The Journey

This blog began in an attempt to provide resources and encouragement for homeschoolers. However, during this homeschool adventure, I've found it's also about life. Specifically about losing my own life, that I might find it in Jesus and thus discover the joy of REAL life. (Matthew 10:39)

In March, 2012, our family stepped out in faith again as we moved out to the country. The first step of faith was trusting the Lord to sell our other home before our emergency fund ran out. He is faithful, and though I was hoping this would happen sooner, He knows what we needed.

I just know that He is going to use these 5 acres and this old house to teach me even more lessons in abiding with Him...and I look forward to the Adventure!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What is Love? Loving with No "Buts"

What is love?  A question to ponder, especially at this time of year, as the celebration of my Savior's birth (and hopefully your Savior too) comes nearer. 

I've been reading 1 Corinthians 13 and in some notes in one of my Bibles it points out that Paul uses the Greek word agape in the description of love found in this chapter of the Bible. 

Agape love is unconditional love.  A love that is given regardless of the worthiness of the one to whom the love is being given to.  It is the kind of love that God shows us.  It is the kind of love which is given because of a conscious choice made by the giver. 

Some would say that only God can love like this.  But I believe that we, as humans, can too...but not on our own.  We can only love like this with the help of the Holy Spirit living inside of us.  And He helps us when we abide in Him.  How do we abide in Him?  I, personally, like what Psalm 119:9-16 (NIV, 1984) says:

9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
   By living according to your word.

10 I seek you with all my heart;
   do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
   that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, O LORD;
   teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
   all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
   as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
   and consider your ways.
16 I delight in your decrees;
   I will not neglect your word.

In my thinking on this topic, I had the following thought:

I want to love my husband and children...without any "buts."

A few things before I move on.  First, it might seem obvious that I want this.  Second, you might ask, what about everyone else?

To answer the second one first, it is much easier to love those you do not live with without any "buts" than those you do live with.  Especially when homeschooling means you are living with the latter ones 24/7.  I see them at their best...their worst...and everything in between.  And the reverse is true too (them seeing me!).
In response to the first, I have been noticing that I don't always emanate that type of love.  I may be heard saying something like, I love you, BUT when you (disobey, move slowly, scream, etc) it (saddens, frustrates, hurts) me.  While the latter are certainly true, and don't say outright that I don't love my child when he does those things, they do imply a conditional love when I add the "but."

When my daughter was little, a very good friend gave her a book called, "I Love You Because You're You" by Liza Baker.  It's a simple board book with pictures of a Mommy fox and Child fox.  Here are a few of the situations where the Mommy fox declares her love to her child:

I love you when you're sick and need to rest in bed.
I love you when you're frisky and standing on your head.

I love you when you're sad and need a kiss and hug.
I love you when you're playful and rolling on the rug.
(The picture in this one is great because the mom is in her rocking chair knitting and the child is on the floor at her feet all rolled up in yarn from the bottom of whatever she is knitting!  Let's just say the mom's expression has no smile while the child's is huge!)

I love you when you're angry and cross your arms and pout.
I love you when you're wild and yell and scream and shout.
(In the former the mom is putting toothpaste on the child's toothbrush while the child is crossing his arms and pouting.  In the latter the child is walking past the mom and a cat shouting while the mom covers her ears and the cat's hair is standing on end!)

Over the years, I have pulled it out and read it after breakfast to my two blessings.  Sometimes for weeks at a time!  Why did I read it to them?  It was as much, if not more so, to remind me to love them unconditionally, as it was to remind them that I love them, no matter what they do.

So then, where does that leave me?  I am, after all, only human.  Right?  The picture book is nice, but I do not always feel very loving to my children when they are yelling, "I hate you!" or "You're being mean!"  (Or when I have a headache and my son is screaming and shouting around the house...just for fun!)  No matter how hard I try, I fall down and end up yelling back (unfortunately).  But I don't want to do that anymore.  I want to love like Jesus loved.  I want to learn from Him.  

That's where 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 comes in.  As I mentioned earlier, I've been reading it lately and asking God to help me love like that.  I want my children to see a loving God through me.  Not One who is waiting for them to make mistakes.  Or always pointing out their mistakes.  Or saying, "I love you, but you've got a long way to go in this part of your life over here."  

Our Father in heaven KNOWS we have a long way to go, BUT He doesn't go around reminding us of it.  And when we are reminded, He wants to deal with us gently and lovingly.  Agape love.  He knows that when our hearts are turned to His, we won't need Him to say, "I told you so," because He knows we'll be hard enough on ourselves!  At least it seems to be that way with me.  I need to remember this as I parent my own children.  Lecture less, love more.  Or put another way, less is more (especially with my words sometimes!).

So, I'd like to share the Amplified translation of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

   Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
    5  It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God's love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
    6  It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
    7  Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
So far, these two thoughts have swirled around in my mind as I try to remember how to love when a situation gets "sticky."

Love does NOT take offense easily.
Love makes allowances.

Three passages support these statements (I'm sure there are more, these are simply the ones I have thought of now),  1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Ephesians 4:1-2, and James 1:19-20.  The first is above, and rather obvious, and the second two are ones I have been memorizing and meditating on with the Siesta Scripture Memory Team with Beth Moore and Living Proof Ministries.

I also thought of Proverbs 19:11 which says, "A man's wisdom gives him patience, it is to his glory to overlook an offense."  I referenced this verse in a previous post on wisdom. The more I think about love, though, the more I realize that this verse is also speaking to how we LOVE those around us.  Even when they offend us.

As I sat in the pew singing during the worship service on Sunday, the line of a well known Christmas Hymn struck me in it's simple, yet powerful message:

"Fit us for heaven to live with thee there."

Yes, it's from Away in the Manger.  And it's a good ending to this post on love.  

Lord, help us to love our husbands and children with no "buts," that You might, indeed, "fit us for heaven to live with thee there."

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