This month I want us all to think about an important four letter word. As opposed to many bad four letter words, this one is not offensive and rude. It’s one we need to say often. In fact, we should do more than just say it; we need to live it, too. Perhaps you’ve already figured out that the four letter word I’m referring to is “love.”
God has been showing me over and over in this past month that love is the most important thing. I’ve been getting back into some negative habits with my kids and my attitude (for a while it felt like my brows would be permanently scrunched together!). I’ve heard myself shriek “What’s the matter with you?!” to Erin way too often. I’ve had lots of good times with the kids and Gary, but that old undercurrent of discontent and frustration has been making life a bit more difficult than it needs to be. Instead of seeing my children as the blessings they are, I’ve been more often considering them burdens.
Well, even though I could see these old habits popping up, I didn’t do much to counteract them. I’ve been drifting pretty much aimlessly back into anger, instead of fighting with all my will to get back to that content and loving state of mind which is possible when my focus is on God instead of myself.
Does it disappoint you to read that? Did you think you were reading advice from someone who has overcome the problem of anger toward her children, and now you’re shocked to find out I still struggle with that issue? I don’t blame you, but I do beg you to keep reading and keep running to God as you learn to deal with anger. You see, there’s a difference between the anger I sometimes feel now and the anger I went through for a year or so when my girls were younger. Back then, I didn’t understand what was happening and I worried about why I got angry and couldn’t seem to control it. God taught me so many things during that time. Now, when I act out in angry ways when I’m frustrated with the kids, I know that I’m making a choice to act that way. There’s very little confusion anymore, it’s usually just a matter of admitting that I have an attitude problem which I need to deal with and act right. Allie will sometimes somberly remind me, “You have sin in your heart” when I lash out verbally at her or Erin. She’s absolutely right! It’s almost harder to deal with anger now, because back then I was ignorant – now I’m often making a conscious or subconscious choice to remain angry.
Having said all that, I’ll get back to what I was going to say about love. Even as I chose to ignore the increasing frequency of my anger, I was aware of God working to bring me back to Him. In my 6th grade Sunday School class, we’ve been studying the fruit of the Spirit and I Corinthians 13 – the love chapter. I read that chapter in some different versions of the Bible, and was convicted by its challenging concepts.
What kept hitting me was that nothing matters if we don’t have love! It doesn’t matter how clean my house is, how well-behaved my kids are, how well I write, how nice my friends think I am, how much I read my Bible…if I don’t show love, those things mean nothing! God has been pointing out this fact at different times lately. When my kids ask me if they can do something fun outside or if they can make some new craft project and I snarl, “No!” God shows me the disappointed or angry look on the face of one of my children, and whispers, “Without love, it’s nothing!” I tell myself that I want to have a good relationship with my kids and be able to have fun with them when they’re older, but the truth is that often I’m not really willing to put the time or effort into building that relationship with my kids right now. At times I’ve heard the phrase, “Without love, I am nothing” when I’ve contradicted myself by telling my kids to speak nicely to their siblings, but I say it in a way that is far from nice. One night after I had been thinking about the love chapter, I turned on the radio and heard a song which talked about “What matters most”. It was, of course, love – with many of the lyrics reminding me of I Corinthians 13.
So, I guess the lesson God wants to teach me right now is definitely Love. Do you realize that it may even be possible to learn to deal with the problem of anger, but still not have love toward our children? What a sad thing that would be! Let’s make sure that we’re letting God fill us with His love so that we can pass that on to those around us…our spouse, our children, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even our enemies!
One last thought: In a book by Joni Eareckson Tada called When God Weeps she talks about what comes out of a tube of toothpaste when you squeeze it. Toothpaste comes out, right? Of course it does, because that’s what’s in it! The same goes for us; whatever is inside of us comes out when squeezed. If you are having problems with anger, it’s because anger is inside of you! If we are filled with love, then love will come out when we are squeezed by the pressures of parenting and life. I pray that love is the only four letter word that comes out of you the next time you are squeezed.
© Robyn Mulder 1999, therobynsnest.org