I’m at the stage of life where you drink all the coffees and read all the parenting books. Parenting books are great except they all say different stuff.
Lately, instead of reading all the books, I’ve been watching all the parents. Again, every family is different but I’ve noticed something: The families I admire the most and see the most hope and happiness in are the ones brimming with love. They may have different rules, live in different cultures, go to different types of churches, educate their children differently—on and on. But they have love in common.
So what is love, exactly, beyond a feeling or a nice word?
I opened my Bible to the “love chapter”— 1 Corinthians 13 — and read through the detailed description for a better idea. After explaining how you can do everything else right and have all the ability in the world but if you don’t have love, it will count for nothing, Paul goes on to detail what love is action by action.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
As for prophesies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (italics mine). 1 Cor. 13
Just about every word in this passage convicts me. When I look at our home and my mothering in particular, I see how poorly I live out the actions of love in our family. This is not meant to heap on mom guilt when it’s already so easy to feel like we’re failing and can’t keep up with all that’s required of us. But it does give me pause to think over how often I’m patient or kind with the people I’m with the most.
After praying over this passage and asking God to specifically help me live out love in my home, I noticed all the more how often love is the last place I go with my husband and children.
When love asks me to be patient, I am so often impatient with the dawdling and explanations of my three-year old.
When love asks me to be kind, I catch myself being sharp in moments of frustration and fatigue.
When love says not to envy or boast, I find myself scrolling through social media wondering why everyone else is doing a better job and having more success than me.
When love is not rude, I’m biting with my words and attitude toward my husband and kids after a long or disappointing day.
Love doesn’t insist on its own way but how often do I, either openly or overtly through quiet manipulation?
Love bears, believes, hopes, endures and never ends. It’s as if Paul is saying, if you just do first what love requires of you, you will later see the fruit in that love never ending in your heart and home.
All of this challenged me, as I said. But what really caught my attention was the latter part of the passage where Paul talks about all these other impressive things eventually passing away—the knowledge and wisdom of the day (uh parenting books for instance 😉 )—these things are only limited, partial knowledge that will eventually fade in light of the full knowledge of eternity. They’re helpful, but they’re not necessarily the most important thing.
What will last though, is love—the greatest of all these things. Greater than knowledge, greater than ability, love will be the lasting legacy.
I want to be careful not to rip the passage out of context and away from Paul’s intended purpose but I thought what he said about thinking like a child was so helpful too because I forget sometimes that my three-year old is just that, three years old—like he’s been alive for only three years and sometimes I expect so much of him. Perfect, immediate obedience. A level of calm and self-control that probably no three-year old boy has ever had. Understanding of big concepts and words that are still quite new to him—respect, responsibility, consequences.
Yes, these are things he needs to know and learn but he’s a child—he speaks, thinks, reasons, and acts like a child because he is one. Eventually, like Paul, he’ll become a man and give up childish ways. But until then, what he needs is love coupled with truth and correction.
So what does this look like? It’s patience with a little boy’s energy and learning curb, it’s kindness and gentleness when I’m prone to lose my temper and ere on severity. It’s words that build up and instruct when I’m tempted to be sarcastic and rude. It’s being steady and self-controlled when I’m prone to react in the moment and let my emotion and frustration rule. It’s bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring whatever life may bring to our home and family because if we do—love never fails. Love wins. Love brings the child in his childish ways into the man who puts childish ways behind him. All the rules and frustration in the world can’t produce that and all the other knowledge I might gain along the way is partial and fleeting in light of love and the eternal imprint love leaves on a heart, home, and family.
The greatest of these is love. I see it in the families and people I look up to and I see it laid out so clearly in Scripture—love—above all method and knowledge, let our homes be built on love for this is the one thing that will not fail in the hearts of our children and families.