go, "I've got to remember that quote."

Tim Muehlhoff:

So I wouldn't say to dads, "It's not what you say, it's what you do," because for sure that's true. But he's saying it's also what you say. Listen to this quote, Chris. "Particularly important, according to our data, is the role of father's warmth. Parental piety, religious role-modeling, setting a good example will not compensate for a distant dad." So there has to be that warmth. And I remember a psychologist saying to me once that God has hard-wired kids to their parents, and particularly, he said dads. So I need to have warmth towards my kids and not just this always calling them up to a higher... Which is important. Of course, you want to call kids up to a higher standard. But there's got to be this feeling that, "My dad cares about me. He's not just interested in setting a good example nor getting me to carry on the faith."

Chris Grace:

They did this great study, Tim, it's so interesting, in which they had people evaluate whether they liked another person that they had not yet met and they were about to meet. And they gave them all the same five qualities. They talked about... They were punctual, they were disciplined, they were kind, they were generous, kind. But the fifth variable, one was given warm, they were warm. The other one was given they are cold. And so they all had the same characteristics except for one word changed. And people would automatically, now going to this relationship to talk to somebody, did not like the cold person and then perceive them as much more colder as well.

Chris Grace:

And they would say, "I don't have good feelings about them." In fact, they were less likely to hire that person just by that one variable. So in other words, you're getting down to a very cardinal trait, warmth. So Tim, what do you do as a father? How do you create warmth? I guess what you do is you come alongside your kids and maybe there's a sense of acceptance, or as maybe Gottman would say, this bid for attention. You listen to a kid, you receive them, you take them in, you talk with them, and they find that you're safe. The word safe and secure and warm are all together.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I have one last quote that absolutely touches on that for prodigals, for people who have walked away from the faith. And he mentions three characteristics that he has found really wins people back into the faith. But you turned me onto something, I think it's Daniel Goleman, emotional contagion.

Chris Grace:

Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Now this is where it gets bad, but then it gets better. It gets bad because guess what? If you really don't have warmth towards a person, you can't fake it.

Chris Grace:

Yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

We talked about the high road, the low road. They actually intuit how you actually feel about them. So I guess what we're saying, Chris, is it's... And again, we're not trying to guilt people. All of us go through seasons where we have a hard time with a person and that can even be your child. Well, you take that to the Lord and you say, "Lord, I'm really upset." And by the way, you might have a great reason to be upset at your child. What that child has done, a betrayal of trust, or something like that. But then take that to Lord and say, "I'm really struggling with my spouse or my kids right now."

Tim Muehlhoff:

And then he says this, Chris. I thought this was such hopeful news for parents who have prodigals. He said, "In addition, we found that the most successful parents in religious transmission were three qualities for children who choose to walk away from the faith or even choose a different faith." So they convert to something else. Here they are, this is not earth shattering: love, respect, and patience. Those three qualities. We're not withholding our love, even though what you're doing is breaking our heart. We're going to be respectful of you. You're an adult. It's not any more for me to tell you, "You got to go to church." But the patience part I'm sure is trying, because we all want to see the kids come back.

Chris Grace:

Yeah. It's interesting because, Tim, when they evaluated who are the best, most loved counselors of these children and kids that had actually been taken out of the home... They're now living in this home, a group of 50, and I'm a counselor there. 50 behaviorally-disturbed boys. And what would happen is they would be asked, "Who has impacted you during your time?" So they're about ready to get out and graduate. Many of them have kind of pulled their life together. And they said, "What qualities of the other person..." Tim, what you just listed there was almost to a T what they would say that kind of counselor and the one that holds fast to the rules in a way that was a discipline that they said was consistent. That is, they knew that they would also be told, "If you do this, this is what's going to happen." And they did it with love.

Chris Grace:

It was the counselors, though, that were really easy and like, "Oh, don't worry about it. You're out of your room and you're doing something illegal, just go back and I'm going to forget it." Because they want it to be the liked, and they wanted to be liked by these kids and so they would give into them and be their friends. And those were less respected than the ones who held strong and yet did it with a kindness and a love. So I think that's really interesting. As parents, if we can still hold those qualities, Tim, and say, "Here is also what I need you to do." As far as let's say, if they're doing something illegal, or something that they're not supposed to be doing. They hold steadfast to that in a kind way.

Tim Muehlhoff:

So let's make this a little controversial. Let's say one of your kids comes home and says like many couples in the United States, "Hey, me and my girlfriend, we're moving in together. We're not going to get married. We're moving in. And in fact, she already has moved in."

Chris Grace:

Right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Okay. As a Christian parent, you want to go to DEFCON 1 and say, "A, we didn't raise you that way. B, you know what the scriptures say about it, right? And doggone it, we're not going to be condoning this." I get that. There's part of me that wants to kick into that mode in a heartbeat, right?

Chris Grace:

Right.

