I’ve been learning a lot over the past month about selflessness. I would say I’m far from putting this discipline into everyday practice, but I’m trying. You know, I never necessarily thought of myself as a selfish person, but as God is dealing with the sin tendencies inside of me I’m able to better see who I really am.
Over the last year or so God has brought me on the most incredible journey of preparation for marriage… or so I’d like to think that’s what it is. Since becoming saved I have prayed and longed for a husband. And the Lord is faithful in preparing the way by releasing me from the bondages of my past, helping me to tackle the sins of my present, and by giving me directions for living righteously in the now and future.
My newest task began about two months ago when I believed the Lord wanted to ready me in a way that at first I was hesitant to obey. He told me that I needed to learn to unconditionally love my mother. Now, that doesn’t really sound like a hard task, per say. However, the two of us couldn’t be in the same room for more than five minutes without misunderstanding each other as normal conversation turned into a scream fest. But sure enough the Lord insisted, “Love your mother unconditionally, regardless if she sins against you, hurts your feelings and misunderstands you, just love her. Love her for who she is quirks and all.. no matter what she says or does because if you if think your spouse will never do these things you are wrong. Love is choice to be acted upon no matter how you feel in the moment.” Well needless to say, I wasn’t all too thrilled.
Nevertheless, I really wanted to obey God and I prayed for a supernatural attitude change and ability to love. I decided early on that I would just start to act differently toward my mom, but not tell her that I was trying – just see if she noticed. I believed that I was doing a pretty decent job until Easter came. I owed her some money that I borrowed for my car insurance payment, and as she sat on the couch that morning, crying, she said “It’s not about the money Laura… I don’t care about the money, I just wish you would love me.” Stunned like she had just slapped me in the face I had nothing to say. I thought silently to myself God I thought I was loving her, what am I doing wrong that my love isn’t coming across? Frustrated, I got into the car and while driving to my friend’s house where I was celebrating Easter, I prayed. Lord, if mom is not feeling my love than I must be doing something wrong. I thought I was loving her how I was supposed to be, but apparently not. Well, then, You must show me the kind of love she needs, not the kind of love I think I should give to her.
That evening we had another fight, one that really hurt my feelings. She told me she dreaded the fact that I was going to be home for the summer when the semester ended. Wow, talk about kicking someone when their down. I suppose she didn’t realize that I felt the same way, but I just chose not to tell her. I was angry. Days passed, we didn’t speak, but I never stopped praying to learn how to love her despite my feelings. Love her regardless of who she is, what she says, how she acts. This is the love I know the Lord wants me to learn how to give. During a phone call a week later, I cried as I confessed how hurtful her words were and how I had been trying to love her and be a better daughter, but she makes it so difficult. I told her that I want nothing more than for us to get along and that I’ve been praying for this summer to be better than last summer (which is another story all of it’s own) and that I’m learning how to make this happen. She agreed that nothing would make her happier than for us to get along, but told me I need to stop being so selfish. Ah ha! The key word to building the foundation for a new relationship.
Well, here I am a month into summer and if I’ve learned anything at all it is this: to love someone unconditionally is to love sacrificially or selflessly. I think if you would have asked me a few months ago I would have said I was a pretty selfless person, but in reality now that I look back I was and am pretty selfish. My mom would want to share with me her excitement over her new curtains and how much money she saved, but because that conversation was of no value to me, I borderline listened… I didn’t care about curtains. I began to notice that I had a continual pattern of putting value on what she said, at times only pretending to care. I’d yes her to death anxiously waiting for my turn to speak. In fact, for being 26 years old… my selfishness went further. I claimed I loved my mom however, if I was angry with her for whatever dumb reason well than forget the dishes or vacuuming. My emotions fueled my actions. You know, I suppose it’s in our (humans) nature, or my nature to look out for me, to be concerned more about #1, to make sure I am heard and seen first. I had to make sure my needs were met and no one else unless I believed he or she were deserving. However, that is not how love works. Ah, I think I would have failed in a marriage with this attitude. And clearly, I was failing in my relationship with my mom.
I recently read a blog about the three types of love in the Bible and how most young single Christians go about love in relationships in the incorrect order. First by inciting up eros love feelings of passion and lust toward a member of the opposite sex, then phileo love creating friendship, but rarely if ever making it to agape love the stage of a relationship where one or both members act selfless and sacrificial toward one another. This article explains that in order to have a God honoring relationship young Christians need to look at “God’s plan for dating relationships as just the opposite, progressing from the inside out—from agape love to phileo and then, possibly, to eros.”
The Lord is really teaching me a thing or two about agape love, and who better to learn from than the Creator of the concept. Our God is the ultimate source of agape that John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” And Romans 5:8 says “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And John 15:13 says “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Wow, well I understand now that I was sinning in choosing when my mom deserved my love and when she didn’t. Unconditional love must be consistent in action regardless of emotion – conscientiously making selfless choices toward another individual no matter what the other person might have done or said. Love is about their needs and wants over your own. Love is about engaging in conversations that are of importance to your loved one and therefore should be of importance to you. Love is about being humble, forgiving, looking passed imperfections. I would say that I am finally on the right path to loving my mom the way God intended. For the first time in a really long time our relationship is working.
I know a lot of people believe 1 Corinthians 13 is cliche, but there is so much that one can learn from that passage. However, verse 11 is my favorite “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” Gosh, not that long ago I was definitely still a child. I didn’t fully understand how to put the second half of one of God’s greatest commandments into action – Love your neighbor as yourself (in this case my mother.) But I believe the Lord is teaching me how to be a (wo)man and put my silly childish ways behind me in order that I might better know how to selflessly love others – starting with my mother and perhaps soon enough a husband.