I thought I would share our bible verse from last week and how we have started to practically apply it to real life situations. I just walked up the stairs from trying our practicum on the children, and it actually had a positive impact for the first time. So, I thought I’d better share while it’s fresh and still true that it’s working. (I better type fast!)
Last week our verse was, “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19. I had the girls draw a heart in their prayer journals. In the middle of their heart they wrote their name. Around the edge of the heart, they wrote the verse. Then we talked about what it means.
Q: “Who loved us first?”
Q: “How did God love us?”
A: “He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us.”
So we drew a cross to the left of the heart with an arrow pointing to the heart. Because God loved us, the arrow points from the cross to our hearts. The love of God enters our hearts by way of the cross.
Q: “Because God loved us, what can we do?”
A: “Love others”
Then we drew some stick people to the right of the heart. Again, we put an arrow in between the two to show that love flows from our heart to others. When you trace back the path of the arrows, it all starts with Jesus and the cross.
Q: “So what is unique about the way that God loved us?”
A: “He gave up his Son”
Q: “What is unique about how Jesus loved us?”
A: “He gave up his life. He died for us.”
So there was a “giving up” of something. That’s called sacrifice. God loved us with a “sacrificial love.”
Q: “So if the same love that starts with Jesus on the cross flows out of us onto others, how can we love others?”
“Great discussion”, you say, “but how do you put that into practice…with children especially?” Below is what we have been trying, and as of 10 minutes ago (and counting) it is working (well, once so far…)
Here is our plan: When someone is yelling (usually in our house it’s “STOP!”), whether it be to stop kicking, singing, smacking, or generally stop being frustrating, the new rule is to hold up a hand to the face to accompany the “STOP!” In our family, the “STOP” seems to be second nature and takes no training, so I decided to use that to my advantage. Usually our yelling is self-seeking and is accompanied by name-calling. Having the hand up reminds us all that we need to stop. It doesn’t matter if we are the one doing the yelling or the name-calling, or the annoying, we all need to stop. We need to think about our heart drawings in the prayer journals. When a hand goes up, everyone should stop and say the verse together. “We love because He first loved us.” Then we have to pause and ask the questions: “How did Jesus love me?” ( He sacrificed for me.) “And how can I sacrifice for the other person right now?” Our frustration and yelling and difficulty in loving each other usually arises when we are thinking more about what we want to get out of the relationship or situation than what we can give up for the other. So, in an effort to retrain our first response in those situations, let’s ask ourselves not what I can get, but what can I give, remembering all the while that it is only because of Jesus that we have the capacity to love sacrificially.
Earlier I ran into the kitchen because I heard a cacophony of screaming and yelling and name-calling. The kids were playing their own version of “town” or “life” where playing cards are used as currency and someone is manning the bank, the store, and the cafe. Instead of joining in with my own self-righteous yelling and name-calling, I just held up the palm of my hand. All three little hands went up and the room was silent. I almost didn’t know what to do next, I was so shocked. I started, “We love because…” and they joined in. (Oh, don’t screw this up, Angie!) I lead them through the simple explanation of how Jesus taught us sacrificial love and how that same love lives in us. I asked, “how can we give up something right now in order to love one another?” Helen, without hesitation said, “Here, Gideon, I will give you some of my money.”
GULP…it worked. Without further thought, I ran upstairs and started typing. I probably should have followed up with them more, but I was so encouraged and shocked that I didn’t think about that until now. Honestly, in retrospect, I don’t even know if the money was the issue at the center of all the yelling. I probably should have at least checked that much, but needless to say, as of yet, there still has been only happy play noises down there, so I don’t dare dig up old bones. This moment is going on the “Count Your Blessings” board. Hopefully, having a practical way to apply the gospel to those intense situations will stick. My hope is that they will eventually start leading the way themselves by putting up a hand without me even being there. Who knew a “hand to the face” could be such a gesture of sacrificial love?