I have always struggled with a tendency towards legalism. Maybe it has something to do with being a perfectionist oldest child. Or because my parent’s background was based in extreme legalism and as much as they tried not to pass that on to us, some must have seeped into my way of thinking. So, when God is making a point of something in my life I struggle with what to DO with His correction, all the while trying not to DO it because I tend towards a works mentality, but out of relationship with Him… So there you get a little picture of the insanity that is me – or maybe you are nodding your head in understanding, having experienced this same battle between spirit and flesh.
I have so many parenting books. Most of them are great, and have amazing ideas and wonderful insight, and I read them, head nodding in agreement with most of what is said. But I struggle with implementing any of what I read. A few sentences have changed my thinking in some regards, but most of it gets left right there as words on a page, not giving life to my every day dealings with my children.
I’ve been noticing something creeping into our family that I hate. It’s a tone. A tone in which words are spoken. It’s harsh, negative and critical. It doesn’t promote life and peace and love. It’s a tone that Darren grew up with, and one I grew up fighting against with everything in my spirit (because I wasn’t allowed to give it words in the presence of my father), and hated with every fibre of my being. It’s a tone that Darren and I fought about for the first 10 years of our marriage because whether he meant to or not, his tone of voice made me feel demeaned and worthless. Yet, I find it creeping into my voice when I’m speaking to my children. I hear it voiced back to me by my son… and it breaks my heart.
“Love is patient, love is kind…It is not rude,
It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs…It always protects,
always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
God’s voice has been whispering to my heart “Is it possible to parent effectively with that kind of love?” Meaning, can you show that type of love to a child and still have them respect you and obey you? Or does it take a harsh voice to “make them mind”? Is it ok to be rude in my tone of voice because they are only children? Is there ever an excuse to be easily angered? To remember sins of days past and bring them up again? Everything in my being cries “NO!” yet I catch myself failing multiple times a day.
I repeated the question to Darren. “Can one parent with that kind of love?” and after some thought he said “No, that’s God’s love for us. We can’t do it.” And that’s when it started clicking for me. He is absolutely right. We can’t. I can DO my best to parent this way, and I will be frustrated over and over by my lack of ability to follow through. In my flesh, it is impossible. But I certainly wasn’t content to leave it at that.
I’m sure Jesus was dancing a little jig in anticipation as I opened “My Utmost for His Highest” by Ozzie that night and read these words.
We cannot predetermine our thoughts and actions by saying,
“Now I will never think any evil thoughts and I
will believe everything that Jesus would have me to believe.”
No, the characteristic of love is spontaneity.
We don’t deliberately set the statements of
Jesus before us as a standard, but when His Spirit is having His way with us,
we live accordingto His standard without even realizing it.
And when we look back, we are amazed at how
unconcerned we have been over our emotions,
which is the very evidence that real,
spontaneous love was there…
The fountains from which love flows are in God, not in us.
It is absurd to thinkthat the love of God is naturally in our hearts…
His love is there only because it
has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit…” (Rom 5:5)
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (April 30)
I can only love like that because God has loved ME like that. I can only give what I have been given, and in order for me to give, I have to acknowledge this great love that has been poured into me. I have known this in theory forever, but suddenly it has become a practical reality.
What a humbling process this is! When Amara is looking at me while disobeying my words, I remember so many times when I have knowingly disobeyed my Father – and He forgave me. So my words are softer to her, my tone more gentle as I direct her towards obedience. When Kylar is defiant, my memory brings to the place of the many, many times I have failed to do some small thing He has asked me to do, yet He has kept no record of wrongs (and neither can I). So my heart breaks as I seek to reach this young man’s heart and direct him without “the tone” creeping into my voice in response to his.
This breaking of my pride is so delightfully heartbreaking. I see myself responding in I Cor. 13 ways out of response to the love God has brought into my life, not knocking myself out trying to DO something that in my own flesh is impossible.
“Trust steadily in God,
And the best of the three is love.”
I Corinthians 13:13 (MSG)
Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest is just too good not to share, so I would like to invite you to my first giveaway! I will do a draw for a copy of this book on May 30th. All you need to do to qualify is to leave a comment on this post with your thoughts on “Impossible Love” and let me know you want to be part of the draw, then check back on May 31st to see if you won!