I just can’t handle it.
Truly. In full recognition I have just shoplifted lyrics from, and probably owe royalties to the estate of the late Freddie Mercury of the band Queen, I’ll admit I’m not always good at loving people.
I know. Love is supposed to come naturally. Instinctively. Out of the overflow of the goodness of my heart. Especially as a follower of Jesus.
But there are people—some people—who just aren’t easy to love.
And there are days—some days—when I just don’t know how to do it.
I’ll admit it; sometimes my loveless-ness stems from my own selfishness, weakness, and failings. I get angry. Or frustrated. I’ve been wounded, and I feel resentful. And sometimes I’m just too plain tired to love well.
Other times, however, I have honestly not known what the loving thing to say or do was. I’ve wrestled with knowing where to draw the line between law and grace. Should I ground my kid for all eternity in a loving attempt to teach that actions bring consequences? Or should I extend mercy, recognizing that what he or she needed most was contact with a friend or the chance to chase a Frisbee and work off pent-up frustration?
At times I’ve wondered whether or not I should say something to a loved one, or keep my mouth shout; offering my words only in prayer on his or her behalf.
I was relieved to learn, during the course of one of my pastor’s recent sermons, that I’m not alone in not knowing how to love others well. Because he takes to heart the teaching that all scripture is profitable, my pastor spent considerable time on the opening lines to Paul’s letter to the Philippians—you know, all that introductory language about extending greetings, grace, and peace—the stuff I usually skip right past.
Buried in the opening lines were these words:
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11, ESV
Paul prayed for the believers in the church of Philippi, that their love for one another would grow. And Paul recognized that knowing how to love well wasn’t always automatic. Authentic love requires knowledge and discernment, wisdom from above.
“We don’t have the capacity within ourselves to love well,” my pastor said.
Love is a gift God gives, a grace and a discipline He develops within us; one which grows in wisdom, knowledge, and discernment. We love, and learn to love well, only because God first loved us.
And I need to keep asking Him to teach me.
I know some who struggle to love parents who have wounded them deeply. Others bear scars from friends, family and church members; aching reminders of the need for healing, the kind which only love can effect. Friends have adopted from places in the world where young children are subjected to more evil than I can possibly begin to imagine. And some of these children are hurt, angry, scared, and scarred; unable, it seems, to give and receive love.
I know I’ve not always loved my children well. I’ve heard the accusation, “You’re not helping,” more times than I care to admit. So I’m praying; asking God for this wisdom from on high and asking for eyes to see my kids as they really are, with their unique challenges and strengths.
And just last week I came across this advice from a doctor:
Some children struggle no matter what. They are born with such problems that no one is able to make them all better. But to give them their best shot, rely on love above all else—love adeptly and creatively applied, love consistently and abidingly offered, love wisely and enthusiastically held out and always felt, even when you’re sad, angry, disappointed, or hopeless. Such love is muscular and magical. It stares adversity straight in the eye and never once blinks. It prevails.
I don’t know about you, but the good doctor’s prescription reminded me an awful lot of words from another, ones penned by the Apostle Paul:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I Corinthians 13:4-7, ESV
That’s the power of love.
Now somebody should probably tell Huey Lewis I owe him royalties as well.
Citation above: Hallowell Md, Edward M.; Jensen, Peter S. (2008-12-08). Superparenting for ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child (Kindle Locations 164-167). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Joining emily and her community, where there’s a whole lotta this crazy little thing called love:
And with Michelle @ Graceful in next Monday’s Hear It, Use It community–even though it’s Wednesday and I heard this sermon a couple of weeks ago. Because I’ve needed some time to chew on this, and because it’s summer and life is crazy. And she loves me enough to let me get away with stuff like this: