Love is . . .

Giving Bread I have always felt that the posts that end up on this site are inspired.  Not inspired as in Apostolic Authority inspired, but inspired as in our lives serve a purpose and part of that purpose is to share it with others.  You may notice that I have not been inspired since last December.  There has been a good reason for that as our family has been in a bit of turmoil and I was not in a position to write about it.

The emotions are too raw for me to get too close to the actual topic at this point, because it has been a heartbreaking disappointment to watch it all unfold realizing that so few people get it.  But, I have been inspired to share this with you.  I hope it is helpful to someone.

An authority figure in our children’s lives that we were parting ways with recently told Beautiful, “I want you to know, I loved your son a 110%.”  We know she meant it because we have known her and her family many years.  We are grateful for her love and efforts, but we also know that it wasn’t enough.  That is why we are parting ways.

The fundamental problem is that as Christians, those who ought to know what love is better than any others, are frequently, the worst students of it.  We, the recipients of the greatest gift ever given, frequently do not know how to give, unless we are asked.

Jesus said, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Mt 7:9–11)

The point of the Jesus’s teaching is that since we know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will our Father in heaven outdo us.  This is absolutely the case!  However, in both examples, the child asked for something and it was given to them.  Frequently, the child or recipient in question doesn’t know what they need.  This is further complicated when we think we know what they need because we know what other kids need, or, worse, we know what worked for us.  Therein lies the problem.  We take the command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” literally.  God wasn’t commanding us to love the exact same way we need to be loved, but with the same priority, and effectiveness.

Here is another way to think about it.  As Christians, we understand the importance of objective love.  This has two dimensions.  First, the object of your love is important.  I love Milk Duds.  They are not giving me any benefit other than the enjoyment of chewing that tasty treat.  They are not good for me in any way.  The object of my love affects me, but it does not help me.

The second part of objective love is that the manner in which you love is important.  Many people feel admiration and affection for Jesus the same way I love Milk Duds.  They love what He does for them.  The problem is that that love is ineffective.  Jesus also said, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15).  In other words, love that does not manifest in obedience is not love.

Let me bring this all together.  Love, no matter how vigorous and heartfelt, is not love if it does not match the object of our love.  If we do not take the time to learn about the needs of the children in our care, we are not loving them as they need.  We may be heartfelt, committed, and energetic, but it will never be enough for the child, because it isn’t what they need.

We recognize physical differences all the time.  This one is gifted athletically. This one is gifted academically. And this one – well they just are.  Unfortunately, we cannot see beyond those differences to differences of brain chemistry, spirit, interests, etc.  One size does not fit all.  As long as you believe that it does, you will be handing your children stones when they really need bread.

If we are not students of the objects of our love, we will be ineffective at a minimum and more likely causing harm.  Does the child need more structure, or do they need more freedom?  Do they need exercise, or quiet?  Who knows if we are not paying attention and don’t know our children.

I pray that all of us as parents will figure out what our children need so will not have to answer for that someday.