It happened again this past Sunday.
It’s an annual thing.
And one that makes me laugh – but also gives a great lesson.
For those of you who don’t know me, you need a little background. I am not married, have never been married and have no children of my own. But I have seen God use my singleness and my lack of kids in a mighty way in my life and the lives of others. For the past 14 years I have been the Director of Children’s Ministries at my church. A full-time gig, loving on countless children in the name of Jesus. I am quickly approaching the time when I will start to have ministry grandbabies since many of “my kids” are now getting married and are thinking about having children of their own. 99% of the time I am really, really good with the “I have no kids” thing. As for the singleness thing, well that is more fluxuating and way more volatile, but even in that, I am completely split on the idea. 50% of the time, I am delighted to be single. And 50% of the time, I am sighing that I am single.
So that’s me. And that is context for this:
Every Mother’s Day the same thing happens.
About 50-gazillion people wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day!” when they see me at church.
I have come to understand that they are coming from different places when they say it.
For some, it comes from a place of ignorance. They know me only from Sunday mornings and they do a simple equation that goes: She’s good with kids + We like her = She must be married with kids of her own.
Completely false equation – but I can see where it would lead you to wishing me a “Happy Mother’s Day”.
For others, it is coming from a more thoughtless place. I don’t mean that these folks are thoughtless in the mean way. I just mean that it is sort of rote. They see me, it is Mother’s Day, and they say “Happy Mother’s Day!” They know me well enough to know that it doesn’t apply – but they forget in that moment and it slips out. (I have to say, I do the same thing with “Good morning!” when I am at church for an event. It could be 9:00 at night and I will still greet you with a cheery, “Good morning!” because of where I am!)
For a few, it comes from a place of understanding and is a compliment. On Sunday one of my young adults, who I have known since her middle school years, came up to me, gave me a hug and said, “Happy Mother’s Day to the Mother of All.” Her intention and her words matched. She understands who I am, what I do and even why I do it. And her greeting included all of those ideas at once.
But here’s the thing I want you to understand.
I am not offended by any of these.
Mostly because one of my mottos for life (that just happens to be a biblical principle) is that “Love believes the best.”
Love looks at a situation – any situation – and decides to assign the best possible motive to the other person. Love doesn’t react in a knee-jerk way, even when the situation stings. Even when it is thoughtless. Even when a sensitive area is hit. Love believes the best.
And the key word in that whole paragraph is “decides”. Because love – biblical love, God’s love in us and through us – is a choice, not an emotion. It is verb, not a noun. Love chooses. Even when the choice is difficult, love chooses to do all the actions in I Corinthians 13, including “Love believes the best.”
That’s easy for me to do with Mother’s Day greetings. Because they aren’t really hitting a sore spot. So it is easy for them to make me laugh.
But there are other areas of my life where it is much harder. Much more difficult to not respond with a sharp, “Ow!” and some impulse to retaliate.
Let me be clear here. I am NOT talking about taking abuse, sticking in a dangerous or unhealthy situation out of some misguided sense of doing the right thing. I am talking about an initial reaction to another’s person’s communique. Whether that is in person. Verbal or non-verbal. On Facebook. Over the phone. In an e-mail. At a meeting. In the bathroom in the morning. At the breakfast table. In the day to day, choosing for love to believe the best.
And yes, sometimes love has to correct. Say a difficult thing in response. Present a differing opinion or side. But my initial, gut-response is choosing to love. So, even if I disagree, I don’t attack. I don’t denigrate you as I respond. I don’t fire back the first thing that springs to my tongue. I pray. I respond. I treat you for what you are – a beloved creation of the Creator, an image-bearer of God, someone who is also offered redemption that neither of us deserve, one for whom Christ died. I choose to believe the best.
Or that is what I strive to do.
I find that fairly easy to do with people.
I find it harder to do with God.
If you read last week’s post, you know that I recently had a rental car with a cracked windshield. The thing is, that crack didn’t show up right away. It was 48 hours of wild weather and temperature fluctuations later that revealed the truth. And when I got in the car and noticed the crack, my first response was NOT to believe the best about God. I didn’t immediately jump to Truth. Instead, I wrestled through a few initial responses first.
I wish I could be like that first set of people who wish me a “Happy Mother’s Day” and can rightfully claim ignorance. If I am them, then I responded in anger, frustration and worry when I saw the crack because I don’t know God. I don’t have a history with Him. I don’t know His heart for me. I don’t know that He has promised to supply my every need. I don’t know that the Bible clearly teaches that every hard thing that comes into my life has been filtered through His hand. I don’t know that He is good and everything He does is right.
Except I can’t claim ignorance. Because I have seen His faithfulness in the Bible. In the testimonies of His followers for centuries since the Bible was recorded. And in my own life. I have seen Him deal with things far more difficult than a cracked windshield. So I can’t claim ignorance. I can only truthfully claim forgetfulness. But that is definitely not an excuse for not believing the best about Him. Especially since one of the exhortations repeated in Scripture is to “Forget not!”
I fear I am more often like the second set of people – the responding-by-rote folks. Because that is awfully easy to do as I merrily dance through life. “God is good!” “God bless you!” “Praise God!” All these and more spill from my lips easily. Until a rock bounces on the windshield of life. And makes a crack. So that the rubber must meet the road on the truth of my faith. Do I really believe the things I say I believe? Or are they just words? Do they actually apply in tough situations? Or am I going to rely on me? My senses? My understanding? My ways?
But I long to be the third set of folks. I long to respond to God from a place of knowledge and an awareness of who He really is. I long to speak Truth about Him and to Him – and really, really mean it. So that when the cracks appear in the windshield of my life, I can honestly say, “Blessed be Your name.”
No matter what, “Blessed be Your name.”
I know He doesn’t mind if I say it through tears, or at least with a deep sigh. But because He has proven His character over and over and over again, He deserves for me to say, “You are good. Everything You do is right. You knew before time began that this trial would come. And you are going to work it for good in my life. May You receive all the glory for whatever comes of this. Because You are love. And You loved me first. So I choose to love You back. Even when I cannot see. Even when it hurts. Even when my heart wishes this incident had never occurred. Even when I don’t understand. Blessed be Your name.”
Love believes the best. About people. And about God.
Because love remembers that the future is coming.
Where every wrong will be made right.
Justice will be done. For me. And to me.
Thankfully, I am covered. My sins were paid for on the cross by the blood of the Lamb.
And I will have an entire eternity where they will be no more pain. No more tears. No more suffering.
No more cracked windshields.
And love remembers how very little sight I actually have right now.
I can’t see your heart. Your motives. Your history. Your hidden hurts.
And I can’t see God’s ways. His full plan. The reasons He has allowed that rock to bounce up from the road.
But I can love you with His love.
And I can love Him for Who He is.
I can choose to believe the best.
And respond in the best way.
I can choose. Will I? Will you?