A few weeks ago, I was having a little chat with my oldest after a little spat with her sister got physical. I told her, “I know your sister can be challenging and I know she loves to push your buttons, but it’s not okay to hit her. It’s okay to get angry, but not okay to let that anger come out in hurtful words or actions.”
She let those words sink in for a moment, and then replied, “That seems like it should be easy, but it’s hard. Really hard!”
I agreed with her and confessed that when I was younger, I really struggled with controlling my temper, and even still sometimes let it get away from me.
Our conversation left me thinking though. Thinking about how so many things in life are so simple, yet so difficult.
A few examples that came to mind were:
- The key to financial success is to spend less than you make. Income > outgo. Couldn’t be more straightforward, but often our desires and needs far exceed our means.
- To maintain a healthy weight, do not consume more calories than you burn. Simple as can be…until your coworker brings in fresh donuts. (And I’m munching on dark chocolate chips as I type this because #naptime.)
Neither of these are complicated, yet both require a key ingredient – one that can be quite scarce unless we cultivate it and strengthen it. They both take discipline. It takes discipline to put that adorable handbag back on the display when it’s not in the budget, to skip Outback Steakhouse when you can only afford the Wendy’s value menu, to be thankful and content with your late model, but still reliable car. It takes discipline to eat a salad for lunch when there’s leftover pizza in the fridge, to pass on those delicious pillows of sugar glazed gluten, to go for a walk when you’d rather watch a movie. Discipline; simple, but hard.
Another task that is simple but hard is the command Jesus gave in Matthew 22:39b, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s uncomplicated and clear, but difficult because we love ourselves. A lot.
It’s easy for us to understand how controlling our spending and our diets requires discipline. But love and discipline don’t seem to go together.
Yet they do.
We’ve all heard that love is more than a feeling, it’s a choice. Jesus’ command definitely supports that way of thinking. We are not commanded to love those who we like, or who make us happy. We are commanded to love our neighbors (which kind of means the entire human race without any exceptions).
So, how can I discipline myself to love better?
- I can try my best to remember that every single person walking the earth is God’s beloved creation. He knitted you together in your mother’s womb just as he did me in mine. He knew you before you were born as He knew me. He loves you, no more or less than He loves me.
- I can try my best to remember that I am just as filthy with sin and in need of Jesus’s saving blood as anyone else. “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
- I can try my best to reflect the love of God to the people around me. I absolutely adore the idea behind 1 John 4:12, “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.” In other words, if God’s love is dwelling in our hearts, it’s going to spill out onto others. And when it does, they will, in a sense, see God. Flip on the news for thirty seconds and you will realize that this world needs to see a lot more God. There is evil, pain, and suffering everywhere. People are lost. People are hurting. People are discouraged. We have to be salt and light for them.
This passage really sums it up.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:7-11
So I will keep encouraging Ellery to work out conflicts peacefully (and admonishing Half Pint to be a little less of a button pusher), while I work on this love thing.
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