"We love one another, treating others with kindness, gentleness and respect."
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
I John 4:11-12
It is sooo much fun for me to be with little Lillian. I am in love. Because she reaches her arms out for me when I walk in the room and smiles from ear to ear, I think I would give anything for this little girl who has wrapped herself around my heart. Love is irrational, isn’t it? She has done nothing to deserve my love except just being born. But because she is mine, I give my time, my sleep, my self to loving her and to loving Sarah by caring for Lily because they are mine. Its how God feels about you, beloved friends.
But then loving is not always so very easy, is it? That’s why we have to make it a commitment and make it a practice of faith, so that we can give even when we do not feel like it. Aren't there people in our lives that just rub us the wrong way, every time we are with them or in conversation? And we try to get along peacefully, but then, ... !
From the beginning, I could see that the personalities of my children clashed. Yet, one of the most foundational principles we practiced was that we belonged to one another as a family. We would choose to practice unconditional love for each other no matter what. Joy and Joel for some reason were often like oil and water. Sarah and Nathan would have power run-ins. And then, Nathan and Joel were so different, and then, …, and on and on.
Harmony in the home is not natural with immature, self-centered people. Yet, harmony doesn’t mean you have to sing on the same note, you just have to practice learning to “blend your notes” together so that their can be unity and beauty of expression.
Over and over when I would bring them together to say, “Were you gentle? Kind? Do you think your words were respectful?How could you have asked for help from your sibling in a different way? Let’s practice this now.”
Yet, some of my best memories the past few years have been seeing Joy and Joel come to the piano again and again--playing, singing, harmonizing for literally hours--as they are both singer-songwriter types; seeing Joel coach her as she practiced speeches and then spending hours judging at her speech and debate tournaments; coaching and encouraging each other through life, loves, thoughts, and becoming real, down deep friends; even sharing a flat as they study in Scotland. I never thought it would happen.
Moms often say to me, "When are they ever going to stop fussing? Will they ever be friends?"
Slowly, but surely.
Love must become a trained habit. Living by feelings is not a choice. We must help our children to "become strong inside" by choosing what is right, beyond negative feelings. Living in submission to the power of the Holy Spirit and choosing to practice love is what is at necessary here. Obedience to practicing love and learning to forgive is a pathway to maturity.
What we model as adults determines whether we have integrity as we teach our family to follow "our 24 ways".
Choosing to love one another and practicing this love over and over again, shapes our expectations that we are each personally responsible for seeking peace, being loving, giving generously in relationships. When loving becomes a habit of thinking and acting, maturity follows and will be extended in all relationships.
Even in irrational relationships with family, believers, and others who perhaps will not speak to you anymore, or have decided otherwise to be at odds with you, you must model restraint and show respect because you are a child of Jesus. Show your children what it looks like to respect even those who have offended and sinned against you. When you model unconditional love in front of your children, they know deep in their hearts that you are choosing to control your feelings in order to sow love--and guess what? That is exactly how they will behave when they are tested as adults, because they learned integrity from you!
Oh no, you mean I even have to model this way in marriage?
All marriages have ups and downs. This is the main training grounds for parents to practice unconditional love in front of their children. Way 5, loving because He first loved us- is not an ideal which only the children are required to follow; we, too must follow our family ways, especially in marriage, sowing love and grace, kindness, gentleness, and respect with our spouse even when our feelings disagree.
When they hear the truth of the way and learn the verse, and then see that in their home, forgiveness is practiced over and over again; apologizing when necessary, offering respect, restoring the relationship, they are better prepared to:
Stay loving and faithful and forgiving in marriage
be a loyal and faithful friend
get along and learn how to honor and handle others at work
In short, training a child to choose to love by showing kindness, gentleness and respect will prepare them to go before kings or paupers and to become leaders in their generation. This is one of the most important areas of training, so our children can learn how to influence people with the messages of Christ--it starts with an attitude that says, "God has designed me to love people, to be humble like He was, to show respect and kindness."
Did fussing irritate me? Of course--it drove me crazy!
Did I ever wonder if my children would get along? Thousands of times.
Did I wonder what I was doing wrong? Of course I did.
But training is a matter of process and maturity. And it really is going deep into their hearts.