Jennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries, and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California and now lives in the busy Bay Area with her husband and three kids. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ. You can find her writing at her blog, Jennifer J. Camp .You can connect with Jennifer on both Facebook and Twitter. She would love to have you join her there.
“I see things in black and white.”
He sits on the hearth for a family meeting. We are gathered around, feet–not-many-miles–apart, although not one leg touches another’s. Physical distance and emotional pain. We have been hurting each other, with insults and impatience, criticism and unkindness, and it was time to talk about it.
We just finished a car ride to the mountains, a four-hour drive with not too much traffic–a big deal for where we live, in the California Bay Area. The kids criticize each other in the car ride, subtle-but-undisguised irritation, a quiet retort under the breath, a quick judgment about what someone else has done.
The negative words to each other have been piling up over the weeks, particularly between the two boys, who are close in age. The strikes happen between them and their little sister, too.
Negativity and not encouragement. Put-downs and criticism.
Something breaks in our hearts when we hear bitterness spoken. We are made for connection and community, not discord or separation.
For, with the Holy Spirit in us, we are made to bring light to darkness. With the Holy Spirit in us, we are equipped to bring healing, not hurt. With the Holy Spirit in us, we are designed to love each other, with Christ’s kindness and power and might.
Love is a weapon–the greatest and the truest weapon we can ever wield. But the weapon we so often choose, instead, is the weapon of slurs and judgment, of impatience and meanness.
Who is in us when we choose darkness instead of light? And who are we rejecting when we go our own way and forget how we are truly meant to live?
What we say to one another with our words reveals the condition of our heart. We are either aligned with Christ–choosing, each moment, to love one another. Or, we are rejecting Christ–rejecting the Holy Spirit’s power in us to love beyond what we are ever capable of on our own, in our own strength.
We must remember this: we are in a battle, and we have been given weapons with which to fight. These are weapons of gentleness, of patience, of understanding, of sacrifice, of beauty, of kindness, of light.
“You get to be selfish, as crazy as this sounds, in this one, amazing way: When you choose to love your brother and your sister you are choosing Christ. And this is how you are being selfish, because it is benefitting you, too.”
“When you love another person, you are being filled with Christ’s love. Thus, you are loving yourself, too. And when you are mean to another? You are not loving yourself; you are not letting Christ in. You are not letting the love of Christ fill you.”
“There is no fuzzy thinking here. No gray area. It is black and white. Love each other or not. And when you choose love, when you choose to be kind and gentle with one another, you are receiving Christ in you. You are letting Christ love you. You are receiving what he wants to give you–His love. And you receive more of His love for you when you willingly choose Him and battle, with Him, to give His love away.”
We talk for what might be an hour, pushing past dinner time. Each of us shares what is on his and her heart, most of us in tears. One person in the family writes down what he is thinking before he says it. It is difficult to find words, sometimes, to the pain we are just now choosing to not hide.
In community in Christ, we need to have the hard conversations sometimes. Black and white, good and evil, love and hate. It is one or the other–and we need the love of Christ to keep us united, despite the mess of trying to find words that are honest and bring connection, not discord.
Our stomachs are rumbling now, and we get off the sofa, the chairs, the hearth. We sit on the floor now, a circle, a family, confessing to our God, together, how we, individually, have hurt one another. We own it. We admit it. We give it to Him. And together, with our God, we remember how to love, how to forgive, how to be fearless in love rather than careless in hate.
And then, at bedtime, each of the three, whispers it softly, as I join them, heads bent, to pray:
“Thank You for the big meeting.”
“Thank You for helping us talk together so we can learn more about each other.”
“Thank You for showing us how we can be nice.”
Oh, my God, thank You for teaching us how to fight for each other’s hearts, in community. Thank You for forgiving us when we mess up and we hurt one another. Thank You for being at the center, when we need You most.
Can you recall a moment when your heart was hard, in community, and you needed Christ’s love to soften it? What did you do?
This ost appeared originally at GatherMinistries.com