(My “increasing” family. kianagrantphotography.com)
Sometimes you read something in a book, something written by another author, and it is the very thing you’ve been trying to say. Does this happen to you? Finally you have language to describe it, and usually it’s about something God has been doing, which is how it was for me this week. It was a chapter in a book I’d been reading with a friend. A marriage book, which was the bigger surprise, since the application was so much greater.
I’d been working on a talk for the MOMs group, telling my story about the flesh being offended and the Spirit loving. And why it matters. Going back several years to a prayer I prayed in the bleachers at school. My own boys younger then, and I was watching students coming and going at a basketball game. Suddenly asking God and meaning it – Increase my capacity to love. Prayed it once and a hundred times more. Right alongside the other prayer that never fails – God, I trust you. And you know what they say. Be careful. How you pray.
And then. Fast-forward. And it wasn’t so much the capacity of my love as the capacity of my home increasing. Boys multiplying, stretching my trust and testing my love and the rest as they say. Is History. If I’d thought before I had limitations now I knew it without a doubt. And I told Him often. This is too far beyond me, and are you sure I’m the one you meant to do it?
Which of course I was, my husband, too. And we’d joke, but not really, “If you die I’m quitting life.” That desperate. So ridiculously in over our heads. But not Him. God is good and we trust Him. It becomes our new mantra. And not once did He fail us.
It’s the fire that tests you and never before had I known myself like I was knowing me now. Which is to say, Minnesota Nice is not the same as loving. This is me confessing. Self-protective. Passive-aggressive. I’d never have know it, but now admit. The first thing He increased was this truth of self, and it wasn’t pretty. God help me. Increase me. Desperate prayer.
He Is Good and He’s Faithful. He is.
And then this week, I’m reading this book, and it’s telling my story. Or His Story – in me.
“Honoring commitments because of a profound trust in God’s goodness will feel less like doing one’s duty and more like pursuing one’s deepest desires”* – and I can say this is true. Remembering a day. Writing about it here. Is love a practice, or is it emotion? Providing food and washing clothes, ignoring offense and being nice. Without the feeling. Does this count? For love?
People told me it did, and for a while I believed them. But not really. This empty duty seemed somewhat phony. Increase my capacity to ACTUALLY love.
Here again, in a book about marriage. “The usual argument promises that loving feelings flow from loving behavior: If we do enough loving deeds for someone for a long enough period of time, eventually we will feel loving emotions for that person.”* But as the author says, this promise LIES.
Which I could have told you. This nose-to-the-grindstone, going-through-motions, it’s not the real thing. It’s not really love.
But there IS love that’s real. It comes from a SOURCE. Not duty. Not doing. Not going through the motions. Love IS. And it’s HIM. His SPIRIT in me. The flesh is offended, but the Spirit loves, and for several months now, do I dare say this? My capacity. To Love. Growing. Bigger. His Spirit loving.
Years ago, sitting there in a gym, aware somehow of my own limitations. Asking Him then, to increase love in me. No way of knowing how He’d choose to do it. And there’s more to the story. ALL the ways He’s done it. Not just boys. The church and His people. Neighbors and strangers, the world around me. I shake my head when I see what He’s doing. How much I am loving. REAL and AMAZING.
GOD IS GOOD AND HE’S FAITHFUL. This truth is in ME.
*The Marriage Builder, by Dr. Larry Crabb – chapter 7