We’re living a love story. Me and my family. And I’m not just talking about Luke and Ali, although there’s no doubt about the boy’s smitten. Yesterday he’s on his way home from Colorado, seven buddies in one car and I didn’t even ask the question about how many seatbelts for all that driving. I called him in route to ask about plans and an ETA. He talks about friends and fun and coming back home, and then he says it. It was such a sad morning. I know what he means. I hate good-byes, too. And it’s not just Ali, but a whole season of summers out at Eagle Lake, and things are changing. Always changing, in this story of love.
Yesterday it was just Nils and me at church together, lunch at a drive-through, and a stop at the lake. He’s in between trips with laundry to finish and a nap to take, but we’ve got an hour to waste, and we sit side-by-side, feet in the water, toes in the weeds. He tells about his mission trip and I know because I’ve been there, this look in his eyes. It’s something special. His big brother, Grant, the first time he went, fell in love with Jesus. A few trips later he’d fall, too, for a girl, who is now his wife. And I think for Nils it’s more former than latter. But I know this, too. Love for Jesus and His people is pretty connected.
This morning, early, there were nine on our deck for breakfast together. ALL FIVE OF MY BOYS. In one place at one time. It lasted an hour. One hour between Luke pulling in from a whole night of driving, an hour of sleep. Nils fresh from the shower, an hour to spare before middle school camp as the worship leader. Grant and Kiana and our sweet little Maisy, eyes open wide to meet one more uncle before heading south to her Iowa home. Tomorrow it’s Felipe taking flight, further south by 3000 miles. So we circle and pray, giving thanks for our family, blessing each one in their coming and going.
All of this love, but it’s not the whole story. No. The story is bigger, and it’s one I’ve been learning since the start of this summer. Truth-be-told I would never have learned it if not for the HARD in this boy mom love. Last night standing there at the kitchen counter, harsh words flying. Too much yelling, not enough listening, one kid stuck in his fight or flight. And I start to say it, but no one hears me, the flesh is offended, but the Spirit is love.
Because this is what I’m learning this summer. Love is impossible, except when it’s not. How can I tell this, still honoring my family? None of us perfect. Each with our struggles. I talked to my boy with our feet in the lake. How our strengths and our weaknesses are often connected. And how do we know what’s sin and what’s not? It’s the work of the Spirit. When it’s Him and not me, His fruit and not mine, I’m becoming His love.
Every day I put this to practice. There’s plenty of spicy to fill up this house, plenty of reason I might be offended. Just a minute ago, I’m sitting outside in my secret office, found out by a boy who’s angry with me. His stuff left out and I tucked it away, and whose fault is it? Put to the test, and I’m seeing a difference. Whose fault doesn’t matter. What matters is love.
Years ago I started to pray it, not sure at the time what it even meant. Increase my love. Increase it. In me. Because I knew even then, there was a bigger story. More than mission trip love, when all of life is its own kind of mission, and I know my limits. More flesh than Spirit. I want my own way, my normal default. When words are flying and tempers are raging my M.O. tends toward FLIGHT – and avoiding the fight. It’s a family trait, I said as much to my brother last week. But this summer, something’s changing. I look in the eye of my would-be offender, surprised to discover. I’m not so offended. Which is not even ME. It’s the life of the Spirit. A miracle, really, this real life story of becoming His Love.