The New Year is not so big a deal for busy mothers. Every day is the same in terms of chores, 365 days a year. There's still laundry, changing sheets, wiping down wet or dirty bathrooms, making three meals and doing loads of dishes.
Today, New Year's Day, my husband was home the entire day, which is rare.
Halfway through the day, he said to me, "Aren't you ever going to sit down?"
The truth? The minute I sit down I get more behind, so I only sit down to read to the kids, have a meal and devotions with them, or do a lesson with them. I even check e-mail and read a blog here and there, standing up before my desktop computer, which one of the boys will surely need for school momentarily. When all are in bed, that's my time to sit...after the dishes are done and the last load put in the dryer.
Anyway, I guess my husband doesn't notice these things usually. The truth is, he only sits down to play chess with Paul or a game with another child. Otherwise, he's helping or taking the kids to the park for an hour, weather permitting.
So...New Year's Eve? What did I do to celebrate a day that, sans marriage and children, used to be very important to me?
After the kids went to bed, I read 1 John chapters 1-4, while my husband called his father in Florida. I was in bed by 11:00 PM.
Like most writers, I try to come up with something inspirational for the first post of the new year. But this year the old brain was short on ideas and overwhelmed with chores.
I picked up my Bible last night, specifically looking for something inspirational for my own private new year.
What is it you want from me this year, Lord?
As I read the first three chapters of 1 John, what came to me was this: "As Christians, it's not okay for us to dislike anyone in our churches, or in our Christian circles."
1 John 2:7-11
(NRSV) Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness
Wow! That is huge, isn't it? Churches are full of sinners, ourselves included, and we're supposed to feel good will toward every single person there?
Yes. That's exactly what John is saying. We don't have to make every person we meet at church our new best friend, but we have to feel good will toward the whole lot of them.
Are you thinking, like I did, of a certain person at church you sorta dislike? Chances are, you dislike this person partially because he or she is different from you. When someone is different from us, we can develop a prejudice toward them, unbeknownst to our blind hearts.
The person I thought of was a mother, about 30 years old or younger, who doesn't put her children first. She sent her baby to the nursery for weeks, sick with bronchiolitis (probably caused by RSV; 50% of cases of bronchiolitis are RSV.) I assumed since she had him in the nursery, that he must not be shedding virus, but that was just false. I got a rapid chest cold 4 days after holding him for 30 minutes the Sunday before Christmas, and I never bring home a virus. I usually just catch those my children or husband bring home, but this time, I was the only one sick.
For eight weeks, starting at four months old, this baby has had chest retractions when he breathes, and he's been on a inhaler for many weeks, which is a serious medicine. In my opinion he belongs at home, trying to recover without worry about getting a second RSV virus (more than one virus causes RSV), or even a common cold.
This mother will also send her baby to the nursery still in his nighttime diaper, and ask me to change him and put on his day outfit. I love caring for babies, so I don't mind, but I'm embarrassed for her every time. Has she no pride or regard for her baby? She drove all the way to church (she doesn't live close) with the baby still in his nighttime diaper? She also sends a canister of formula and empty bottles, rather than preparing bottles ahead of time. I'd never mixed formula in my life, so I was at a loss and felt stupid asking her what to do.
Her other child comes to the nursery still eating a fast food breakfast, sometimes with uncombed hair. (Believe me, I know how hard it is to get multiple kids and myself ready for church, sometimes without my husband's help. He has to shovel snow at his work church before our own church service begins.)
Lastly, this young woman is not friendly, not warm, not grateful. Just stubborn and out to live her life the way it suits her. We never have altercations and I am very appreciative of my time with her sweet baby, and professional too, so she isn't aware of my feelings, but that doesn't mean it's okay for me to have these feelings of dislike, toward another Christian.
I make motherhood my whole life, and this woman tries to be a mother on the side, or so it seems. There's nothing I would rather do with my time, than be a mother. But this is not a universal feeling all mothers share, and I get that. This young lady is trying to have it all...two kids under three, and tying up schooling to be an occupational therapist, not to mention being a wife.
The Lord clearly said to me, "You may think you are walking in the light, but at least as concerns this woman, you are not."
Of course, I have no right to judge or dislike this young woman. I don't know much about her circumstances or her past life. I don't know if she battles depression and struggles when she's at home. Perhaps school loans will be due soon and she has no choice but to continue with school. I know basically nothing, and yet I judge. She may be nearly young enough to be my daughter, and certainly deserves some slack for youth. Shame on me.
The solution to our feelings of dislike toward fellow Christians? I think it's to put them at the very top of our prayer list. (We can also serve them with our time.) Have you noticed that it's rather hard to pray for someone you dislike? Rather than pray, we usually add up in our minds all the reasons we dislike the person. Then maybe, we'll spend one minute praying for them. Not very charitable, is it?
The Christian walk is nothing if not a journey. We don't ever arrive, because perfection awaits us in Heaven; the complete heart fix comes later, but for now, we have the Holy Spirit--the downpayment on our inheritance. When we read the Scriptures, something will always stand out that the Holy Spirit wants to work on in us. That's why it's so imperative that we are in the Scriptures daily.
No Scripture = no growth.
I don't know what the Holy Spirit's New Year's message was for you, but for me, it was definitely this: to love well...my own family, and my Christian brethren.
I read the Matthew Henry commentary on the passage above, and posted it below for you. What I most like are the sentences in red:
He who is governed by such love approves his light to be good and genuine: He that loveth his brother (as his brother in Christ) abideth in the light, 1 John 2:10. He sees the foundation and reason of Christian love; he discerns the weight and value of the Christian redemption; he sees how neat it is that we should love those whom Christ hath loved; and then the consequence will be that there is no occasion of stumbling in him (1 John 2:10); he will be no scandal, no stumbling-block, to his brother; he will conscientiously beware that he neither induce his brother to sin nor turn him out of the way of religion, Christian love teaches us highly to value our brother’s soul, and to dread every thing that will be injurious to his innocence and peace. 3. Hatred is a sign of spiritual darkness: But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, 1 John 2:11. Spiritual light is instilled by the Spirit of grace, and one of the first-fruits of that Spirit is love; he then who is possessed with malignity towards a Christian brother must needs be destitute of spiritual light; consequently he walks in darkness (1 John 2:11); his life is agreeable to a dark mind and conscience, and he knows not whither he goes; he sees not whither this dark spirit carries him, and particularly that it will carry him to the world of utter darkness, because darkness hath blinded his eyes, 1 John 2:11. The darkness of regeneracy, evidenced by a malignant spirit, is contrary to the light of life; where that darkness dwells, the mind, the judgment, and the conscience will be darkened, and so will mistake the way to heavenly endless life. Here we may observe how effectually our apostle (John) is now cured of his once hot and flaming spirit. Time was when he was for calling for fire from heaven upon poor ignorant Samaritans who received them not, Luke 9:54. But his Lord had shown him that he knew not his own spirit, nor whither it led him. Having now imbibed more of the Spirit of Christ, he breathes out good-will to man, and love to all the brethren. It is the Lord Jesus that is the great Master of love: it is his school (his own church) that is the school of love. His disciples are the disciples of love, and his family must be the family of love.
Matthew Henry's Commentary
matthew-henryDo you struggle with dislike for another Christian? What has helped turn your feelings around?