As a mother, I am quick to say that I love my children unconditionally – and to say so with great conviction. But I wonder, do I really love them well? Do I love them consistently in actual, practical terms? In the “doing” of love, and not just the squishy “feeling?”
In truth, some days are better than others.
God has put the instinct to love in our hearts as mothers, and we know it is right. That’s good! But sometimes, it’s easier said than done. Loving our children in a consistent, day-in, day-out sort of way takes resolve, discipline, and God’s help … not to mention loving our husbands, parents, neighbors, and even enemies!
Romans 12:9-11 says it like this:
Don’t just pretend that you love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other… (NLT)
We will not have the power to fully love one another until we have first received the real love of our Heavenly Father. Apart from Him, we are ultimately a dry well of insecurity and selfishness. We exhibit a semblance of love as those made in His image, but the joy, depth, power, and eternal purpose just aren’t there.
- Why else do so many starry-eyed newlyweds find themselves in a world of disillusionment, heartache, and divorce?
- Why else do we lose our temper and patience with our children?
Most of us, like me, would say we love our families unconditionally, but we are fickle and weak in our own power. Too often our love is rooted in the self-focused desire to receive their love in return and the desire for the approval of the world. We want others to see us as a loving wife and mom, so we do the loving wife and mom things.
If you peel back the layers, our human love is often more about us and more conditional than we realize.
We fall in love with our husbands because they give us attention and make us feel valued and loved. We love our children because we get to be important and needed, and we receive love, companionship, and acceptance in return.
While that is part of God’s design, pure love flows directly from the endless reservoir of our Heavenly Father. We desperately need His help to love even our husbands and children, let alone that hard-to-love in-law or coworker.
This must start with the Gospel, with the regeneration of our hearts, and with the acceptance of God’s love for us. It is only in Him and through Him and by His power that we dip our ladle into the life-giving, holy, and eternal waters of love. This is a fruit borne by His Holy Spirit in us!
How do we know if we are loving those around us, be it our own family or the stranger we pass by on the sidewalk?
This is the test:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)
So, when our children spill their milk, break our favorite picture frame, directly disobey and defy us, or sneak their little sister’s tater tots while she’s not looking, we approach the situation, not as one who has been inconvenienced and affronted, but as one who must now offer grace and discipline according to the best interests of that child.
Discipline becomes an action of love, not anger.
When our husbands fail to meet our expectations, we put it behind us and choose to serve them anyway, knowing that Christ first loved the undeserving (us) and that He has commanded us to do likewise as we follow His example.
Serving becomes an outflow of Christ’s love for us.
And when our neighbor’s trashcan blows over spilling trash into our yard, we joyfully take the opportunity to serve and bless him. We pick it up, not regarding our own rights. We know that this neighbor’s soul has an eternal destination, and so we take every opportunity to hold out the word of life and to exemplify the love we say God has for him.
We lay down what we think we deserve to bear witness to the truth in the hurting world around us.
Let’s make it our mission to really love our families and those we meet today (and not just pretend to).