Love, True Love.
You're totally thinking about that marriage scene from Princess Bride, right? As I typed the title it's what I was thinking of. But this isn't about marriage. Not really. It's about loving others.
Why is it that the people we love the most and the people we want to love us can be the ones who hurt us the deepest? Or the ones we hurt?
I know, this opened up light hearted and got deep real fast. But it's something I've been thinking about.
Several years back I sat in Jeanne Mayo's living room, listening to her talk about balancing family and ministry and she made a statement I will never forget. (I'm sure I am paraphrasing this at least a little but mama will forgive me and you will still get the point.) She said,
"don't let the people who are most important to you become the most common."
What does that mean? Don't take your loved ones for granted. Really I think it can go deeper, don't take love for granted.
In life, with busyness and struggle, we can forget that our spouses, kids and grandkids, parents and grandparents, need to know we love and value them. We assume they know it and so we get wrapped up and forget to tell them. Stop it.
And don't just tell them...show them. I thought about lots of things I could say to follow up with, about what love is and isn't, but as always, God's Word says it best.
1 Corinthians 13 is called the love chapter. It's read a lot at weddings. (I'm still not talking about just marriage.) But it's not just for spouses. Really it is sandwiched between chapters talking about leadership and spiritual gifts. We lead with love. It starts in our homes and families and then ripples outward to the rest of the world. So how do we love well?
1. Love is patient and kind;
I know that is pretty self-explanatory but we don't always live it. The people closest to us are the ones who get the least of our kindness and patience. We will talk to our husbands and children with more meanness, bitterness and anger then we would ever speak to a stranger. We aren't trying to be mean. We do love them but we think they know it and so we don't have to try as hard. Strangers get our civility and politeness and our family gets what is left over because we think they know us enough to know we love them. We aren't perfect people and frustration and fatigue will sometimes get the better of us. But what if we were most patient with our own kids, we were most kind with our spouses? What if we watched our words as much in our homes as we did outside them?
2. Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way;
Are you selfish? Of course you aren't, me either. I mean none of us wants to admit we can be selfish. But we like things our way. We like to be in control. We like to set the rules. But that isn't love. Real love, God-love, is selfless. It thinks about others first. Is that how you treat your family? Do you think about their needs before your own? (All the moms are shouting yes, but I'm not talking about just all the things we do for our little ones because they are little and we are big and so we have to.)
I mean are you okay with coming in second? Are you okay with not getting what you want the way you want? I'm not saying it can't ever be about you but this isn't about details, this is about an attitude. What is your attitude? Is it my way or the highway or is it respectful and compassionate? Do you compromise?
Let's not just think about our actions but our speech, Do you nag and complain? Why? Is it because you aren't in control and aren't getting your way? How we do something, the heart behind it, is just as important as what we are doing? After all, we don't want an eye-roll and huff from our kids when they are serving so we should watch our own eye rolls and huffs when we are serving them.
And when you have a need, voice it with love. Don't assume people know what you need and want just because you huffed through the room. Talk to them. Tell them how you feel and why and ask for help. You can't expect people to meet your needs in your relationships if you aren't expressing them. I repeat, don't nag, that is not the best way to get the job done. Don't do it.
(And while I'm on expectations, can we stop putting expectations on people that only Jesus can fulfill in our lives. A person cannot be your happiness and peace and strength and joy. They can help, they can add, but they can't be. Fulfillment is through Jesus not other relationships.)
3. It is not irritable;
Okay, so this ties in with the last point but I think it bears repeating. What is your attitude towards people, especially your family? Motives matter. Attitude matters. Words matter. We all get tired and cranky but we need to respond in love. Even when we don't feel like being loving. Trust me, I have a hard time with this one too. I'm not judging, I'm just saying, we can do better. We should do better.
4. It isn't resentful, it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Forgive people. Jesus forgave you. He tells you to forgive others. It's more for you anyway. But in our families we can let wounds fester and ooze and they poison our relationships. Don't hold grudges. Admit when you are wrong and apologize.
Don't make excuses for this part either. Don't do the whole, "well they don't call me and they don't make time for me and they talk to me this way, blah blah blah." It's not about what they do. It's about what you can and should do. You can't blame your actions on someone else. You control you.
And let's look for the positive in people rather than nitpick the negative. After all, God chooses not to see your sin anymore so offer a little of that to your family.
5. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends
Love doesn't quit. It doesn't give up. It might get tired (and sometimes even annoyed) but it keeps going. It keeps working. It keeps serving.
We don't get to choose how we love. We just love like Jesus. We offer grace like Jesus. We practice forgiveness. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us be kind and patient and selfless because we can't do those things without Him. We give our families the best of us not the worst, not just what's left.
We are bankrupt without love. Our families, no matter how they may appear on the outside, are bankrupt without love. Let's choose to love them extravagantly.
"...we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love." 1 Cor. 13:13
PS: I feel the need to clarify one thing, if you are in a situation that is abusive, love yourself enough to get out and don't feel bad for it. This post isn't about those situations, it isn't about staying when wisdom and safety say you should go. Some relationships, even with family are super toxic and harmful. If that is your situation love and forgive from a distance.