Okay. I have to confess. Paul’s eight-step plan was a whole lot easier to type out that it is to implement.
Throughout the past couple of days I’ve found myself going, “Well, there went step 2.”, “So much for step 4.”, “I’ll just have to get to step 5 some other day.” With each failure came an excuse. “Aunt Flo never visited Jesus.” “Paul was in prison. He didn’t have to deal with a five-year old having a complete meltdown in Target that probably inspired all the spectators to call child protective services.” “Telephones didn’t even exist back then. I’m sure nobody in Philippi ever called their spouse to see if their day has gotten any better (or to apologize for not caring that their day was stressful in the first place).” “Paul wasn’t married to someone who works at the Pentagon.” Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah. Blah.
After 48 hours of failure, I made a decision. I’m gonna eat this eight-step elephant one bite at a time. If you’re working the program with me, feel free to put down the snow shovel and pick up a teaspoon. It’s just like the Lord’s Prayer. Until you acknowledge that God is your father and you seek his will, all of your apologies and thanks and requests are gonna be pretty fruitless. So, until we learn to show love, we’ll never learn to find joy and peace and to adjust our attitudes.
Step 1. If my family is united in our love for Christ, we must be united in our love for each other. Period.
Philippians 2:1-2 (CEV)
1Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God’s Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. 2Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person.
Ok. Now I have a really big confession to make. I have read every translation of this verse with the hope of finding an out. There isn’t one. Paul made it pretty clear that we should live in harmony by showing our love for each other. That word “showing” kept catching my attention. He didn’t just say to live in harmony by loving each other, but by “showing” love for each other. So tonight I went on a search for what that looks like. Just how do we show love for each other.
Once again, I found the answer in one of Paul’s letters.
How many of us had 1 Corinthians 13:4-10 read during our wedding ceremonies? How many of you that aren’t married plan to have it read at your own wedding? How many of us actually get what it means? I wrote it out in a card for my husband today (in an attempt to work the program). While writing it out, I actually read it. I paid attention. I got a beating. I told a friend today that reading all of Philippians 2 was like a trip behind the woodshed where you pick your own switch. This evening, I got another switching. Just because I’m such a giving person, I’ve decided to share the pain.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
So there you have it. That’s what step one looks like. Loving my family means that I have to be patient (not a gift I was born with). I have to be kind (no more screaming at the kids for folding towels wrong or dishing out guilt-goodies for dessert when my husband works late). I can not envy the fact that my husband gets a break from household responsibilities or that my daughter has a better date-life that her parents. I must be humble and avoid boasting. (Humility isn’t so tough with two autistic kids attached to my hips, but I do have an issue with bragging when I think I’ve done something right.) Don’t be rude (Stop interrupting people, Kaci!). Don’t be selfish (If I can master this one, the others should be a piece of cake.) Control my temper! Learn to Forgive and Forget (no more grudges).
The next verse “Love does not delight in evil…” took some time for me to explore. To ‘delight’ in something is to ‘take pleasure’ in that thing. I thought at first that it meant to not take pleasure in other people’s pain or when other people are wronged. After reading it several times and taking into context the meaning of the word ‘delight’, I have come to the conclusion that showing love not only means that you do not take pleasure when other people are hurt, but that you take no pleasure in anything that is wrong. You can’t go out of your way to hurt someone and then say that you love them. Got it?
Take pleasure in being honest. This one is easy for me. I LOVE the truth. Sometimes a little too much. I’ve gotta figure out how to show love by being truthful without inflicting pain. Humph.
Love always protects. This is another one that is pretty easy for me. I’m a Mama bear when it comes to my kids and my husband and my friends and pretty much anyone that I love. Even when I’m frustrated with my kids or my husband, you won’t hear about it until we’ve made peace and even then, you’ll only hear about my mistakes. I believe in showing love by protecting my relationships. Wait a minute. Am I boasting?
Always trust. Still struggle with this one sometimes, but I’ve come a LOOOONG way.
Always have hope. So here’s the deal with hope. I’m either bursting with it, or I can’t find an ounce of it. Anybody out there relate? Tonight I am bursting with it and even though there are moments when I do still struggle with finding a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, I do have great hope for my children and my marriage and for God’s purpose in my life. God’s really working on this one with my sister. I’ve been working on showing her love by having hope for her future. This is something I’ve been working on for a while now and just this very minute I realized that God has been preparing me for this part of step 1 all along. Kinda cool.
ALWAYS PERSEVERE!!! I just had to go grab a definition for this one.
I think that pretty much sums up the first step. Feel free to keep praying for me. I’ll be praying for everyone who’s working the program with me and hopefully we’ll all be comfortable enough in step 1 to move on to step 2 pretty quick. Don’t know about the rest of you, but I could use a little peace and harmony.