Life On the Inside
No one could have prepared me for the truth of what life would be like on the inside. I'm not talking about prison - I'm talking about our home (although sometimes it seems like a fair comparison)!
Marriage is a far cry from the dreams formed as a young girl when the "for worse" part of wedding vows were more of a formality than reality. Parenting is an ongoing lesson in humility as I've most certainly become "that parent" who now knows the judgmental pre-kids me of years past didn't have a clue.
Though life from the inside can be wonderful, there is something I didn't understand about having a family - even though we love each other the most, we're the hardest to love. This is rarely vocalized in a society with a constant flow of images showcasing beautiful homes, the best kids, and happy marriages. We even see yard signs boasting "love lives here." Our sign would have to say something like, "We're working on love over here - still."
Family witnesses the very best and worst in each other, so how do we love well through it all?
Life on the inside can get really messy when we forget family wasn't created to satisfy the heart. We are called to love them, yes, but they are not meant to be our everything. We form unrealistic expectations when we make family an idol of the heart. No matter how wonderful they may be, our spouses and children aren't supposed to be our driving purpose or identity. It's only when we are truly satisfied in Christ that we find fulfillment. It is in that place loved ones can be freed from our unfair demands in roles they were never created to fill.
Living with other people means doing life together is a constant test of love. No joke, as I was trying to write this post, I failed. I paused to yell (yes, yell) instruction to fighting boys over the noise of "Boil Them Cabbage Down" being played on the banjo by their Dad. Here's what I needed to remember: To love our family the way Jesus loves us is to recognize that everybody else isn't the problem. Why are there fights and quarrels in our homes? Because of "me" (see James 4:1-3 and count how many times "you" is printed). I reacted poorly to chaos because it was harder for me to focus on what I wanted. Instead of my needed correction being rooted in love for the boys, it came from frustration because I wanted peace and quiet to do my thing (the irony isn't lost on me here - ha). We are our own worst enemy when it comes to loving our families because, honestly, there is no one else we naturally adore more than ourselves. That's why Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31). We need major help in the "others" department. A heart that loves the way Jesus does is only possible with His intervention. When we practice humility in recognizing our sin and not everyone else's, it changes our response to loved ones. True appreciation for God's grace in our lives makes it hard not to give that grace even when we're sure our family is gonna make us lose our minds!
Life on the inside isn't always pretty. Sometimes it's just plain hard. We'd do ourselves and each other a favor if we'd be honest about that more often. It doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful. There's no place like home because it's where God does some of the most amazing miracles in the heart. Marriage and children are beautiful gifts God uses not just to make us happy, but to make us holy.
Lord, teach us to love our families well by making us more like You.
You can read the first post in this topic about love here. A friend about loving friends is coming next week.