The Importance of Training in Love

"Love covers a multitude of sin."  "Love is a perfect bond of unity." "A gentle answer turns away wrath." "They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another." "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging symbol." The Bible is full of verses about love!

What a motley crew we are! Some introverts, some extroverts, some moody, some more prone to anger--and all a wonderful mix of personality, love, dreams, passion, messes -- human! Yet we are held together, by God's grace, through love, loyalty, and a commitment to be there for each other no matter what.

I am a harmony-oriented person. I do not like arguing, harshness, anger, or critical attitudes (unless of course it is my critical attitude, because of course I am perfectly just in my opinions!) But raising a family of sinful, immature people is most often a challenge. My boys are so different that I thought they never would grow up to be friends. There is so much natural tension between a couple of my children that I wondered if they would ever get along. 

When the boys would fuss, I used to read them the story of Cain and Abel and tell them that all boys are tempted to fight and be jealous and that it results in terrible consequences. Obviously, Cain and Abel served as quite the models for that! Then I would read them Psalm 133:1 where it says, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!"

"That is the standard that pleases God. Unity. Peace. How could you have said that more graciously to your brother? You boys need to stay in this room until you have settled your differences. I don't care if it takes two months! You cannot come out until you have made peace and have prayed together and can behave in a civilized way."

Not only did that force them to come to some agreement, it removed the disagreement from the middle of our living room! Often, the issues would be so petty. Does that ever happen in your house? "He sat on my side of the cushion!" as I was reading out loud to them. Or, "Why do I have to clean up the dishes, I didn't even eat lunch here today" or some combination of these types of words! There was a constant dripping of fussing and complaints over the years, always followed by correction, instruction, and saying words of forgiveness and prayers. I had no idea if they were listening to Clay and me as we trained and disciplined and corrected all those years.

With the girls it was often a matter of correcting those disrespectful or condescending attitudes or looks--especially in the teen years. No one got away with an "attitude" toward me or Clay for too long. Heart correction was our focus.

This kind of training and instruction can be wearying. Not to mention the stresses in marriage--finances, values, neglect, work loads, all sorts of issues that could be damaging. 

But we sought over and over again to love, correct, forgive and give grace. We always said, "It is natural to fuss and disagree and hold grudges. It is supernatural to love and be humble and give grace. When we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, He calls us to love and give grace--period--no excuses--it is the standard of God's love and ways for us."

Many words of kindness were given in notes, appreciation and life-giving words were modeled and practiced, and even though our household could shake the roof with issues and disagreements, the standard was always to get back to loving, giving grace, staying committed, and adjusting to each other's differences.

How important this "love training" is. The reason there are so many divorces, child abuse, feelings of abandonment in the hearts of children and adults, is because loving and serving one another takes a lot of work and sacrifice and humility--and that work is not natural to us.

To love is a choice of obedience out of our own love for Christ. And every single time you choose to extend love, to speak gently instead of losing your temper, looking to the heart of your little ones instead of judging them harshly, you are serving God, loving Him well. Our service of sacrifice to others if our worship to God--and it matters. Indeed it does. I have seen that my boys and my girls were taking it all in, but the seeds I planted just took time to grow strong and big. Don't give up--your life and love matters so much. 

If we are to please Christ, there is no other option--we are commanded to love.

How are you focusing on "love training" this summer?