"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8 (NIV)
How could he do this to me?
My mind raced as the digital numbers on the clock read 1:25 a.m. Then 2:15 a.m. I rolled on my other side, away from the clock's red glow, with the hope of finding sleep before my alarm rang in a few short hours. But racing thoughts made sleep impossible.
Earlier that day, I'd learned about some bad choices my son made and then we'd had an argument. This news rattled my confidence as a mother and caused all kinds of questioning thoughts to keep me awake. Was I losing my son? Was he going down the wrong path for good? What did I do wrong?
Somehow, during my middle-of-the-night mental rant, I worked myself to a dangerous place: I doubted my son's love for me.
After all, my sleepy brain reasoned, if he really loved me, he would never have done what he did. He knew I wouldn't approve, and yet he still made that choice. How could he?
After that thought had planted itself in my brain, my heart felt vulnerable and in need of protection. Something in my mind whispered, "take cover" and walls started to rise around my heart.
It wasn't the first time I've wanted to retreat from what felt like rejection. Unfortunately, I tend to expect people I love to behave in ways I would ... to make choices I would. Or at the very least, to seek my advice and adapt their decisions based on my feedback. When that doesn't happen, I sometimes translate it as a lack of love.
In those difficult moments, it seems safer to close off parts of my heart when I feel rejected or not validated. But I've learned that's a very lonely way to live. And it's far from the way God wants me to love.
I've struggled with this kind of reaction for years, yet God continually challenges me to stop playing it safe. Loving others isn't easy. God didn't call me to play defense when it comes to love; He called me to play offense.
In fact, God modeled this type of love by showing it to me first.
Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Here's what this verse means to me:
While I was making choices that would hurt God's heart, He sent His son, Jesus, for me.
While I was rejecting God's ways, His Son was nailed to a cross for me.
While I was choosing selfish ease and comfort over obedience, Jesus died on that cross for me.
For me! And for you! We are women who don't always make good choices. We are far from perfect. We're messy, risky and difficult to love sometimes. And yet God chooses to go on the offensive to show us His love.
My bad choices are just as hurtful to God as my son's bad choices were to me. Yet not once has God tried to place guilt on me by saying, "If you really loved Me, you wouldn't have done that."
In fact, God did just the opposite. When God was justified to condemn me for my willful, selfish choices, He chose to remove my guilt rather than place more on me.
Oh how this truth brings me to my knees! How can I place such heavy expectations on others when God doesn't place them on me? How can I withhold even an ounce of love to make a point, when I make so many wrong choices of my own?
That night, I confessed my selfish thoughts to God and asked Him to help me be bold enough to be a woman of grace, not guilt. To be a mother who models His love and not my oh-so-flawed version.
The next morning I embraced my son before he left for school. I spoke no words of condemnation, nor did I remind him of his choices. I texted him mid-morning: "I love you." He texted back the same.
Later, my son walked in the kitchen. "Hey, Mom, can I talk to you?"
We sat in the living room while he admitted how wrong his choices had been. Regret lay heavy; he was sorry. In fact, he was making a change going forward and was thankful for my love.
Not every situation works out that well. But in this instance, I'm thanking God for His quick intervention in my heart and my son's.
Loving others is messy, and I sure don't do it as well as God. But with His strength, I'll keep trying. It's definitely worth the risk.
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me in spite of my wrong thoughts, words and deeds. Help me to love others in spite of theirs and hopefully turn their hearts toward You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond: Have you withheld love from someone who has hurt you? How has it affected your relationship?
What is one thing you can do this week to demonstrate love to that person?
Power Verse: Romans 2:4, "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" (NASB)
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