“Grace! Go put your dress on so we can leave for church! We’re going in five minutes!” She laid her book down, and headed for the stairs. This ritual was quite ordinary–almost every day was a trial as distractions come into her life at inappropriate times. At almost nine years old, looking six, she knew that to obey is important but her attention span needs upgrading.
Four minutes went by. Heading for the stairs, I wondered what I would find. There, having noticed a stuffed animal who was “lonely” she had sat to cuddle him a moment. Quietly thinking for a moment on how my mother would have handled the situation, I swiftly put her dress into my purse, hanging on my arm. “Come on, let’s go. We’re leaving.” I reached for her hand, and watched the horror in her face. “But I’m not dressed!” “I realize that. But you were told to put your dress on. We go through this every Sunday, and every school day. Today, you’re going in your pajamas. Let’s go.” Hopefully the shock going through her system at this point would be the valuable lesson I was striving for, as modesty and daintiness meant a lot to her. She still could not grasp that I would allow her to go to church in her pajamas. Had I gone crazy?
We walked to the car, piled in, buckled up and eventually pulled into the parking lot. The entire trip had been made with quiet tears running down her cheeks. Yes, it broke my heart, but I had to keep in mind the amount of time she had cost us over the years, waiting for her to get ready. Everyone got out of the car, except the two of us. I pulled her dress from my purse, and said, “Can you put it on now?” Her tears dried, the dress was on in thirty seconds, and a hard lesson had been learned. Maybe; only time would tell.
God was preparing my own heart to receive a lesson He had for me. I should have known. Not having been raised in an affectionate family, I have found it hard all my life to show physical love. I’m definitely a work in progress. I have struggled constantly with my lack of concern (love–see? I’m rationalizing) for my neighbors, those in my family with whom I have chasms, Christians at church who ignore me, and more. I thought I should feel love for them, no matter what. I know it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so it should just BE there! Automatically, since the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in me! But I have fallen back on the excuse “I wasn’t raised like that” too many times for God to put up with it any longer.
Studying 2 Corinthians 13–the love chapter–in our Life Group at church (the new word for Sunday School), has been a struggle because I have been brought face to face with my lack of love in so many areas of my life. As we have studied, the act of giving our resources, going on mission trips, feeding the poor, ministering to the saints, even being a martyr, is counted as nothing in God’s eyes if we are not doing it with a heart of love–which I realize with all consciousness that I sadly lack in most cases. It has been a heartbreaking series for me.
God’s mercy is so amazing. Having read the Bible more times than I know, I’m familiar with putting on the armor of God, so that we can withstand Satan; put on “mercy”, even put on “Christ,” which is to take Him as Savior. But as I read Colossians a couple of days ago, it is not that He suddenly gave me a “shot” full of love, but what He did was direct my reading to chapter Three. As I read, verse 14 seemed to pop out at me: “PUT ON love!” It started taking root: “Put on.. clothes.. makeup…lipstick…armor…” it is an act of the will! It is a CHOICE. WooHoo!! He gave me my answer! My “lack” of love was not that I could not feel it because I had not been raised being loving, it was because I had not chosen it when a situation arose! Mind boggling! A stranger approaches: I have the option to smile with genuine love because that person was made by God, or I can choose to ignore them and go about my business! Perhaps this is elementary and redundant to you, but for me, it was the opening of a door, seeing into God’s presence. It was definitely a “Love Note!” It was more–it was as if I could see Him saying, “Good for you! You got it this time!” How long will it be before my “choice” is tested? Probably within a few hours!
Life has a way of testing to make sure the lesson took. Hopefully, I’ll never choose pajamas.
Oh Lord God–You are so unfailing in Your patience with me! Thank You for the lessons in everyday life, and for Your love. Thank You for Your nail-pierced hands, Lord. Help me never forget what You did for me. Amen