Yesterday I was listening to a sermon from John 15:9-13 titled “What Love Can Do.” (Pastor Rob Edenfield, Covenant Presbyterian Church Oveido, 13 Nov 2016.)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
(John 15:9-14 ESV)
Among the many thoughts sparked by the sermon, was was some very discomforting thoughts about loving my family members and laying down my life for them. It’s not a new thought for me, but laying down my life for my family is wider than dying for another.
Laying down my life is laying down my time, my energy, my physical body, my resistance in the moment. . . to love my family.
I remember in years past being inspired by this idea, embracing it as part of my calling. “Greater love has no mom than this. . .”
But quite frankly, I don’t like it. I struggle with it.
My resistance is not because there is something else I would rather be doing. It is not because I don’t value pouring myself in to this vocation, where I am, with my family. In the big picture, I really DO want to nurture and encourage and prioritize them.
But the laying down of my life in the moment-by-moment parts of the day? It feels like an imposition. I’m resistant to it. This attitude comes out in so many situations, and I know my family picks up on it.
When I allow myself to feel those feelings of being imposed upon and the feelings of guilt for those feelings, I stop running away from those feelings. I can see that part of what feeds into this is my own struggles of feeling like I’m failing.
So where does this lead me?
Going back to the sermon on God’s love. . . He first loved us. He loves me. He loves my kids. He loves my children.
Biblical love is often summarized by referring to I Corinthians 13. Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud. . . and all the things I am not feeling from God towards me nor living out with my family and neighbors. These words are familiar to me and so unattainable, and so sometimes I tune the familiar out.
When listening to the sermon, and considering God’s love for us, I thought about God’s “unconditional positive regard” towards me. That is a phrase coined by humanist psychologist Carl Rogers. While “unconditional positive regard” is not a full-orbed definition of Biblical love, it does capture such a sweet part of God’s love in that phrase.
In spite of my failures, in spite of my resistance to “lay down my life,” God has shown me His unconditional love, His positive regard.
We love because he first loved us. . . (1 John 4)
Can I rest in that? Can I let that unconditional positive regard from the Most Holy God be something in which I rest?
He already laid down His life for me. He’s already shown my boundless love.
Can I let that love flow in to me? Flow out of me?
I know my kids feel more criticism from me that I even want to admit. But can I pray that the Holy Spirit fill me with His love, and let unconditional positive regard flow out of me to my children? Can I lay down my resistance before the Lord and accept His love for my kids is even greater than my love for them?