Love Is Hard

“You can’t sit here anymore.”

My seventh grade brace-faced, frizzy-haired self felt that plummeting, sickening feeling in my stomach.  Rejection.
“Why not?” I asked the girls who were supposedly close friends.
“We have boyfriends, and you don’t.  This is a ‘boyfriend only’ table now.”

Occurrences like this one happen so often that comedy movies are made to record the culture of junior high and high school.  But to the person they happen to, there is nothing funny about them.  Fortunately, we matured out of our 7th grade days, and many of us remained friends through high school.  But I still remember what happened.  Not because I want to relive junior high, but because I ache for fringe people, people who hang in there with a group and are never quite accepted.  People who seem, well, lost.

I thought when I left adolescence behind that mean girls would be left behind, too. I was wrong.  Insecure teens grow into insecure women.  I was one of them. Whether it be the unheard thoughts of criticizing a woman for how she looks or the somewhat intentional shunning of one who hurt our feelings or not reaching out to someone who is different or we just don’t want to take the time to bring a woman into our private circle, we all have the potential to be a mean girl.  Mean girls cross socio-economic and racial boundaries.  In other words, mean girls aren’t just rich and beautiful or whatever mold we create for them.

Only the power of a relationship with the living Christ can truly change us.  When we give our broken pieces to Him, when we rest in the power of purpose…His purpose…we can love with abandonment.

Isn’t that what Jesus did for us?  Love with abandonment?  It started with His birth, really.  He gave up His rightful place in heaven to become Immanuel, God With Us.  Fully human and fully divine.  And then He submitted Himself to God the Father’s purpose, which was to go to the cross for us.

I have been through times when friendships were hard to come by and mean girls flourished in abundance.  God wants us to be women of grace, not girls who are mean.

Women of grace reach out in the power of love even when it’s out of their comfort zone,  rather than finding protection in numbers.

Women of grace work out differences when they’ve been hurt or offended rather than shunning the offender.

Women of grace help each other grow, as people, as Christians, as mothers and wives, as leaders, even when it involves loving dialogue that is hard.  Mean girls use the faults of other women to feel better about themselves.

Women of grace recognize their own needs for forgiveness and readily forgive others.  Mean girls find reasons why others don’t ever deserve forgiveness.

Yes.  Love. Is. Hard. Let’s be women who love with abandonment and forgive the past.  Even yesterday can be a past that sets the course for a future we regret.


Road Maps

The word that strikes fear into every owner of a GPS.  Recalculating can mean “traffic jam up ahead” or “you’ve taken a wrong turn” or “I am a computer, not a nice lady, so I am blipping and you are going to end up in an corn field.”  When my husband was in the military and we were stationed in Germany, our GPS, after “recalculating” several times, took us through a narrow, 2 lane mountain pass in the Austrian Alps with few railings and daredevils on speed motorcycles.  Let me just say that we learned from that experience.

I no longer trust our GPS completely.  I look up directions on GoogleMaps, Map Quest, and an actual, physical, paper map.  Yes, we have learned that a GPS is not always the best guide to get to an unknown place.  And even after so much planning, there may be detours, road work, or accidents.

Raising children is a little like that.  We have what we think is a high tech road map to bring them to some kind of success.  Today’s parents, more than ever, plan their children’s future.  They plan the classes they will take, beginning them at an early age and enrolling them, sometimes hours a week, in sports or dance or music or perhaps all three. I can look back at my own mistakes as a mom and see that, at times, I was focused on the wrong kind of success for our girls.  What do we define as success for our grown children?  Education?  Talents?  A profession that brings in a lot of income?  Or character, selflessness, godliness?

Do we give more encouragement when our children perform well and look good?  Or do we let them know we appreciate qualities of justice, compassion and mercy?  In the words of Jesus, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36

Proverbs says, “Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

What does it mean to “train up a child” and what, exactly, is “the way that he should go?”  Here is the ultimate road map for raising kids, one that will not steer us wrong.

First and foremost, it had to do with the culture of the land which involved the instruction of godliness.  Secondly, the Hebrew roots of the words give the general idea that each person has a life planned by God, a “bend” if you will, for what he or she is to do in life.  Clark’s Commentary on the Bible puts it this way:

“Dedicate, therefore, in the first instance, your child to God; and nurse, teach, and discipline him as God’s child, whom he has intrusted to your care.  These things observed, and illustrated by your own conduct, the child (you have God’s word for it) will depart from the path of life.”

Join me as I ask God to give me the wisdom and strength to live a life of character, selflessness, and godliness and to encourage our children and grandchildren.  I pray that He would show me areas in my own life example that hinder them from seeing, seeking and giving the love of Jesus.  This parenting thing is not easy at any stage.  How thankful I am for a God of grace who works through me and works apart from me!