“For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” Psalm 103:14
April was abloom with tiny buds beginning to burst, daffodils pushing through the cold ground and all the promise of spring was pulsing through our home. Many years ago, on a Saturday before Easter found my girls and me, working together, preparing our traditional Easter feast. A dozen people would join us, so we bumped into each other, scurrying around the kitchen island, preparing sumptuous recipes that would feed a crowd. Joy, grasping for her own place in our kitchen as the youngest, had decided to make the special deviled eggs we had enjoyed as a family for many Easters. She had peeled 24 hard boiled eggs and then got a bright idea of how to make it easier, even though I had already explained to her the best way to fill the eggs.
She had good inclinations and she was attempting a new idea---(great attitude at the end of all of us working so hard), but her effort to stuff a flimsy, plastic sandwich bag with egg filling resulted in a mess everywhere–I have never seen so much egg yellow on the hands of any one individual! How in the world had she managed to fumble such an easy task, I thought, in my mama bad attitude irritation, neglecting how hard she had been trying. Of course, this situation struck at the end of a long afternoon of cooking and counseling another teen. My adrenalin was at an all-time low. She could surely sense how irritated I was.
The Lord poked my heart and suddenly gave me eyes to see this precious, young woman--my sweet little girl--in the throes of growing up. Insecurity and frustration flashed from her dark eyes as she watched me clean up her mess. Choosing how to respond and what I wanted to leave in her heart’s memory ran across my mind. After taking a couple of minutes to ponder what I was going to say, I took her to our den couch and gave her a cup of tea.
“Joyness,” (our nickname for her) “you have been so exceedingly helpful and thoughtful today. The table you set looks lovely; the groceries are all put away, and you have labored by my side for hours. I don’t know what I would do without your help. Many times I have baked bread and then burned it or grilled something outside that ends up tough as nails. Frustration temps me to rage inside sometimes, because I hate to waste time and ruin the food I have cooked. So, I know how you must feel when the bag kept breaking and the mess just poured out. I am so sorry if I offended you in any way. You are such a treasure to me and I know you were trying to do a good job. Thanks so much for all the ways you have helped me this week!”
Suddenly, a sheepish grin crossed her face. She climbed into my lap; long, gangly, teenage legs and all, and said, “I am so thankful that you always love me, mommy.” A kiss on the cheek … and she was gone.
Time and age has convinced me of my propensity to be selfish and immature. Consequently, my gratitude has grown immensely, knowing that I don’t have to perform for the Lord. He is mindful that I am but dust, and yet He still calls me His own special child. The amount of times He has had to bear with me, love me and give me grace has made me so much more apt to love and forgive and bear with my sweet, but immature children and husband and friends.
I know they will make mistakes and be selfish and sinful-- just like me!-- but I know that I can only please God and have peace in my own heart when I choose to love them back. And in practicing loving them, my own heart swells with more love, good thoughts and a generous heart.
This is how it works in my own life: Sometimes, I will have a critical thought toward Clay or the kids or a friend. If I foster the thought, it nurtures self-righteousness and resentment and anger. When I choose to look at the relationship with eyes of love, to take the thought or attitude captive, I can get perspective. This is a person dear to me, and we have history together. They have a personality that comes with many flaws as mine does. I am not primarily the focus of their lives, and they do not live to hurt my feelings!
I need to remember that love covers a multitude of sin. (Or I remember that this person is an immature toddler or exhausted baby or hormonal young woman or middle aged hormonal woman or somewhat immature, irrational, waiting-for-his-frontal-cortex-to-connect "teen" young man or a tired, worn-out husband who’s had too many days of work.) Then I remember how much I need grace in all of my own fragile times. I also remind myself that I will please my precious, patient Lord Jesus if I obediently act in love.
So, I cover the person with grace, say words of patience and kindness and then I am amazed that my feelings of love usually follow and the relationship improves rather than being broken. Good feelings often accompany obedience.
This is not a formula that always works--I am not looking for always having the right results--but it is a way of life, that practiced over many years, has turned my heart more towards loving, resting and accepting those valued relationships. In return, I find I am blessed in ample love that the Lord pours out into my heart. If I sow love, I will reap love. My love becomes a blessing to me in return.
We are all constantly confronted with a multitude of opportunities to choose to love or to choose to stir up strife. Loving on a consistent basis is a choice that becomes a habit and eventually changes our heart’s response. We all get frustrated sometimes with our children’s mistakes. The important thing is to correct our own bad reactions before we hurt their precious hearts!
Indeed, in the end, how we loved will be a measure of how we lived. May God give you grace today to love well and to walk on His pathway of love and grace.
***If you have the desire to go deeper today, take a few moments to complete the reflection and application below:
• “Love is patient, love it kind, it does not take into account a wrong suffered.” I Cor. 13: 4, 5 These words describe God, who tells us that He actually is love! Too often, it doesn’t describe me. Do patience and kindness come easily to you?
• “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another.” James 5: 16 Is it hard for you to apologize to your children when you’re wrong?
• “Above all, love each other deeply, for love covers a multitude of sin.” I Peter 4:8 How can you remind yourself to think of your child’s feelings before you react to their childishness and sin?