Tim Muehlhoff:

But then if you go back to what this study says is love. Yeah, mom and dad are disappointed. I like what you said, Chris, "There's no reason I can't tell my son that. There's no reason I can't say, 'Yeah, we're disappointed. You know what mom and I believe. But listen, we respect the fact that you're an adult. And so you didn't ask our permission and we're going to respect your decision to move in together and we're going to be patient.'" The Holy Spirit has not stopped working in the heart of your child. That patience part is going to be hard. You know what I mean? But you got to do it, or what, you're going to read the Riot Act one more time. And that's just not going to work.

Chris Grace:

No, it's not going to work. You're going to drive them away. Tim, I think that's where patience is called into. And by the way, in a previous podcast we were talking about not doing this alone and fearing that you're the only one who has a kid like this. There are so many who are struggling, for example, with maybe even that exact situation, And to know you're not alone... Yeah I think, Tim, that demonstrates and models what Jesus did. Jesus didn't reject the woman at the well. He came in and he talked with her and he treated her with kindness and love and respect and in so doing he brought a whole entire community to walk with him just by that one model.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And what an interesting moniker, the friend of sinners.

Chris Grace:

Yeah. That's amazing to call Jesus that.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Isn't that amazing? It's like, "Hey, we're still friends. You're my son. I love you. And what you're doing, you know what I think of it. Come on, you know what I think. But listen, we love you guys. We love you as a couple. We're still having you over. We're not going to shut you out on Thanksgiving day. You need to come watch the Detroit Lions lose with your new quarterback Jeff Goff." Come on, baby.

Chris Grace:

His name is Jared, by the way.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Jared Goff? Is it?

Chris Grace:

Yeah, but it doesn't matter.

Tim Muehlhoff:

That's why he's not returning my calls. All right Chris, you, you're up baby. You got one more thing.

Chris Grace:

Yeah. Book-wise... But by the way, Tim, I think that's amazing. And you brought up, Daniel Goleman's Social Intelligence book. And he talks a lot about emotional road, high and low roads. I would recommend. And we've recommended this to our students to read. I don't know, maybe it's 10, 15 years old, called Social Intelligence. He's written other ones like Emotional Intelligence. And I think, Tim, that if you read it you will get at those subtitles that were earlier discussed, those subtexts and emotional contagions and what your kid picks up from you, what your spouse picks up from you, you know that-

Tim Muehlhoff:

Podcast host.

Chris Grace:

What's that?

Tim Muehlhoff:

Podcast host.

Chris Grace:

What they pick up from each other, and being rudely interrupted is more about the rudeness. No, not really. So I would recommend that book highly for anybody that wants to improve their understanding of how their own relationships are, but what's going on at that level, the high road and the low road. So that's really good.

Chris Grace:

But I think the other part that I love so much that... It's just something I go back to and read a lot. Well, there are a lot of books like that. And I'm not going to talk about this one, but there's a book called The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton, and I think her last name is Porter, Stratton-Porter. Gene, G-E-N-E. It's called The Keeper of the Bees. I've probably read it now, I don't know, maybe six times just because it's just such a good book. It's a novel. It's just a novel of a-

Tim Muehlhoff:

Is it in Russian?

Chris Grace:

It's not a Dostoevsky.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Okay, okay.

Chris Grace:

It does happen right after the war. And a man that's wounded, and what happens to him... I think the reason I love this book, The Keeper of the Bees, is a man that, at the very end, he's going to die. And he knows that from his wounds. And he goes in and when he finds himself in the worst possible moment, he gives aid to a man that has a heart attack. And that man eventually befriends him, ends up giving him his home to stay in and to keep while he's in the hospital with a heart attack. And this soldier, Tim, starts to recover because of the relationship of a child that lives down the block that continues to come to his home and visit him. And this child named Scout just keeps coming over. And eventually the relationship, the heart, the way they viewed life, the way that the way this child views death, God, people, begins to do something magical almost, we would say spiritual, in the life of this person.

Chris Grace:

So The Keeper of the Bees, Tim, if you want a story of how a relationship with another person can transform somebody simply because through the childlike faith and the eyes of a child, it begins to work not just on his spiritual heart, but also physically. And it is an amazingly good story. She wrote back in the early 1920s, was killed tragically in a car accident just as her book The Keeper of the Bees and others were becoming very famous. And I would say, if you're interested in what does it mean to have a childlike faith and to reach out and to have good healthy relationships... Also the trauma of bad choices are made. And so, it's a tragic story for some of the characters and then just a powerful redeeming one for others. Great little book. The Keeper of the Bees.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And made into a movie.

Chris Grace:

Yeah. And I don't-

Tim Muehlhoff:

1935.

Chris Grace:

You're right, Tim. I've never seen it. Because that's back when she was very popular. And so again, it's Gene Stratton-Porter, I believe. And it's a good book.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And remember what Paul says, and boy these are good words for us today, "Evil can be overcome with goodness."

Chris Grace:

Oh yeah.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And I think sometimes we don't believe that that's true. And so the childlike love, faith, affection has a way of getting through to people.

