Saturday, April 19, 2014

Last Supper Love

This Thursday night of Holy Week we visited again the story of Jesus washing his disciple's feet and sharing the bread and wine with them in a new way. As I listened to the story of that event, and heard my pastor's sermon, an interesting twist took hold of my mind. I realized how clearly Jesus modeled love for us.

I have previously written about the 5 Love Languages, a "system" developed by Dr. Gary Chapm for communicating love to people you care about. He suggests that there are five different ways we give and receive love:
  • Words of Affirmation (speaking)
  • Acts of Service (serving)
  • Giving/Receiving Gifts (sharing)
  • Quality Time (being present)
  • Physical Touch (touching)
Think through the story of the Last Supper.*  In his last hours of life Jesus stays present with his friends.  He washes their feet as if he were their servant: he is serving them, and he is also touching them. Then, he shares a meal with them, literally giving them the gift of himself: "this is my body. . . this is my blood." And, in both accounts, he speaks his love: "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer," and "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another." All the expressions of love - given for each to understand in his own language.

This is the essence of love - the speak the language of the other. As parents of infants we struggle to interpret every cry, every garbled word, and every pointing or reaching toward an object before our child has language. We try to imagine what they are saying, even though they don't have the language to express it. Once our kids become fluent in speech, we sometimes begin to take what they say at face-value, just as we do with other people. We start to lead with our preferred language, loving them in ways we are comfortable, instead of in their language.

The 5 Love Language followers advocate learning your child's preferred language (or that of your spouse, friend, co-worker, etc.) but if you don't know which language they prefer, take a cue from Jesus and try them all. You'll know when you hit the right one! It may not be your most preferred way to show love, but the essence of love is for the other, not for the self. That is the whole message of Jesus' death and resurrection. It is for you. The other. Not for Jesus; for you. This is love.

Blessed Easter to you. May you know that you are loved!

*You can find footwashing in John 13 and the rest of the meal in Luke 22 if it's a bit foggy.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Telling Stories

We are moving toward Holy Week and the story that makes our Christian faith what it is. It's a story that could not be kept under wraps.  It's a story filled with love and hate and betrayal and confusion and evil and passion. It is told again and again, each teller emphasizing the parts that mean the most to him or her. Another person tells the same story but with a different emphasis. Listening to, and believing, that story is what makes us Christians.

What if, as it is recorded in Mark 16, "they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. What if God's great saving story had been kept secret?  No one alive today would know it. 

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.”  ― Sue Monk KiddThe Secret Life of Bees 

Not every story has the significance of the Easter story, but our stories tell us and others who we are, how we got here and maybe even why. And the why we are here may be as significant as our purpose for the planet, or as simple as why we live where we live. Every story gives a context. And a story compiled from facts or lies without context is utterly forgettable.

As parents, we can greatly enrich our children's lives by telling them stories from our childhoods. It probably doesn't matter that it snowed on my hidden Easter eggs in 1961 or that the dog ate all of the caramel rolls I made for Easter breakfast in 1990 but it provides a younger-me shape for my children to see. It creates a context to fit mommy into and gives clues to motivation, and emotional responses. It both helps me to look back and see where I came from and helps my children see me more completely.  

Stories can provide context for holidays, and holidays can be wonderful contexts for stories. You undoubtedly remember an Easter from years past. Go tell your child a story from another Easter or tell a tale from when she was a small child and too young to remember. Weave your stories together into a history and a context and let them live on from generation to generation.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Learning to Manage His Mad

I was recently astounded to hear of a child in kindergarten being sent to an alternative school for two weeks. It was hard to imagine what a five year old child could do that would result in an in-school suspension. I still don't know all the details, and don't need to, but I love how his grandmother described the issue: "He needs to learn to manage his mad."