I could almost taste the delicious junk food and imagine the exact spot I would wiggle into to recline against my husband as we binge-watched our latest Netflix obsession. Friday night, after capping off a long work week, we were eager to indulge and relax.
What was standing between that glorious lounging with my favorite person.
Those adorable offspring of ours were the last hurdle. But they were less excited about relaxing.
Somehow among the bath time scrubbing, tucking in, herding to the bathroom for the third time, tucking in again, and attempts at bedtime boundary setting, I replaced my yearning to relax with a simmering fury and sense of general injustice. (It’s so silly outside the moment, yet it feels so deeply personal at the end of the day when children will not go to bed.)
I imagine it shocked my husband when his previously ready-to-relax wife charged into the kitchen, attacking the remaining dishes from dinner and glowering in response to his smile.
As you may imagine, this launched a ridiculous fight. We both went to bed grumpy, neither feeling very rested or relaxed.
Happily, we always have too much to share with each other to stay mad for long, but this night did highlight the need to ensure our home is a sanctuary from the stress, anger, and discontent so often found outside the front door. I hatched some elaborate plans. We needed a screen-free, unplugged night. And a single night to do all our admin things, leaving the others free for relaxing. Of course, rearranging the seating in the living room would help more, too. Somehow, on this convoluted path, I was sure we would find sanctuary at the end of it.
But before I could present my complex path to peace in our home, I stumbled on an astonishing Bible verse; one that would transform my plan.
Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16: 13-14, emphasis mine).
This lens for my everyday living feels equal parts simple and impossible. By the day’s end, I’ll be too drained for that, a quiet voice whispers. Most days, I’m leaving everything I’ve got with work and the kids, just getting by. And those other stressors in my life? Surely that doesn’t mean to address those with love.
If I tell myself I can’t do everything in love, I’m letting myself off the hook. No season, barrier, ache, or challenge can really leach out all my love.
If you don’t believe the Bible, examine practical experience.
Has anyone out there run out of love when their second child arrived? Or their third? Has anyone had to cut of a friendship because you simply don’t have any love left to give?
Our time is limited. Our strength is limited. Our days are limited. But our love is limitless.
I know myself better than to think just staring at myself in the mirror every morning and muttering, “your love is limitless” is going to do anything. It’s not. Send me a few irate e-mails, wait for my toddler to bite my shoulder (experimentally of course), or incur a dinner-time disaster, and I am guaranteed to lose my grip on this view.
But what if I challenge myself, moment by moment, to do everything in love; to replace my way with the way of love, and to measure myself with this singular lens?
That lens just might transform my perspective.
How should I respond to my preschooler throwing an absolute fit? In love.
How should I express my frustration to my husband? In love.
This is the least complex decision tree in existence.
Not, if this women parents the same ways I do, then…
Or if my husband takes care of his “half,” then…
Or if my daughter picks up her room, then…
Or if my son obeys my first request, then…
Simply, do everything in love.
Please don’t hear that suddenly I’ve transformed my attitude in every moment, on every day.
But I have found peace in this simple reminder: I am responsible to do everything in love. I am not responsible for controlling anyone, to delight me, or because they’ve disappointed me. And in my experience with the people who love me back, when I do everything in love, they tend to do the same.
I will help make my home a sanctuary for my people by weaving love into everything: into the early morning waking, the breakfasts eaten together and apart, the good-bye kisses, the hello hugs, the problems solved, the tears cried, the chores accomplished, and the frustrations heard. We will forge from the mundane a sanctuary, built in love and tethered by the freedom of all having the same measure for our tasks: to do everything in love.