"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
There was a time, actually some years, when I wondered if Joy and Joel could go for a day without chafing each other. Whatever personality issues lay between them, add a little sin nature and age difference, and life would find them often correcting each other's opinion or thoughts or heating toward high friction.
And 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 like them, but, ......!
Some of my best memories the past two years, though, 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 her 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.
Same with Sarah and Nate, or Joy and Sarah or Joel and Nate..... you get the picture!
Moms often say to me, "When are they ever going to stop fussing? Will they ever be friends?"
It does take longer than any of us would want, but training is the key to training the heart's response--both ours and our children's.
But, as I have paraphrased in other principles--love is not natural, it is supernatural. Love is a choice, an obedience. It grows when self is put away again and again. Love is a choice practiced over and over again--in order to build a strong "love muscle."
And yet, Jesus says that love is the very reality that will separate us from the world, because love is such an exceptional light in a sea of dark relationships--that we would actually show love for one another is the way He said we would win the world.
As he said, "They, (the world), will know you are my disciples by your love for one another."
The reason people would know that something was different about believers in Christ is that love is not natural to normal people--love is not normal in this world where divorce, law suits, violence in homes, separation of friendships, petty fussing and fighting, church splits, are the norm.
That is why this week's "way" is so very important.
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 stake here. Obedience to practicing love and learning to forgive is a pathway to maturity and a choice where God will provide strength in the midst of such a choice of obedience.
What we sow, we reap. And if we sow seeds of love, seeds of choosing to be kind, learning to be gentle and showing respect, we will empower our children to have strong relationships. All of this must be taught, modelled, and then corrected and trained again and again.
The practice of learning to love goes on at home:
Is that the way to be kind, gentle and respectful to your sister? Did I offend my husband by being snarky? How could you have said that differently? What is our Family way about how we treat one another? Now, I want you to apologize and tell your sister that you love her. Maybe I should humble myself and admit I was impatient.
Some of our besties--even friends, offend each other.
Friends must also become a place of practicing loving.
I know you feel like your friend irritated you and was unjust--but our verse says, "Since God loved us, we also ought to love one another. So, could you find it in your heart to forgive your friend? Mama has quarreled with her friends before, too. I know it hurts your feelings. But since God forgave me, I knew He wanted me to forgive my friend. Can I pray for you and your friend? ..........Now, let's surprise her and write her a nice note about how glad you are that she is your friend and maybe we could take her a plate of cookies?"
If we separate from our friends just because of quarrels, then we are teaching our children that we don't have to love everyone--we only have to love the people who we feel like loving--and then your training of this verse and family way becomes null and void.
What we model as adults is the integrity of our teaching our family to follow "our 24 ways".
(And even in those irrational relationships with family, believers and others who will not speak to you anymore or who have decided to be at enmity to you, you must model restraint--show respect because you are a child of Jesus. Show your children what it looks like to respect even those who have offended you 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 stress and ups and downs. This is the training grounds for parents to practice unconditional love in front of their children. Way 5, loving because He first loved us- is not something that just the children are required to follow--even we must follow our Family ways, especially in marriage--sowing love and grace, kindness, gentleness and respect with our spouse, even when our feelings disagree. This is the training grounds for greatness for our children and for us.
When they hear the truth of the way and learn the verse, then when they see that in their home, forgiveness is practiced over and over again; saying your sorry and giving respect and restoring the relationship; choosing to act and speak in respectful ways, prepares your children to:
Stay loving and faithful and forgiving in marriage
to be a loyal and faithful friend
to 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 that 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--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 in deep in their hearts.
But training them to love is not about forcing them and yelling at them--but training, correcting, loving, modeling and doing it all over again, until this is a true value of their soul.
But it does work and God will knit together your family, because it is deeply in their souls--His way and design for them.
I am not quite sure when the "magic" of my children really loving each other and enjoying each other and really loving to be together happened, but it is a gift and a result of the seeds we planted and watered over many years.
Even last night, Nathan rang us at 10:30 and we had a 20 minute, face time--me on the couch, showing the dog, getting 3 of us in camera site at once--just to be together and "jaw." We giggled, shared, talked and loved once again as a community of Clarkson's. The fruit was sweet to my mama heart.
This training is an over and over and over again issue, but I must say now, fighting hard for this way to become the "way" of their hearts is one of the sweetest harvests of training, because now we have all become best friends.
Join me Here all Summer long as we study Our 24 Family Ways together.