Posts Tagged ‘love’

Last Sunday I went to church and our Pastor annoyed me. Not because he was wrong but because he was right; and on top of being right he spoke with a humble passion and grace which made him even more annoying because I could not discredit him for bad delivery. His sermon was on Christian maturity as described in Ephesians 4, but what grated most against my fallen nature were his comments on selfishness.

I have never thought of myself as a selfish person but as I sat in church pondering the struggles I have had in the last several months, I began to realize that most of them are rooted in a world view that revolves completely around my own comfort. One of my greatest struggles in recent days is what I like to call “relational paranoia”. Yes, I made that up all by myself, but put simply it means that I am constantly worried that I will do something stupid in a relationship that will ruin it for all eternity without any hope of redemption.

Now, this might seem like a demented form of humility but from the sermon on Sunday I am reminded that it is actually prideful and self-centered in the highest degree. Instead of my focus being on the love of Christ and how I can best bring that to life for those around me, my focus is on my own performance. Instead of viewing people as people I am viewing them as my audience. I then strive for an affirmation that should already be there from knowing that I am wholly loved and accepted by the God of the universe and this striving becomes not only exhausting but paralyzing. I am not free to simply love people because I am bound by my own selfish need for affirmation. Please don’t misunderstand me to say that affirmation has no place in relationships because it most certainly does, but when it is the motivation for my actions it becomes something it was never meant to be.

So how do I find freedom? As a mom, I so desperately want to be able to teach my girls how to freely love people without the bondage of this “relational paranoia” but how do I get there myself? I must change my direction. When the voice inside my head begins to tell me that no one really likes me and relational fall out is just one slip-up away, I must turn from this and look to my Savior. If His righteousness is enough to make me right before a holy God then it is certainly more than enough to make me right before men and that is where my security is found. My performance will always be subpar but Jesus takes me as I am, gives me His perfection and sets me free to love each person where they are at not based on the amount of affirmation they give me. As strange as it may sound, what I really want is to forget about me and let the love of Jesus reflect in how I treat all those in my life. This shifts the focus from things I must do to maintain feigned awesomeness to the things Jesus has already done to love me and that I can now do for others. Forgetting about me = freedom.

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Last night I was at our small group meeting and the topic of discussion was barriers to godly communication in our marriages. Now, all of us in the group are parents of small children, and anyone who has kids knows that managing a family is the chaotic form of an Olympic. It requires endurance, perseverance and a steady supply of chocolate. However, this frenzied pace of family management has a tendency to build up massive amounts of frustration, which seemed to be the most common barrier mentioned by everyone in our group.

Frustration has it’s source in many different places. For moms it usually comes from managing the kids, the house, the bills, relationships with family and whatever else happens to come across their path during the day; for dads, frustration is often sourced in the demands of work, fighting rush hour traffic to get home in time to see the kids and balancing the needs of their wives and families. For most parents, including myself, all of these little sources of frustration tend to build up until the end of the day when our spouse comes home and says that magical phrase “How was your day?” Suddenly every tantrum the kids have thrown and every item on the checklist that didn’t get done comes flooding out of our mouths like an angry bull finally released from its cage. Hence the conditions are perfect for a fight.

So the question posed by our group leader was how do we remove the barrier of that frustration in order to communicate our struggles in a way that honors God and does not wound our spouse? The first thing that came to my mind was stopping at the end of the day when the kids are asleep and set aside time to just focus on each other. While this is a good thing to do, one of my friends in the group said something that made me think about the subject a little deeper. She said that in the moments where the day seems to be swallowing us alive and frustration threatens to poison the rest of the evening, we must refocus our mind on what it means to love our spouse in that moment instead of just focusing on what needs to happen to make the issues go away. Focus time with our spouse should always be a priority, but when the pace of life makes that impossible on any given day we have to know how to elevate our spouse above our frustration so that managing the issues can become a team effort that is edifying to our marriage. For instance, speaking in an agitated, confrontational tone might serve as an outlet for my frustration but it wounds my husband. Choosing to speak with kindness elevates my husband above my own desire to relieve stress and there is opportunity for the frustrations of life to be managed in a team effort that reflects the love of Christ, instead of being compounded in opposition.

This perspective from my friend added new depth to my original line of thinking and my challenge to all of my other fellow parents out there is to shift your focus from simply trying to attain that quiet moment to learning how to redeem the daily chaos by elevating the needs of your spouse in the moment. In doing this, the quiet moments will be that much sweeter because the love we practice every day adds depth to our marriage and gives life to our souls.

Well, the day that I thought would never come has finally come. It is the day that I can officially say that we are both moved in and settled into our new house. In the last two years, our family has walked a journey that has been immensely difficult, intensely emotional and wrought with many unexpected twists and turns, but today we get to celebrate God giving our family rest.

There really are no words to describe the gratitude my husband and I feel for God’s mercy on our family and as we have spent time reflecting on all He has done there is a question that seems to keep drifting to the surface of our minds; What is His purpose in showing our little family such great mercy?

Now to answer this question, one only needs to look as far as the last four weeks since we have moved to our house. In the first week, my mother-in-law had a sudden change in circumstances and needed to stay with us for a few months.  While some might view such an event as an inconvenience, we saw it as God showing us how to use the house He had given us to serve others and not to simply hold it as a trophy of our own efforts. This also brought meaning and purpose to all the time we spent watching the generosity of my parents as they opened their home to us, which meant it was actually a blessing on many levels.

On the third week of us being in our house, we heard a sermon from the pastor at our church regarding living life on the mission of God’s glory wherever you have been placed in this world. (Click here to listen to sermon) It was a dynamic message that spoke to the heart of how we felt our lives should be lived out in our new home. Little did we know that God was planning to teach us how to apply our belief that very evening when our teenage next door neighbor got locked out of the house while her godparents were out of town. She ended up needing a place to sleep for the night so even though we didn’t know her and were a little nervous about giving a stranger our daughter’s room for the night, we said a prayer and took a leap of faith. Needless to say, everything worked out fine and it has provided the opportunity for us to get to know our neighbors, which is always the first step to loving them as scripture commands.

So I think it’s safe to say that the answer to the question regarding God’s purpose for the mercy He has shown our family is to pour it back out to the people He brings in our life. In the last month, He has reminded us that this house belongs to Him and He has given it to us for the mission of sowing His love, mercy and truth into both our family and our community so that He is glorified.  As a parent I desperately want my children to see this principle in the reality of who we are. It is my fervent prayer that God will never let us forget His great mercy on us and that no matter where life takes us we are always living out a mission for His glory.

I also want to challenge all of my fellow parents out there to think about how they are living out the mission of Christ so that their kids can see what it looks like.  For us it has been learning to share the gift of our home but for someone else it may be showing your kids how to serve others by helping to fix your dad’s car; or maybe you just show your kids how to care about people by getting to know the guy who serves you coffee at Starbucks.  What is it for you? How are you living on mission?