Patience. Kindness. Humility. Servanthood. Joyfulness. Those are some big virtues that Paul speaks of to the Corinthians. These virtues are difficult to display on any given day, let alone on a day when the baby is fussy, the toddler is fighting her nap, the preschooler refuses to pick up the 1200 Legos in the living room that you just stepped on for the tenth time, the chickens escape their coop, the rain pours on your laundry hanging on the line, last night’s dishes are still waiting to be scrubbed by the sink and tonight’s dinner is not even started, all while your beloved walks in the door to this chaos with a disappointed look on his face that says, “What have you been doing all day?”
With complete honesty and full disclosure, I can tell you that patience, kindness, humility, servanthood and joyfulness are absolutely NOT in the forefront of my mind at that moment, and even though my husband has not directly caused an ounce of the chaos, you can bet that he will catch the brunt of my less-than-virtuous reaction.
Why is this? My husband is the one that I have vowed to love for the rest of my life, through good times and bad, through sickness and health, why is he my outlet and the person who I am going to get mad at for things beyond our control? Why are the people that we are closest to - the people that we love the most - often the ones that we hurt the most?
I believe the reason that we hurt the ones that we love the most, is because love is hard. Love is self-donating and sacrificial but sometimes we can be selfish and self-centered. Love is a whole lot more than a feeling but society tells us that our feelings rule over any self-control. Love is a verb; love is doing, but sometimes we just don’t feel like doing anything. Love is dying to yourself to better another, but we think we deserve more than others. Love is all-in no matter what the outcome, but we ‘keep score’ of our hurts and plan vengeance. Love is tireless but we’re tired.
However, love is also a gift from God.
Love is God and God is love.
If I believe that this is true, how am I to handle this gift that God has given me to share with my husband and children? Am I giving love and God to my children when I snap, “Pick up these Legos or I’m throwing them away!”? Am I giving love and God to my husband when he walks in the door after working to support our family all day and I say, “The kids are driving me nuts, take the baby, I’m going upstairs for a little while!” While those reactions feel temporarily satisfying, and easily spew out of my mouth, are they the way that love acts? Not at all. Notice I said that they ‘easily spew out of my mouth’. It’s ‘easy’ to get mad and frustrated and take my anger out on my husband. It’s ‘easy’ to raise my voice a little louder and make threats to my children so they obey me.
But God calls us to love. And love is hard. So to choose love, and to act in love, I need to remember that I must choose to react unnaturally at times. I need to make an effort to be patient when the 5 year old has to be told the same thing 20 times and the toddler won’t nap and the baby is fussy. I need to remember to be joyful when I see the chickens having a temporary party in our yard instead of in their coop. I need to remember to have a servant’s heart towards my hard working husband. I need to speak kindly even when I can feel my blood boiling when my husband and I are engaged in a disagreement. I need to bite my tongue and ask for humility when I want to tell my husband, “I told you so…” I need to truly forgive my husband for past hurts and stop dragging them into current arguments. I need to apologize to my children when I take too much control of a situation for them.
All of this being said, I cannot choose love on my own. I need to start every day by asking for God’s grace to love, and for the gift of His virtues. I need to ask God to open my eyes to see the situations in which He is asking me to choose love and I need to confess the times I willingly do not choose love. I believe if I choose to love more often, I will grow in self-discipline, I will grow closer to God, and I will grow a happier, healthier family.
I challenge you to ask God to give you at least one situation every day for you to choose love. (Be careful, He tends to answer this request pretty fast).