Updated: Jul 22, 2021
The instinctive love we feel for our children is nearly impossible to define. It is simply and irrefutably there. Someone hands us our child and we are powerless in the face of the relentless force of unbridled protective love.
You and I love our children. We love them so much it can't be described. Even when we don't like our children we love our children. This may surprise you but even women who criminally mistreat their children express the same depth of love for them that you do. It is the universal experience of motherhood. Those encounters taught me that there is more to parenting besides love. Love is the starting point.
Love is not enough. So what else is there? How do we demonstrate to our children the love that is eternal? How can we be assured that our children know that they are loved? How can we love them well? These are the questions that virtually every mother asks herself in the sleepless hours or the quiet moments.
As is always true, the answers to the deep questions are found in scripture. In this case, the answer is in thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians in the New Testament. It is the chapter that many people call "the love chapter" because it contains what is, perhaps, the most clear and powerful definition of love ever expressed.
When we take this powerful section of the Bible and look at it carefully, we begin to see that something amazing happens when we put these words into practice. These words do not encourage us to feel love, they encourage us to become love. In fact, when we follow this concept further, we realize that God is love. (1John 4:8) Since we are made in the image of God we are also capable of becoming love.
This block of scripture contains a lot of verbs: action words; things we do and not just things we feel. Parenting and loving our children is an active pursuit. If you are fully engaged in raising your children you are using your intelligence, your creativity, and your organizational skills. A definition of parenting contains as many verbs as this scripture!
Let's look at this scripture and see if we can use this ancient checklist of actions to help us become love to our children. We can look at the list of words that describes love and then we can use it to check in with ourselves and become more like love to our child than ever.
The words and phrases that describe love are these:
doesn't dishonor (embarrass) others
isn't easily angered
doesn't keep a record of wrong things done
doesn't delight in evil instead delights in good things
Love never fails.
So now that we have this list in front of us, let's look at it in regard to how we are loving our children. How well do you practice these traits of love in the day to day life of being a parent? Does the first one trip you up? Are you patient? Do you remember as you deal with messes and meals that your children are still children? That they are still on a learning curve headed to adulthood? Are you patient? This is love.
Are you kind? Do you treat your children with courtesy when your speak to them or correct them? Do you envy them? Do a deep self reflection here. Do you boast or act too proud? Are you arrogant?
What about dishonoring or embarrassing your children? Do you say things to your little one in front of people that they want you to keep private? Things like, "You better go to the bathroom. I don't want you to wet your pants...like you did last week." Or "Do you remember how you screamed seeing Santa Claus when all those other little kids were just fine?" Come on. Protect your child and don't embarrass them in front of others.
Are you easily angered by your child? Do you keep a mental list of every mistake they have made? Do you love to catch them doing something wrong? These are not loving acts and make your child feel that you don't really love them, no matter what you may say.
Here is what love really does: It protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres. In fact, verse eight of the love chapter tells us that love never fails. Never fails. That's the phrase that lets me know the real difference between God and those of us who are created in the image of God. God never fails. We fail so often. We are the image. God is the real thing.
Protecting, trusting, hoping, and persevering take energy and intention. You can do it. Feeling love is not enough. To truly love takes doing the things that God says love is made of.
I have created for you a checklist based on the verses of 1Corinthians 13: 4-7. Print it and put your own name in the blanks. How true are these statements when you read them this way? Use it as a tool for prayer as you pray for your child and your other important relationships.
Click below for the free printable, and know that you are loved!