(Part one in a series of letters called Ramblings from your Grandparents written as a gift to their grandchildren)
“My command is this, love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” – Jesus (John 15:13)
I want to write to you first about LOVE because a goodly portion of it is required to make life sweet, and young people about to stretch into adulthood are usually quite interested in the subject, too.
Love! It is probably the most misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misused word in the English language. It is used to excuse selfishness, greed, lust, and to manipulate and control. When I was a teenager I asked my mother, “How will I know when I’m in love?” I don’t remember what Mom said, but I do remember it was a very inadequate answer and I knew no more after than I had before.
I would discover that love was not a warm, fuzzy feeling nor did bells and whistles go off when in the presence of someone I loved. It would take a few years, but eventually I would realize that love means laying aside my own wishes and desires in the best interest of someone else. This analysis of love is not popular today except in the pages of God’s Word, and in the lives of those who are God’s adopted children. Learned people of our time tell us that we must “love ourselves enough to do what WE want to do. Suppressing our own desires will only cause bitterness and hate and eventually erupt into ugly relationships.” But, those same learned people would not find such information coming from God. Putting ourselves first only brings sorrow and unhappiness. I know, because I have seen it happen too many times.
One of my grandmothers, whom I loved dearly and treasure for the many good things she taught me, had one negative characteristic that left an indelible mark on my life. Among her many good qualities she used love – our love for her – to manipulate the whole family to do her will. “If you love me…” was a common phrase she used. I remember one day when I was perhaps 9 or 10 years old. My Grandpa was a dear, gentle man. (I’ve wondered if that was part of the problem.) He loved to hunt and had waited for this particular Saturday morning, the opening of hunting season. He had his hunting jacket and hat on, his gun in hand. For whatever reason Grandma didn’t want Grandpa to go hunting.
“I’m not feeling well today,” Grandma began in her best, pathetic voice. “I don’t see how you can leave me for the day. I may need you. And you may get hurt out there. I’ll worry about you all day. If you love me you’ll stay home with me.” Grandpa silently leaned the gun against the wall, removed his jacket and hat and busied himself around the house. That story illustrates two types of misplaced love: 1) Grandma used Grandpa’s love to get her way; and 2) Grandpa should have loved Grandma enough to NOT ALLOW her to have her way.
Do you remember the story that I mentioned in my former rambling that your Grandpa told in his sermon? It is such a good illustration of unselfish, uncompromising love. Grandpa was just a small boy growing up in a small, southern town. He and his buddies had been “hanging out” at an intersection, just watching the folks go by on a busy Saturday morning. Along came a young fellow who was obviously physically handicapped. Grandpa and his buddies watched him intently and then began making fun of his weird antics and calling him names, too.
That night, around the supper table, your Grandpa began to tell about his activities of the day and how that strange fellow had raised weirdness to an “art form.” In the midst of the telling, your Great-grandpa reached behind his young son’s head (they sat side by side), pulled his head around in a vise-grip motion, and met him eyeball to eyeball. Grandpa said he thought his dad really wanted his attention!!
”Billy, I had a friend just like you’re describing; and I ached every day of his short life because of kids like you that called him names and tormented him. Get it straight, Billy,! That young man has a family that loves him just as much as we love you. And God loves him just as much as He loves you. I don’t ever want to hear such evil coming from your lips again. Get it straight, Billy!”
Grandpa went on to say that he DID “get it straight.” That tiny, 20 second incident molded Grandpa’s life. Great grandpa simply loved his little son too much to allow him to continue thinking and doing that which was totally unacceptable. That was one form of true love in action.
Our Heavenly Father talks about just this kind of love in Hebrews 12….
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline.
God is treating you as sons.
For what son is not disciplined by his father…. No discipline seems pleasant at the time,
but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
The society we are living in today is out of control. The church says it, parents say it, educators say it, the government says it. A number of years ago Grandpa and I heard of young parents who had put their Christmas tree in the baby’s playpen to protect the tree from harm. They felt quite satisfied with themselves that they had thought of such a creative and effective solution to the destructive nature of their toddler. Much of society applauds this type of child-rearing.
Because of this deformed thinking we are installing burglar alarms in our homes, carrying pepper spray to ward off attackers, afraid to walk or drive the streets of many of our cities and towns. It is we – the good, law-abiding citizens of this country – that are kept in a “playpen” in an attempt to protect ourselves from a disobedient, rebellious, hateful segment of our society. It would make so much more sense to love our children enough to teach them the meaning of “no,” giving them the tools to live a self-disciplined life as they move into adulthood.
Love in Action
I remember once when one of you older granddaughters was just a little tyke – about 3 years old. We were all together at our house, I think it was Thanksgiving. Everyone was downstairs except the three-year-old, and her daddy had called her to come down. For some reason, totally out of character for the child, she came to the top of the steps, stuck her tongue out at her dad and chanted, “Na-na-na-na-na-na!” Wow! That dad took those steps in 3 strides. Yes, she got a spanking. Her dad came downstairs and left her alone to think about her actions. I could hear her soft sobs going on for some time. (It reminded me of a spanking or two I got.) When it seemed appropriate I climbed the stairs, sat down by the little girl, and cuddled her to me. “Honey, you are such a blessed little girl. Do you know why? Because you have a daddy that won’t let you talk to him that way.” I dried her tears and we came downstairs.
When I was about 5 years old I remember sitting at the table, finishing a meal. Only mother and I were there. I don’t remember what she said to me, nor what my reply was though I DO remember it being “lippy.” Mom’s hand came across my mouth like lightning accompanied by “You WILL NOT talk to me that way.” Believe me, I didn’t ever again. You never knew your Great grandma but she was a gentle, peace-loving, quiet-natured lady. I don’t remember her hitting me before or after that incident; but I consider it one of her grandest gifts to me. THAT was love in action!
Love is selfless! I think my mother-in-law, another of your Great grandmas, was one of the most selfless ladies I have ever known. She would rise at 4 AM to make a beautiful Sunday dinner complete with chicken (raised, butchered, cleaned and fried), vegetables (planted, weeded, harvested and canned), cobbler (berries picked, crust baked) by her own hands. She would claim the dirtiest, ugliest jobs as her own and attack them with contentment, patience, and never a word of complaint. When one of her children was seriously ill and needed much extra care to survive and recover, she was the one who nursed him selflessly. Great grandma was a busy lady before that illness. She had a husband, four other children to care for, a home to run with the most meager of niceties, no water, virtually no cupboards and closets, hardly any table or counter space, no refrigerator, only a kerosene stove to cook on, a pump out the back door for water. There were chores in the barn and animals to be taken care of, a garden to harvest and preserve so they could eat that next winter. And there were her responsibilities at church which she never shirked. But, for months your Great grandma would work hours each day helping her weak child do the exercises , listening to the cries of pain, wiping away the sweat as the child slowly regained enough strength to resume a normal life. She did it faithfully, quietly, without complaint. Make no mistake….THAT is love!!
Love is not something that “just happens.” Love is something we MAKE happen. When I hear a husband or wife say, “I don’t love my mate anymore so this marriage can’t go on,” I know that person doesn’t really understand love. But I don’t think I’ll say more about that now. Later on I want to chat a bit about choosing a mate and we’ll talk some more about love.