Chris Grace:

And you know what? Tim, it was because we've been talking a little bit here about people like Goleman and others that talk about these subtexts and emotional contagions. On the good side, when you feel loved and accepted by somebody else, all of a sudden you change. You're like, "Oh my gosh, I have worth. I feel value because you loved me. You cared for me in this state when I didn't feel that myself." And the powerful transformation that can occur in a person just because they're loved by somebody. And that subtext says, "I like you. I love you. I accept you."

Tim Muehlhoff:

All right, so I'm going to tell this story. I think I have told this once before in a podcast, but this to me is what you're saying. So there's a guy named Brian, he's the head of the FamilyLife Speaker Team. The Graces and the Muehlhoffs are on the FamilyLife Speaker Team for FamilyLife Ministries. He tells this story that's amazing. There were these five guys who did life together and they all were single. And then one by one, they all get married, except one lone holdout. He does not get married. And so finally word gets out that he is in fact getting married. And so they meet her and he introduces her this way. This is the most beautiful woman in the world, just so happens this man's fiance. Now you can imagine all the married guys going, "Oh, come on."

Tim Muehlhoff:

Well then they don't get together for years and years and years and years. Now everybody has kids. They have this big reunion, Brian's there. And he said he walks up to one of the kids and the kid says, "Hey, I want you to meet the most beautiful woman in the world, just so happens is my mom." And it's the same woman. Chris, two things. One, I grabbed my kids immediately and said, "What is wrong with you? When your mom walks in the room, you need to say 'the most beautiful woman in the...'" Second, what do you think her self-image was like hearing that narrative from her fiance, husband, all of her kids? Life and death is in the power of the time we host. Part of the Center of Marriage and Relationships, we host events for domestic violence shelters where women get the opposite narrative. And so here at the Center, we see the life and the death being spoken.

Chris Grace:

And Tim, one of the things you do in that ministry for the Center is work with these women. And you change that narrative by... Tell us just real quickly.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Well, man, this is community. We're back to community one more time... Sometimes women buy the narrative they are useless. One time, Chris, I had women write down on note cards what has been said to them. Chris, it is unbelievable. I cannot believe these things have been said. Well, how do you counteract that narrative? The only way is the community. So Donna, who's going to be on our podcast when we do Sexual Violence Awareness Month, she makes people go around in a circle and say, "I want you to say something positive about this person," even if the person can't receive it. That counter narrative, that's back to Gottman's five to one ratio by the way, five positives for every negative.

Tim Muehlhoff:

It's so cool what the Center does. We really believe that we're called to not just healthy marriages, marriages that are struggling, but marriages that are in abusive situations. And we need to step into that because James said true religion is really caring for these orphans and widows in distress. And these women are in distress. And so we're committed to this wonderful thing called Valentine's Day for everyone. Local grocery chains are getting involved. They're giving bouquets of roses, chocolates, gift cards. We had masseuses at the last one pre-COVID. So we'll tell you more about this when the time comes, but check out our website because it's a really cool event.

Chris Grace:

And just really a well-done event that does, Tim, bring a lot of people that are in distress and in difficult relationships... Gives them hope. And there's something about it that brings life back to them, even in the worst situations. I just love the way you're doing that and taking a lead with that.

Tim Muehlhoff:

And we see America often divided. We see this in the headlines, we just went through a contentious election. But we go up to local grocery chains, Chris, like Albertsons, Trader Joe's. They don't even blink. And they say, "What do you need? How much do you need? How many bouquets?" And, Chris, we're talking bouquets, we're talking Miss Universe bouquets. They won't even fit in our minivan. We got 50 bouquets. You can't even fit them all. And then my students write handwritten notes to each one of these women, putting Bible verses... We see a lot of the hard things about community, but man, there are really good people out there who will step up in a heartbeat. And that's really cool to see that this has now become... This will be our third annual. This is a community effort. And it's really cool to see.

Chris Grace:

Well, it is. And it just shows you the, Tim like you said, power of words and the tongue and that which is communicated not even by words, but just by our actions, whether it's through fathers going to church, whether it's through showing that you love somebody. And it's a way in which they sense that and pick it up almost like an emotional contagion. And then countering hard times by just simply coming up with something to encourage another person by loving them. Like in The Keeper of the Bees, the way this person loved another person through a childlike faith, it was awesome.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Hey, so let's do this segment again in the future sometime. And we'll just mention books and stuff that just have left an imprint on us. Yeah, that's cool.

Chris Grace:

Yeah, and even movies. There are some that are just so powerful as well.

Tim Muehlhoff:

Oh, there are. Yep.

Chris Grace:

Hey, that was fun, Tim. And listeners, again, go to our website, check it out. We've got so much there for you and you all know where it's at, cmr.biola.edu. We're just grateful for all y'all that listen, and you've been listening for a long time. Write in and send us notes and questions. We do love to answer. And there's a lot of cool things you can take advantage of there. All right, good talking with you, Tim.

Tim Muehlhoff:

I'm going to go get The Keeper of the Bees. Going to go read it.

Chris Grace:

All right.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to The Art of Relationships. This podcast is only made possible through generous donations from listeners just like you. If you like it and want to help keep the podcast going, visit our website at cmr.biola.edu and make a donation today.

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