Thursday, October 10, 2013
So often I believe the enemy's lie that I am a bad mom, a terrible person, because the feeling of love - of total adoration - does not always come easy for me as a mom of three-year-old boys. Sometimes I have to cultivate that love-feeling by remembering they are a gift from the hand of my loving Creator. By remembering their good qualities in the midst of temper tantrums. By asking for a "huggie" or "kissie" when I honestly don't even want to look at them. And sometimes I have to get on my knees and beg for that feeling. For just one shimmering glimpse through the eyes with which I used to see them when they were infants (before they developed their own will). Through the eyes of their loving Creator.
And, honestly, it makes me feel like the worst mom e-v-e-r! But I believe that is a lie of the enemy himself. You see, if love were this super easy thing that humans could just feel (and act on) whenever they should, I don't think God would have had to reiterate it so many times throughout the bible. Over and over again He reminds us to love one another - even when we do not feel loved by the other person. 1 Corinthians 14:1 tells us to "pursue love". In chapter 13, Paul actually describes what true, unconditional love looks like. It is patient, kind, not arrogant or jealous and - most important to me at this stage in my life - is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered and bears all things. Hmm...I wonder why the Lord would feel the need to inspire such a detailed account of true, Godly love. Perhaps because He knows the heart of man?
There are many more places in the bible where the author (inspired by the Holy Spirit) reminds and challenges us to love. Leviticus 19:18, Deuteronomy 10:19, John 15:12 and Romans 13:8 are all wonderful examples of God's messengers emboldening and encouraging us to love the Lord and love His people. And there are tons more too! The New Testament is woven intricately together with charges to and descriptions of love. Not the way the world loves but the way God loves. The way Jesus loved on that cross.
I believe the Lord knows the human heart and how difficult it can be for us at times. It is so easy for the Holy Spirit's call to love, forgive, and have compassion on to be drowned out by our own pride's call to contend, turn away from and get revenge on. That's why the bible tells us over and over again to pursue love. To put on kindness and compassion (Colassians 3:12). To love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27). Not to mention all the places where God's beautiful and perfect love for us is described. You know, come to think of it - I can name countless places in the bible where He reminds us to love Him with all our heart and souls, love others and put them before ourselves, and just how great His love for us is. I cannot, however, remember ever reading in the bible a reminder to love myself. Why? Probably because the sinful heart of man needs no reminder to love himself. We do, however, need plenty of reminders to forget about ourselves and put others first! (I know I do, anyway.)
So often we need to look past our feelings and emotions and focus on the word of God. We must learn to tear down - thought by thought and emotion by emotion - the lies satan sells us. "If you don't feel love you don't have to show it" he says. "If you don't feel the love," he lies, "there must not be any in your heart." I can't even tell you how many times I have heard this one - "You should just give up and succumb to your anger." However, I learned something today, as I looked at my child who had just gotten done throwing one of his many temper tantrums of the day. Unlike my fit-throwing little cherub, I don't have to let my emotions boss me around. I can look at my child (or any other person for that matter) faults and all and make the conscience decision to show love to them regardless of how badly they are behaving. (Like I'm such an angel myself!) The amazing thing is this: if I make that decision in my head, the Lord will honor it in my heart.
You see, that is what He wants. He doesn't expect His children to be perfect all the time. In fact, He is unscathed and unmiffed (unlike us) when we make the same mistake for the one hundredth time. (Try having that kind of patience with your children!) But He does want us to mature and grow to a point where we say, "Yes Lord! I will follow Your way and not my own!" To be driven less and less by our heart of emotions (which, by the way, will lie to us) and more and more by the desire to obey Him.
And like a child who knows not what is best for her (but thinks she does) I will certainly come back to this place again where I am struggling to "feel" the love in my heart for my children. Probably tomorrow when they have spilled their third drink of the day on my just-cleaned kitchen floor or after I've told them (in my nicest mommy voice) for the seventh time to sit on the couch so I can put their shoes on or when they are throwing a royal fit complete with limp bodies laying on the floor and high-pitched wailing because I've told them it's nap time.
But what I'm learning more and more lately is that love - true, unconditional love - is about 30% "feeling" and 70% decision. Because eventually that new baby smell and post pregnancy hormones are going to fade away. Eventually the excitement of the new romance and first date flush will disappear. And then what are you left with? A true, 100% raw version of the edited fairy tale you had made up in your head. A real person, unique with all sorts of flaws and quirks and special qualities and talents instilled by the Lord's own hand. That's when you get to make the beautiful decision of loving that person anyway. (Because let's not forget about our own logs!)
You see, the Lord is teaching me one very special thing about love. True love - Godly love - is more than butterflies in your stomach or a desire to be near EVERY waking moment. It is crying when your loved one is crying. It is rejoicing when he (or she) is rejoicing. It is offering your silent presence when there are no words to say. It is swallowing your pride even when you know you are right. It is enduring heartache and hurt even when you don't deserve it. And, in it's ugliest and most beautiful state, it is staying when all you want to do is leave. Love is more than just a feeling - it's an action. After all, wasn't it pure, holy love when Jesus made the decision to leave His heavenly home and come to dwell among us here in this sin-ridden world? Wasn't it perfect, unconditional love when He chose to stay up on that cross, beaten and broken, and suffer death so that we might live?
When I think about that, choosing to show my children love in action - even when they are screaming in the middle of Walmart and e-v-e-r-y one is staring at me - doesn't seem like such an impossible task.
"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7