Turning My Heart toward My Children

Sep 1, 2000

by Jeanne Gilbert

“If love is patient, then what is impatience?” This editorial's parting thought struck to my very heart. In that moment I saw that every time I was impatient with my children, I was acting as though I hated them. This impression was not the one I wanted to leave!

Of course I had read the I Corinthians 13 definition of love many times. I even had it on a wall plaque. But it had always seemed like an impossible goal, an ideal that I might shoot for but could not possibly achieve. When something seems so out of reach, the motivation to try disappears quickly.

I got out my Bible and read the definition again. Then I transposed hate for love, so it read, “Hate is impatient, hate is unkind. Hate envies, hate boasts, hate is proud. Hate is rude, hate is self-seeking, hate is easily angered, and hate keeps a record of wrongs. Hate delights in evil but does not rejoice with the truth. Hate never protects, never trusts, never hopes, and never perseveres. Hate always fails.”

The power of reading the verse this way convinced me that every time I do one of these things I am expressing hate. Every time I am easily angered by some childish mistake, my child feels as though I hate him. When read the positive way, it is too easy to just agree: “Love is not self-seeking? I'm not self-seeking. If I were, I wouldn't be homeschooling!” But when I say, “Hate is self-seeking,” I recall immediately the times when I had just sat down to relax with a cup of tea when a child suddenly needed my attention. What was my reaction? Did I groan? Did I mutter, “I just sat down! I'll be there in a minute, and then actually appear ten minutes later or not at all?” Or did I remind myself that hate is impatient, unkind, self-seeking and easily angered and filter out these possible responses?

For three or four months I read this verse, both positively and negatively, every morning at breakfast. I needed to! Through this process, I became acutely aware of the times I missed the mark. If it were warranted, I would quickly ask my child's forgiveness and give them a hug and kiss so they would have a physical reminder of my love. Even better, I now have a more concrete picture of what love is and is not, which has helped me understand the magnificence of God's love for me. Really, what I am more able to do now is show God's love to my children.

I knew I had come a long way the other day when my son said, “I admire you, Mom.” Surprised, I asked why. “Because you got so little sleep last night and you just sat down on the sofa to relax when Gabrielle asked you to read her book to her. Yet you made it seem like that was exactly what you wanted to do!”

Truly loving my children not only seems possible now; the motivation is built in. Verse eight starts, “Love never fails.” Said the opposite way, “Hate always fails.” Why would I act in a way that is guaranteed to fail?”

Jeanne Gilbert lives in Graham with her husband, Roger, and her three children, ages ten, four, and one. They have been homeschooling for three years and create their own Catholic-based curriculum.

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