On that sneaky little Sunday tucked suspiciously between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day our minister preached an upsetting sermon. Taken from the apostle Peter’s second epistle, it was about remembering and repetition.
There’s nothing wrong with hearing the same old stuff over and over again. In fact that is how we learn. That’s how we grow.
The upsetting part was a tiny little moment of illustration.
Pastor Steve was speaking from his own experiences even from his recent past. Some of what God had been repeating to him in the quietness of his own soul was from the famous ‘love chapter’–1 Corinthians 13. You know,
“ Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Ministers, more than any of us, are exposed to that wonderful passage. Over the course of their careers they preach on it at countless weddings, they hear dozens of sermons on it, they deliver dozens of sermons on it. They do well to take it to heart and understand that even if they communicate in the language of their parishioners, even if they understand the heart of God and have big faith, if they sacrifice everything for the sake of those they minister to—they are reduced to nothing unless they love, and love well. Steve had been learning that again.
And then he said the most annoying thing
He had come to the conclusion that if he was inpatient or unkind, if he was at all self-seeking or easily angered it wasn’t the problem of the person he was trying to love–it wasn’t his son’s fault, nor his wife’s—it was his. It meant there was a lack of love in his own heart.
And that made me mad!
What exactly was he saying? It’s not my children’s fault? When they don’t listen, when they persist in ignoring me, when they are ungrateful and rude, when they don’t pick up after I’ve “repeated” it 1000 times? When they assume I’ll do something, when they take me for granted, when they leave messes and piles in newly cleaned places?
How can the anger I feel not be their fault? This anger, irritation, frustration, rage that creeps and crescendos more often than I’d care to admit — how is it possibly a reflection of my own heart?
Later at home, away from the polite piety of church, with a morning mug of coffee, I thought hard about these things. I read and reread the passage. I thought about my own heart. I remembered and reflected on my responses to real life.
And I realized it really is true.
It’s not Connor’s, or Adelaide’s, or Bronwynn’s fault. Yes, life in family can be exasperating. But that’s where we’re supposed to learn to love. It’s where we own our own responses. It’s where we honestly admit our lack of capacity to love well on our own, without a Tutor who’s name is Love. It’s where we say I’m sorry. I didn’t love well. Please forgive me.
I’m not saying that children don’t sometimes put mothers over the edge. They do. But I’m saying that I’m responsible for my own responses. Lately the love’s been spread too thin.
I asked God to lead me into Love this year. Let this be the year I learn to love, to love really, to love well.