“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.”
1 Corinthians 13:1-8a
I am a mother of a teenager. Three of them, actually.
I can almost hear the deep sighs of sympathy and see the shaking of sympathetic heads. When someone asks me the ages of my children, undoubtedly, I see a physical reaction to the mention of their ages – 16, 15, and 13 years old. Years before, even as they approached the “teen years,” people began warning me about what was to come. The horror stories were pretty bleak and typically warned me to “brace for impact.”
This desire to share the worst possible scenario reminds me of when I was getting ready to give birth and almost everyone I met would insist on sharing their own childbirth nightmares. Why do people do that anyway? Is that all there is to look forward to? Is simply bracing myself for the storm all I can hope for?
I don’t think so.
God is always at work. That is just who He is. From conception to teenage years (and beyond), God is always at work. Yes, my teenagers are awash with hormones. Yes, they possess strong and often raw emotions, flashes of anger, and frustration. Yes, they can randomly burst into tears or laughter – at the smallest and biggest of things.
They are consumed with figuring out who they are and if they have what it takes in this life. They are asking big questions, serious questions, relevant questions. They are engaging life. Each of them, in their own way, are moving toward it, searching it out. And that, quite frankly, is a beautiful thing.
They are learning how to trust in Jesus, and so am I. And it is good…really good.
Is it hard? Yes. Does it hurt? Absolutely. But, like childbirth, there is a purpose for the struggle and pain. God doesn’t waste anything. Not. One. Thing. I can concentrate on the contractions and get buried in the right now, or I can choose to look up and look out for the glory of God revealing itself in the life of my children.
The beauty is there. I saw a glimpse of it just the other day, while my son and I were standing with a couple of my friends before Bible study.
With arms draped around my neck, he publicly declared, “I love you so much, Mom.” Upon seeing the shocked expressions on the other women’s faces, my son matter-of-factly responded, “What? I love my mom.” And then he furrowed his brow, thoughtful, and went on, “I don’t really get why some teenagers don’t like their parents. My parents are awesome.”
To go back to the childbirth analogy, the reason this exchange took my breath away was because it came at the end of a very tough week with my son. He had been in trouble, defiant, challenging, to say the least. It had been a very, very long “contraction” and I had been praying for the release to come. Praying for God to work and move in his heart. Yes. I had been praying and loving my son in the midst of our current storm.
And right there, in the middle of a group of women, it came. It was a sweet moment.
Yet, I must admit that in the heat of the struggle, the temptation is to retreat from the things that are hard. To withdraw and say, “This is just too hard.” When in reality, it is those very moments that define our greatest victory and relief. When we refuse to give in to fear (or worse, apathy) and instead choose to engage the emerging lives God has placed in our care, the result is sweet. I am not saying that it is always beautiful or that it is without heartache, but it is always worth it.
In the end, biblical love doesn’t leave the question, “Am I worth it?” unanswered.
When loving my teenagers through a difficult behavior or choice is hard, I remember my Savior’s example. I hear His gentle reminder: “Beloved, I loved you when you denied me. I found you in your mess and redeemed you. I called you by name and declared that you were mine. I chose you.” He called out to me. He loved me. He showed me a better way.
“Love is not about what you don’t do; it’s about your movement toward someone. The opposite of love is not hatred; it’s apathy.”
Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas, page 61
Love requires that I move toward my son, not because he is acting in a way that qualifies my love. No. Jesus loved me first, not because of anything I had done. I move toward my teenager because biblical love demands that I love like Jesus did.
It is not easy, but it is always worth it. Together we are engaging this road. One faithful deliberate step at a time. Together we are moving toward one another and toward our Savior. I encourage you to do the same. Make an active choice to move toward the people God has put in your life who might be a little challenging to love right now.
Love is a choice – an active, engaged choice. Choose well, dear ones. Jesus showed the way; may we be bold enough to love like He did.
The song I want to share with you today is brand new off of Francesca Battistelli’s new album, Own It, entitled, “Love Somebody.” It’s about the power of changing lives when you love others well. So, turn it up, grab your kids, and dance in your living room. We are – goofy dance moves and all. Lol!
With joy for the journey,