“Mom, I really don’t want you to invite them to our house. Their kids are kind of weird, and I’m not friends with them. It will be just plain awkward. Can’t you just ask the mom? I mean it. Don’t make me do this.”
I sat stunned and frustrated and honestly, a little heart sick as those sentiments spewed from my daughter’s mouth. Here I’d spent the last few years writing both a bible study and a book on biblical hospitality — Just Open the Door: How One Invitation Can Change a Generation — and my high schooler, who normally seeks out and befriends the underdog, who pursues and invites the lonely girl sitting by herself, was flat out telling me “No.”
We went back and forth with a little fiery discourse, and finally, I opened up to Colossians 3:14:
Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
“Honey, I want us to think about what ‘put on love’ means. Every morning we spend time picking out what we’re going to wear. We go back and forth deliberating and often spend too much time stressing about what to put on because we want to get our outfit just right.
Translated from the Greek, ‘Above all and put on’ references the metaphor of an upper garment. Paul commands us to ‘put on love.’ We are to make a daily choice to intentionally clothe ourselves with His character qualities, the chief of them being love. You know there are times I don’t pick out the godliest outfits. Too often I clothe myself with selfishness and judgement, laziness and frustration, instead of putting on love. But what grace that we don’t have to sleep in the same clothes every day!
So, let’s ask ourselves, do we put on love with the same intensity that we pick out our clothes for school or a night out? Do we call our girlfriends to decide how we can ‘put on and show love’ to others in extravagant, counter-culture ways?”
My daughter and I continued to sort through this very real struggle, because let’s be super honest for a minute, this isn’t solely a heart check for teen girls, is it?
I wrestle with this everyday. Like my daughter, I have a list of reasons why it’s too difficult, too awkward, and bottom line, uncomfortable. Often I choose to give and receive love from the pretty, the popular, and the lovable. And as a good church girl, we chalk that up to doing the right thing, but that’s a cleaned-up, easy version of authentically loving our neighbor that doesn’t cost us much. When loving is hard and costs us something, that is the true antidote to our own self-centeredness. It demands we deny a lifestyle of lip service fueled by tidy coffee dates together amid comfortable conversations. The people in our lives who aren’t the easiest to love push us to a deeper level of dependence on God and prayer.
Even after decades of naming Jesus as Lord, it still doesn’t come naturally for me. But love is our invitation to act. We have a choice to love others as we love ourselves, and in that choice we become more like Him as we let the Holy Spirit tutor us on loving in the hard places.
In the end, I almost let my daughter out of the situation because it would’ve made mothering in the moment so much easier, but part of my role in modeling for and discipling my precious daughter is to invite her to do the hard things alongside me and point her to Him in the process. It can be a challenge (especially when I mess up), but it’s always worth it.
I wrote out Colossians 3:14 and taped it to my bathroom mirror. As I get dressed in the mornings, I want it to be a tangible reminder to proactively choose to put on love, as I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me gracefully step into those hard to love situations when I feel like retreating.
And I don’t like it one bit, but I know where I am supposed to start. How about you?When loving is hard and costs us something, that is the true antidote to our own self-centeredness. - @beautyandbedlam at @incourage: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
Can I just say thank you for sharing that parenting moment?
I don’t have any daughters, but am in the throes of parenting sons (who also can be very selective about with whom they spend their time!), and I love the way you steered that conversation right back to the foundation of your own motivation for throwing open the door. It’s so good to begin training our kids early in the gift and the discipline of giving ourselves away–not because it’s easy, but because it’s what love demands!
Thanks Michelle – I’m always learning from those that have gone before me, so I hoped that in sharing those real life parenting moments it will encourage someone else.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Looking back, I wish there were times that I “stuck to my guns” like you did with your daughter. It’s so much easier to give in then to persevere in modeling and teaching a lesson. Deep down inside I am an introvert and I struggle with social anxiety so just throwing open the door and inviting people in causes some inner angst, but like you (His Word) said, “We are called to put on love.” Sometimes it’s an “outfit” we really don’t want to put on because it’s uncomfortable, but Jesus put on love to save me, a sinner, can I not do likewise?? Convicting post!
Oh Bev –
I wish I could say I always stuck to my guns and took the time in those discipleship moments, but nope, not always. Parenting can be so exhausting, can’t it?
And you’re so right, opening the door can cause inner angst, and why I need to preach to myself about putting on love everyday.
Melanie Bonner-Winborne says
Wow this is so profound and definitely stirred up my thinking. This is something I’ve struggled with ever since I was a girl. Now that I’m a woman and a mother and more mature in in my relationship with Christ I realize more and more that I must continue to ask God to help me with loving other’s as Jesus would have me love even in situations where the person does understand healthy boundaries or they have a shut love out kind of personity and makes it difficult to love them. Thanks so much for this post!
You’re so welcome, Melanie.
Since I wrote this, I’ve now put that verse on a small chalkboard by our door, so it really is a constant reminder for me. I need that verse to meditate on. Continuing to clothes myself in those Godly characteristics that definitely aren’t my natural choice.
Beth Williams says
Praying for you all in NC. I pray the water will recede soon. May God bring relief & healing to everyone there!! Thank you for a very convicting post. It reminds me of what King David said: 2 Samuel 24:24 ” I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” He knew God’s love cost Him everything & he wasn’t about to give God second best. He wanted it to cost to show God how much He loved Him. God asks us to put on love & do things for others that cost us something. It could be something like cooking a meal, spending time with elderly, having people over that we may not exactly get along with. By doing this we are showing God’s love to those around us. That is the whole point of hospitality. Showing the world God’s love & point them straight to Him!
Thank you, Beth, for your Carolina concern. There are so many areas devastated. We are inland and the storm shifted at the last minute, so while we had flooding, nothing like the coast.
And in response to your post comment. YES, YES, YES!!! Our world posts Facebook memes about wanting to change the world, but no one is really willing to wash the dishes, make the meals, spend time with the lonely. It truly starts there, doesn’t it?
Pearl Allard says
Jennifer, thank you for modeling what it looks like to stick to your guns, as Bev said. What a teaching moment! Grateful for your post.
Thank you, Pearl.
I mentioned to Bev in the above comment,I wish I could say I always stuck to my guns and took the time in those discipleship moments, but nope, not always. In this case, we had such deep and meaningful conversations that have continued throughout the month. PUT ON LOVE….in the little things. 🙂
It’s so easy to love on those who are similar, have same values, beliefs and those who looks like us but just think that if we can love others with that same intensity, how much light we can bring into their lives. I too struggle with this very same issue and I know that sometimes it is due to us being too comfortable in our environment. This is when I fear we lose our chance to love on others, to show them what God is all about. Unfortunately we live in this society of being so fearful of what others think of us and what that will do to our little comfort bubble we had built. I am reminded that we need to have the heart of little children and step out just a little bit and extend our hands to those who are different from us. We just never know what a small step in that direction will do in their world. Thank you for sharing this.