Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Cor 13:4-7)
Most often quoted for weddings, this passage can sometimes slip right past me like an old cliché. Perhaps it’s the familiarity that breeds complacency (or a lack of conviction?).
Yesterday I read these words (by “chance”) and they’ve been ringing around my head and my heart ever since. I’ve been in a rough stint with the littles lately. I’ve been stretched beyond stretched as I’ve tried to navigate tantrums and demands and big, big personalities and loud, loud voices coming from my little, little children.
Levi is sensitive, colorful, dramatic, and opinionated. He’s as strong-willed as I am (yowza) and can flip a switch at the drop of a hat. He’s very quick to melt down into puddles at the moment and his needs are dramatically changing as he requires a different sort of attention than I’ve grown accustomed to giving him. And even though he’s struggling in his little heart to figure out right from wrong and where he should draw all the lines, he’s also really concerned with whether or not mom and dad are pleased with him and very affected by how we respond to his misbehavior. He’s an absolute sweet heart… having emotional and mental growing pains that are setting him on edge.
Judah is physical, strong, determined, and loud. (I used to think I knew what loud was, but Judah has turned that definition upside down. He’s… amazing.) He cries a lot (and sometimes screams and yells) and is very high needs in terms of physical contact. Add to that a very fiery temper and the tendency to hit and it can be a fairly potent combination. He seems to be endlessly struggling with separation anxiety and if I am anywhere in sight when he’s even slightly upset, he amps it all up by another 30% and is almost inconsolable until he has my undivided attention and my arms to himself. He’s quick to laugh and cuddle up close, but then just as quick to scream and hit and flail himself onto the floor. (Wow, it really is impressive.)
Most days I’ve felt anything but patient as of late. Quite the opposite, I feel quick to lose it and quick to react, rather than respond. I desperately want to be kind and I’m brutally aware of the power of word choice and tone, and yet lately the words coming through my thought process are anything but kind or honoring. It takes every ounce of self control I can muster to keep my mouth shut and not explode and spew all over my kids. (And maybe I don’t actually yell, but isn’t anger and venom within the mind just as dangerous?)
I’ve felt intense desire to give up what I know to be right for what a moment of desperation might bring – to yell, to hit, to banish or just send them out of my sight. Or maybe just to slam a door and storm off to my own little tantrum. Fight or flight kicks in and I want to do both at any given moment. I’ve certainly not felt hopeful that they will ever learn what we’re trying to instill in their little hearts. (Even though, yes, I know they will eventually.)
And endurance? Well, mostly I’ve wanted to go back to bed… not endure or persevere.
Irritability? I’m not even going to comment on that one. Yikes. Grump city.
That right there, friends? That’s the honest truth.
I know this season will pass quickly. I know that things aren’t as bad as they sometimes feel. I know that every parent goes through ages and stages like this where the kids literally require everything we’ve got (and more, or so it feels). I know that His grace is sufficient. I know I’m a good mom and that I don’t need to be paranoid about screwing up my kids. I know, I know, I know, I know.
I know all of these things. Really. I do.
But sometimes reading passages like the one out of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians only reminds me of what the outworking of love should look like in my life… and how far away from living those truths that I sometimes feel. The disparity between what I know and what I feel and do can seem large and overwhelming and just plain hard.
And yet I refuse to live under the suffocation of not good enough and so I remind myself (and you, friends) of what Paul’s really trying to say here: that love is enough.
That love is perfect and unending and never gives up. That it always hangs in there. Always forgives and always lets go. That it’s always growing and giving birth and setting free. That it never demands payment or resorts to power plays but always defaults to kindness and looks for ways to extend grace.
I would say in a heartbeat that I love my kids more than anything in the world, and yet I can say in the same breath that my love often doesn’t look the way Paul describes. It shows me that even as I help them to grow, I’m not yet done growing myself.
They are my greatest teachers – teaching me where I am still weak, still childish, still in need of Love to move in and take up residence in areas of my heart and mind. They remind me that they only way real change can come is from the inside out.
So as I prepare to celebrate the Day of Love with my family tomorrow I let God remind me that he is patient. He is kind. He is never rude or arrogant or demanding or unforgiving. He never gives up on me, always believes in me, always sees the best in me, and never leaves my side. And as I allow his love to grow within me, my capacity to love them can’t help but grow too.
I’m so grateful to love and be loved.
I’m so grateful for a chance to start fresh every day.
Dear God, help me love these littles today. Help me love them well.
Dear friends, happy Valentines Day to you. Wherever you’re at in life, I hope that today would be a day that you experience genuine love – the giving and receiving of it. Love covers over so much of our inadequacies and insecurities and inabilities. May Love find it’s destination in your life today. Happy Heart Day.