Thursday, May 07, 2009

What the World Needs Now ...

When I was a child, my Grandma Greenwood had a fairly profound impact on my life. She was the epitome of 'Grandma.' She dressed like a grandma, had her very long hair, tied into a bun on the back of her head like a grandma, baked like a grandma, loved like a grandma. She had 23 grandkids and there wasn't a one of them that she loved more than any other.

Grandma left school to take care of her invalid mother, but when Grandpa was in seminary, she learned Greek so that she could help him study. The woman was brilliant and raised her kids to believe that they could do or be anything.

But, Grandma had a few peculiarities. We loved her and ignored them. She wouldn't allow any book in her home if it had any swear words in it. Well, even in the 60s and 70s, that cut a lot of books out. I have memories of a LOT of Reader's Digest Condensed books. If any of us ever found even a 'damn' in a book, we just kept quiet about it, or the book would be gone the next time we showed up.

She was the ultimate pacifist. One day I was messing around on her organ and pulled out the hymnal. As I flipped through the hymns, playing different ones, I landed on "Onward Christian Soldiers." Grandma quietly walked out of the kitchen and told me that she didn't believe in war of any kind and could I please find another song to play. I was shocked, but I did as she asked. How could I not?

The other thing that Grandma didn't like to hear out of our mouths was, "I love this shirt!" or "I love Pepsi!" or "I love this television show." She constantly reminded us that we could only love people, we couldn't love inanimate objects.

I understood exactly what she was trying to say to me, but I've never been able to stop myself from expressing how I feel, even to the point of love, about things. My problem is that sometimes my passion gets in front of me and I have to let it out.

Grandma's point, though, was not one to be missed. Sometimes it is easier for us to love our house, our yard, our card, our stuff more than we love the people who surround us. They're tough to get along with and will nearly always drive us crazy. Because we are in close relationship, sometimes we find that we know just enough to wound each other in powerful ways.

My mom believed that her kids should know love when they were in the home. That was the one place to be safe from the pain of relationships. But, even that failed. You could hear the foulest things coming out of our mouths at each other, when just before we had been with friends expressing genuine care for them. I was always shocked at the way that our behavior turned ugly when we got into the house and shut the doors. Oh, I was as bad as the rest.

You might tell me that it was because I was safe in those relationships. My family was required to love me. Maybe it is because the house was the one place where we could let down our guard. To be honest, I don't think any of that matters. I believe our family deserves more than anyone else when it comes to respect and love. Those who know us the best deserve first right of refusal on major and minor decisions. They deserve an assumption of innocence in the midst of an argument and immediate forgiveness when trouble abounds.

I have difficulty with a lot of this sometimes. Again, my passions get out ahead of my brain and sometimes I lose control of my anger - especially with my family. In my head, I hear a lot of you giving me reasons why you are justified in anger, bad behavior toward your family and withdrawal of love, even if just for a short time. I get it. But, I also know this:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

How would your family be different if you added unconditional love into the mix?

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