My daughter was about 3-1/2 years old when she made this enemy.
After a week of summer dance camp, she declared that she absolutely did not want to take ballet in the fall.
Did she enjoy dance?
Did she have fun at the camp?
Did she want to try the dance classes?
End of story. No explanation. I plied her with Mom-questions. She stuck to her decision without explanation.
In October, we sat together on one of the benches in the dance studio waiting room watching the tiny dancers file out after class. We picked up my oldest daughter and headed out the door.
That’s when my girl said it: “I didn’t see Madelyn in the class.”
Madelyn? Who are you talking about?
Then she exploded with the report that Madelyn always wanted to sit on the triangle at dance camp even when other kids wanted to sit on the triangle and she wouldn’t let anyone else sit there no matter what.
She sucked in one big breath, harumphed, and tossed her arms criss-cross around her chest while stomping her feet for effect..
Well, babe, Madelyn was in dance camp, but she isn’t in the regular dance class.
“Oh.” Long pause while 3-1/2 year old process new information.
“Well, I want to take ballet then.”
All this time, territorial conflict with another preschool child had dominated her life choices.
Territorialism, jealousy, just plain old being annoyed with another person….it doesn’t get much easier handling all that mess as a grown-up.
We’ve all been there, forced into relationships with folks that drive us insane maybe with their negativity or pettiness or meanness, maybe insecurity, pride, constant bragging, insistence on arguing with everything you say, trying to compete with everything you do.
But I tell my girls this:
You don’t have to be best friends with mean kids, but you have to be kind and loving to everyone.
1 John 4:20 says it this way:
“If anyone says, ‘I love God’ yet hates his brother, is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother whom He has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
I quote it at my kids, but taking it to heart? Practicing what I preach? That’s a little harder.
Sometimes I want to edit the command, soften it a little, make it fit a little more comfortably instead of stepping on my toes.
Maybe: “For anyone who does not love his brother….when his brother is a pretty nice person….cannot love God, but when his brother is annoying, a jerk, mean, or immature, then it’s fine not to love that guy.”
Of course, that’s not Jesus.
God is love, and Jesus showed that best by loving the unlovely, by loving the enemy.
So, I could pit myself against the ‘unlovable’ or I could choose Jesus and the discipline of kindness and sacrificial love.
It starts with prayer, but the temptation is there, too, to pray that God change them when what I need to pray is that God shows me His love for them.
Because maybe, just maybe, the person who needs changing is me.
Paul wrote this to the Thessalonian church:
constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NASB).
Love itself is part of the labor.
As Beth Moore says,
Sometimes loving comes easy. Other times it nearly kills us (Children of the Day).
This is at work and it’s at church. It’s with the annoying mom in the PTA and the gal who drives us crazy on the sidelines at soccer.
It’s in our own homes, too.
Sometimes love is hard. It’s labor and toil and discipline to believe the best, to serve and feel like you’ve given all and then given some more. It’s looking past imperfections and choosing to focus on the good and lovely and of good report (Philippians 4:8).
Love means choosing to give grace and forgive. It means not keeping score and a list of wrongs.
….patient (1 Corinthians 13).
I think of a favorite promise:
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6 NLT).
God’s not finished with me yet and He won’t give up on me. I cling to that.
Yet, here’s the challenge, too: He hasn’t finished with others either. He hasn’t given up on them.
So, maybe I need to give them the space and the grace to let God continue that work because, after all, He’s given that space and grace to me.
In June, I took time for friendship and learned that God uses others to bring me into His presence, sometimes in unexpected ways and sometimes through unexpected people.
To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below! Won’t you join me this month as I ‘Invest in Friendship’?
- Finding Room to Breathe: A 12-month pursuit of the presence of Christ
- January: Be Still and Know
- February: Pray Simply
- March: Unplug
- April: Enjoy Beauty
- May: Create Beauty
- June: Invest in Friendship
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2014 Heather King