Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing excerpts like this one from Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real-Life Engagement. We’re excited to read through a few chapters, complete challenges, and experience our first (in)courage book alongside you! Each Tuesday we will share part of a chapter, as well as challenges we will all aim to complete by Friday; and each Thursday at noon (12:00 pm CST), we’ll broadcast a Facebook Live video with the author of that week’s chapter. For more information, click here.
“We love because He first loved us.”
1 John 4:19
I Can’t Even
I can’t even. I literally just cannot even.
This trendy saying pops out of my mouth more times than I care to say. Sometimes it’s because my kids are hilarious or adorable and I JUST CAN’T EVEN. I can’t even believe how gorgeous my daughter is. I can’t even understand how my son got to be so fun and funny. I can’t even comprehend how their sweet faces and sweet hearts came from a holy mix of my husband and me. I can’t even begin to fathom how God would put me as the mama in charge of their little lives.
I just can’t even.
Sometimes, though, that “can’t even” comes out because I literally cannot even deal with them for one more second. I just can’t even think about having a civil word in my head, much less have one come out of my mouth. I cannot even deal with their disrespect, their disruptions, or their disregard for me and each other.
One night as my daughter was trying to fall asleep, everything broke loose. Her patience was gone. Her senses were at high alert and she literally could not even keep the covers on her bed she was so fed up with the noises coming from her only brother.
I went into the room first, full of parental wisdom and vigor. I fluffed her blankets, tried to roll over the snoring boy and set everything to right. I gently closed the door and within minutes, she was calling out to me again full of frustration and woes.
I tried again with a little less patience to snuggle and calm and pet her to a comfortable space for sleeping. The third time she called, she was beyond herself. She was overly tired and maybe I was too, because my heart started beating fast, my stomach was in knots and I felt tension in my arms and hands, my shoulders were taut. She complained about her bedcovers one more time and I just couldn’t even. I walked out of the door leaving her to cry and wail for Mommy.
I looked at my husband who was at his computer and said, “She needs someone to be gentle and love her but I can’t do it.” I sat down, breathing heavy and let my husband hold her while she slept, just like when she was a baby.
It’s surprising when you can’t show love to someone you genuinely love. When my kids were babies, I don’t think it happened often. Even in the middle of their worst tantrums and freak-outs, I loved them so much, I was willing to hold and rock and nurse and do whatever it took to calm them down, show them love, and keep them happy.
As they’ve grown and become well, real people with real desires, real thoughts, and real opinions, I find myself wondering who these small people are. How did they grow up into someone so other? Why can’t I read their minds anymore?
My pride in motherhood takes a blow on days like those. I should be able to comfort my daughter when she is clearly upset. I should be able to help her when she is literally unable to help herself. And yet, my Self is so upset, I can’t show love to the fruit of my womb, the apple of my eye.
If you read 1 John chapters 3 and 4, you might get a little dizzy from the up and down, back and forth about God’s love — love one another, love comes from God, love is God, love is born of God, love knows God, if you don’t love you don’t know God, and on and on it goes. It reminds me of the girls weaving in and out of a Maypole dance — His words spinning round and round and tightly tying up this deep description of God’s Love.
One sentence, toward the end of the letter gets me, though. It’s an oft-quoted verse but when you read it, there are layers and meaning beneath the words. John says,
We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
Go ahead, read it again: We love because He first loved us.
I think, a lot of times, we read this as, “I’m only able to love because Jesus loved me first. I can only serve at the soup kitchen because Jesus enabled me to do so with His love. I can only be kind to my rude neighbor because Jesus set love into motion in the beginning. He’s a good example of how to love.”
I think it’s more than that. Jesus first loved us. That’s the important phrase. His deep love sent Him hurtling through time and space to be born of a virgin in a stable in Bethlehem. His strong love kept Him on a Roman cross when He could have stepped down without a word. His love rescues us, surrounds us, covers us and holds us together.
And when I begin to pour out love, especially when it’s difficult, I’m doing it, not as a random act of kindness, but as a deliberate move to engage others in the love I’ve experienced.
If I can’t love the hard-to-love people around me, I’m not loving God. What a beautiful (and hard) spiral this love thing is. Loving God and loving people is all intertwined. And I think I like that. Jesus’ love for me is not so I can bottle it up and save it. It’s not so I can simply enjoy it and keep it like a pet. Jesus’ love for us is a beautiful gift to be shared, a present to be enjoyed by all.
He loves me. He loves you. I can’t even not live in that love and share it with others. Especially those that call me upstairs ten times a night to fix bedcovers.
- Ask God to show you one person in your path you can show love to today.
- If you are really feeling brave, think of the one person in your daily life that is hardest for you to love, or ask God to give you the opportunity to love a woman in your community in a particularly challenging circumstance. Ask God to really help you see how much He loves that person.