Jimmy was working on a history assignment not long ago, answering a question about authority. Which is more effective, fear or love? They were talking about governments I suppose, but my own thoughts went to life and faith and to me it was a no-brainer.
And then in the days to come the boys were sharing more of their own stories. About how in Colombia they used to labor hard. Doing their chores. Meeting demands. And I’m curious about how that worked because getting boys to do chores around here has been overall a failed attempt and pure frustration. What if you didn’t do it? Oh that wasn’t a choice. You did what you were told and there was no other option. And there were stories, too, about what DID happen and I’m starting to get the picture.
So I ask Jimmy – how did you answer the question? Did you choose fear or love? And he tells me, “Yeah, Mom. I said fear.” I confess this to Jimmy – I’m not very scary. And he’s quick to agree.
And then something strange starts to happen. The next few days I’m noticing a change. A whole sink of dishes washed clean with no complaining. Clothes hung up. Shoes at the door. An entire table cleared without anyone asking. One day he says something quiet in passing. I’m getting nicer. Yes, I noticed. I wonder why?
I think he knows and so do I.
There have been days, believe me, when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and I’ve wondered right out loud with God – what really is love? Days when truth-be-told I wasn’t feeling it at all and I hoped beyond hope love might count as all action and zero affection. Love hopes and love perseveres. And Love can be grueling is what I’d add.
And then one day there’s a boy going from dining room to kitchen with arms full of everyone’s dirty dishes without being asked and my heart grows warm with feeling and I know right then my love is not unconditional. It’s always so much easier to love back.
I’m looking at Paul’s long love list and this is not easy. It’s a lot of give and no take and days on end of weary waiting. And then. One day. Miracles.
We’re coming up on our second Christmas, and I think back to last year at this time and how incredibly hard everything was. Almost all dark moods and impossible expectations and no one really happy. We were knocking ourselves out just trying to have some fun – and it wasn’t, believe me.
And I entertain the thought of what might have happened if we’d been using a little more FEAR around here back then. Of course, the very thought is completely crazy. We were all of us terrified already. Goodness knows more of the same would have surely landed every single one of us in a permanent state of anxious insanity. Jimmy you’re wrong. It couldn’t be fear.
Love is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. And I’m willing to say it’s this LOVE that saved us.
And is saving us, still.
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. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a