Thursday, May 2, 2013

Love Like a Grown-Up

I am going to steal, and twist, an idea from Sunday's sermon in which Pastor Skip talked about Discipleship 2.0. He pointed out that some of us have mastered the basic tasks of discipleship, and now we are charged with mastering version 2.0 which requires that we love one another as Jesus has loved us. There's a special twist on this for parents. We, the grown-ups, are required to love our kids as Jesus has loved us.

To be loved by Jesus is to be loved in spite of one's self. Jesus gives unconditional love for the person you are, even if your actions don't live up to your best self. That is how we are to love our children, and most of the time we do. As they get older though, our expectations grow, and sometimes the kids don't live up to those expectations. Sometimes they disappoint us. This is the place where it can get really messy, the place where a parent can start thinking about how this impacts me. And that's where the wedge can be driven between you and your child. That's the place where your child can start to think he or she isn't good enough or lovable enough.

This is where you need to stand up and love like a grown-up. This is where you need to separate the person and the action carefully. This is when you have to put yourself in your children's shoes and say what they need to hear: that you still love them in spite of the crumpled fender, the poor grade, or the bad judgment. This is not the time to withhold love or approval in hopes of teaching them a lesson. This is the time to love them with everything you have, and to find the teachable moment in the middle of it.

Too often we are tempted to say, "You know I love you but this (insert habit or infraction here) really drives me crazy." Your kid will only hear the second half of this sentence; the "but" wipes out the first half completely. So, if you must include a "but," wait until you mean it and then say it in reverse, "This (habit or infraction) drives me crazy, but I love you with all my heart."

Too late? Already have a wedge between you and your child? Reach across or around it. You are the grown-up; you have the greater responsibility for the relationship. If it needs mending, figure out how to fix it. Don't send your child to the counselor to get fixed. Go yourself and sort it out with a neutral party, make a plan, and reach across the chasm to restore your relationship - as many times as it takes.

Love like Jesus. Unconditionally. Deliberately. Responsibly. Forsaking self for the best interests of others. You won't do it perfectly but he'll love you anyway, because Jesus loves like a grown-up!

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