The Way of Love

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by Rob Bridges

The hardest part about being the worst parent in the universe is all the apologizing. I mean, I don’t wake up with the goal of being a jerk to my kids but it occasionally happens and it feels horrible. It builds throughout the day and usually comes to a head somewhere between bath time and bedtime. Smiling sighs of grace and love give way to grimaced anger and yelling. I hate it. I’m embarrassed by it. Each time it happens, I find myself pleading for the very grace I was withholding from my kids just ten minutes earlier. Even now, as I write this, I want to justify it by blaming it on the “unprecedented times” of the last 14 months – but the truth is, it was happening before as well; maybe not as frequently, but it was there.

Knowing that I refuse to suffer any backtalk when my kids are being disciplined, my 9-year-old daughter, Rylan, has resorted to writing notes and placing them on my pillow for me to find when I go to bed. Usually, she’s pleading her case, blaming it all on little brother Reese, or begging to have whatever toy has been taken away. But one recent note was very different and hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Love. That is the most important thing now. Dad doesn’t have a job and we’re halfway to being poor. Love is more important than anything.”

Sigh … Yeah … I know, right?

“Love is more important than anything.” Rylan basically summarized 1 Corinthians 13 and dropped the mic. The Apostle Paul actually ends the chapter with, “…the greatest of these is love.” He says love is greater than things like wisdom, mountain-moving faith, and generosity. He then goes on to point out that all of the things I was subjecting my kids to (impatience, pride, anger) were NOT love, and that all of the things I was withholding (love, protection, hope, grace) are love. UGH! I’m horrible!!

* See worst parent in the universe reference above.

Let me warn you: having your child quote Scripture to you post-chastisement with a pillow note sounds wonderful – but it is devastating when she’s pointing out your failures as a dad. Consequences were appropriate for whatever she did, but I was not prepared for her to so effectively bring to my attention that I was not acting from a place of love. I was proud of her and ashamed of myself; which is never a good place for a parent to be. It’s explicitly clear throughout Scripture that discipline and love are intimately entwined. Not just discipline, love is everything. If love is not the impetus for how we move as believers throughout all of our relationships, we are ineffectual at best, and heretical at worst.

Parenting (as rewarding as it is sometimes) is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done; and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that. The problem comes when I forget my own sin and how desperate I am for a Savior. Whether my kids are blowing me away with their loving kindness and intelligence, or acting like complete idiots with no sense of decency, love compels me to be thankful for God’s unmerited favor. Rylan and Paul were right: Love is more important than anything; and when I/we mess up as parents, it’s important that we remember to extend the grace to our kids that we’ve so desperately needed ourselves.

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