Little Things In Love
November 19, 2018
Verse for the Week: 1 Corinthians 13:4-5; “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
As we head into the holiday season among family and friends, it’s always a good reminder to love well. To respect those God has placed in our lives. And to be conscious of the little things that can make or break the day.
Families come in all shapes and sizes from formal to fanatical, diverse to dysfunctional. Regardless of composition, families are forever. And as tradition goes, we gather in kitchens and around dinner tables sharing our thoughts and opinions on life. We rehash stories we’ve told time and again, and toast to a future we hope for while gladly waving goodbye to the past.
We want to love well and be loved well. Nevertheless, personalities, preconceived notions, and runaway emotions thwart our good intentions. We approach with our heart set on love, only to walk out flustered, regretful, and disappointed with ourselves and others.
It is often the little things that get in the way at family gatherings. A sideways look or an off-color comment. A snub when a hug would have sufficed. A presupposition instead of a pause. Rhetoric instead of a peace offering. A fight instead of forgiveness.
We’ve all fallen prey to these less than stellar responses. Often because our social and emotional guards are down. But before you start making excuses, it’s important to remember, when it comes to families and long-time friends, love is often messy.
I can honestly say that I look forward to being with my family during the holidays. The whole lot of them. But the fact remains, family dynamics are quite fascinating, aren’t they? Holiday gatherings have a way of evoking a mixed bag of emotions. You name it, and we feel it. We ride the rollercoaster of highs and lows, joys and regrets.
Although there’s an abundance of arbitrary real estate within the family unit, most families, by definition, are typically loyal to a fault. Usually, they are a safe place to be ourselves, escape the clutches of busy lives, and allows room for individuation.
And yet, sometimes we don’t know how to love each other well.
We toggle between tears and laughter; love and hate. We wrestle with pride and disappointment; support and sabotage. We reminisce and recount triumphs and tragedies only to get caught in the crosshairs of entitlement and concern. It’s marvelous and maddening.
The challenge is to learn to love well. For when we do, we discover it to be refining and redeeming.
To love well, we need to vet out what keeps us in a negative pattern of interaction. Most of the time it has to do with impulsive and emotional responses. We develop patterns of interaction with those closest to us—good, bad, or indifferent, they push our buttons, and the result typically ends in conflict.
Changing this type of negative dynamic will require a new and different response. That said, awareness is key and is the first line of defense. Awareness helps us define the problem. Once the ‘how’ and ‘why’ are identified, you can plan a different response.
At first, the new response will feel awkward and fake. That’s okay. Keep at it because changing the dynamic of the interaction will be confusing to the other person as well. Especially if the two of you have been stuck in a negative pattern for a long time.
Another point to remember—don’t wait until you feel like acting differently! Feelings are fickle; they will always lead you astray. We’ve been commanded to love and to love well (Mark 12:30-31). With that in mind, we don’t need our feelings to align with what we know is true before we obey.
This Thanksgiving, as you gather with your people, ask God to free you from the confines of your impulsive responses, the ones that hinder your ability to love well. Perhaps you can offer a kind word. A smile. A hug. A listening ear. An understanding nod instead of your typical knee-jerk responses.
Jesus tells us in Luke 16:10, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones.”
Little things done in love matter most. These seemingly insignificant actions or words signal to the other person that you really do care about them. This, in turn, builds confidence and connection; both of which are basic to a healthy relationship.
All of these things might seem small in the big scope of life, but they have the potential and power to alter the fabric of your relationships. After all, life is about love. And love is practiced in relationships.
Lord God, help me to be the person you’ve called me to be in my family and my friendships. Teach me how to do the little things so I can love well. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
This week, as you sit at the table or stand around in the kitchen or hang together on couches watching football, make a point to ask God to reveal one thing you can do differently in this season.
Hugs for a great week and remember, you are not alone. Be blessed as you love well.