“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. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
I shared previously in God’s Timing Has No Expiration Date that God doesn’t condemn, He convicts. The difference in those two words is very important. Condemnation leaves a person feeling guilty, like a failure. Conviction inspires a person to work at a specific task with the goal of improving oneself. The closer I grow in my relationship to God, the more He convicts me in certain areas, even areas where I thought I was doing well, but He knows I could do better.
I spoke last time in One More Perspective on Grace about how God used my situation with my friend to open my eyes to how I was treating one of my children and a different approach I could use to allow this child to feel loved instead of judged. Once God opened my eyes to what I was doing and began helping me change my approach, He knew I needed to go one step further and He loved my children, and me, enough to help me get there.
A few weeks ago I began a fast for my friend. I wanted to fast for complete healing for this person and so chose to give God certain foods for a one-week period. While I think that pleased God, the first day of the fast I specifically heard Him say, “Fast yelling.”
While I should have replied, “Okay,” instead it went something like this. “What did You say, Lord? Fast what? I thought fasting was giving up my favorite foods.”
My Father doesn’t use a lot of words to get His point across and I distinctly heard, “Fast yelling.” No arguing, no being drawn into my debate (I could learn a lot from His example) – just two simple words, spoken with love. “Fast yelling.”
My first response to His command was shame. I was ashamed that God was calling me out in an area that I thought I was doing well in, but obviously wasn’t. Then I felt guilty. I was supposed to be perfect, right? Oh wait, God said He doesn’t expect perfection, just a willing heart. Then I just ended up feeling grateful. Grateful it wasn’t too late to change, and grateful that God loves me and my family so much He knew this wasn’t the environment I wanted to raise a family in.
I’ve always stated that it’s the woman’s job to create the atmosphere in the house and God showed me quickly that while I used to be fairly good at creating a loving environment, I needed to get back on track. When I asked Him what He wanted me to do to accomplish that goal, this time I was rewarded with three simple words, “Just love them.” While I do love my kids fiercely, I had allowed myself to get back into the assembly line mentality of checking things off my list that needed to be done without appreciating the little moments I had with each of my very individual, very different gifts from God.
I would love to say I passed the “fasting from yelling test” with flying colors. Nope. I failed miserably – or did I? While I messed up many times that week, I’m still working on “fasting yelling.” I am listening for the Holy Spirit’s convictions when I start to get too strict. I stop myself in the middle of a sentence to start over again with a more loving response when I find sarcasm creeping into my speech. I try to look for ways I can joke around with my kids, getting the same message across but using an approach that is less demanding and more encouraging. I also find that I step in and help them more rather than barking orders like a drill sergeant. I try to treat them the way I would want to be treated – the way the Holy Spirit wants me to treat them.
I’m so grateful to serve God, who was the first example of what a Father should be. I’m also glad He loves me enough to convict me, with grace, so my kids get the best earthly example they can before raising a family of their own.
© Cheri Swalwell 2014