When Big Love: The Practice of Loving Beyond Your Limits by Kara Tippetts came through on sale for the Kindle app, I didn’t realize it was mainly about parenting. I probably would not have gotten it in that case since my kids are all grown. But I am glad I did, because the principles carry over into any relationship.
You might remember Kara’s name from her journey through cancer and death as shared on her blog, Mundane Faithfulness. I did not read there regularly but caught a few posts here and there when someone linked to them on Facebook. It was the urging of friends to share the contents of this book and the knowledge that her time was growing shorter that led her to write it.
The main theme of the book is Love is kind, from I Corinthians 13:4. The phrase impacted her in a big way when a preacher with a painful childhood shared them when speaking to the children at the school where she was teaching. She confesses she was “not naturally given to kindness,” preferring to feel “strong and successful” and “bent on winning.” She realized her love “was often self-serving, self-fulfilling, and self-centered.” This truth of God’s love “hit [her] at the perfect time and landed on soil that was ready to be planted with truth.”
She had not grown up in a family that practiced repentance, so the idea of walking in humility and confessing wrongs was new to her. She was married and expecting her first child at this time and wanted to interact with both husband and children in kindness and not have a home like the one she was raised in.
She shares a bit of her family background, how she came to believe on Jesus, how she met her husband, and how she was diagnosed with cancer. But for all that it’s a fairly short book. I read it in two sittings and probably could have in one, but wanted to stop and absorb before going on.
A few quotes from the book that stood out to me:
Competition among mothers kills community. I searched for ladies who were willing to be honest about faults. Honesty and a shared heart is such grace. Vulnerability and transparency encourage looking for grace.
Our kids are so often the reflection of sin that brings us to repentance. It was a beauitful, awful moment of light shining on my sin. I thought I was okay, so long as I wasn’t yelling. But what I saw in the face of my daughter was that I had sailed from the shore of kindness, and I needed Jesus to change my heart and return me to gentle kindness.
Discipline should never come as a surprise to a child. I think it is very important for children to always know what is expected of them. When discipline comes as a surprise, I typically find that I am parenting out of anger and not intentionally teaching and shepherding my children. If I know a child is entering a place where they struggle with obeying it is important to set clear boundaries.
That is our high calling as parents, to direct, train, nurture, love, and shepherd our children. It is important we move from irritation with our children and move toward opportunity for training. Whatever you choose to be your consequence, it must not be a surprise. Children should know clearly what is expected, and when they disobey, struggle, and sin, they need to be lovingly directed and disciplined. Disobedience is an opportunity. Children are not trying to embarrass you. Your children are not trying to create chaos in your life. Children need boundaries, direction, and limits that are all surrounded by a truckload of love. They do not come to us trained, obedient, and ready to listen. They need to know they are worth your time, your energy, and your strength to direct their hearts.
If I never point out the sin and struggle in the hearts of my children, and merely direct their behavior to please me, then when will they know they need a Savior?
I…follow through with the discipline and share honestly about my own struggle…I share my own need for forgiveness and grace. Empathy is a powerful tool in helping a child know you are FOR them. Letting your child know you understand their struggle and love them in the midst of it will help them be able to take an honest look at themselves. They will feel safe and not judged by you. They will know your heart is to direct them and not condemn them.
The Book of Romans tells us that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. I want to love with a kindness that nurtures a hard heart to desire to be soft. God is the only one able to transform someone else’s heart, but if I live a life submitted to Him, then His love will be reflected through me.
I longed to not withhold love when it was inconvenient to give it. Those faces [of her children] helped motivate me to want to know Jesus well, and to live near Him and listen to His Spirit as I walked in faith with my family.
When I am not drinking deeply from the inexhaustible well of love that is Jesus, it is impossible for me to share that love with the community behind closed doors as well as my greater community.
The heart of the gospel is lavish love being placed on me when I least deserved it.
The act of parenting isn’t excuses for bad behavior, it’s seeking reconciliation, redemption, and grace in our days.
The heart of being able to love big, BIG, BIG is being loved. Jesus loves you that big. He loved you so big he died a death He didn’t deserve to bring you to God. Admit you need Him, admit you don’t have it all figured out, and know His love. Quiet your heart enough to feel His love. Let Him teach you the beauty of sacrificial, humble love.
God’s nearness will be the strength to help you parent with kindness.
The sections I’ve emboldened are the ones that especially spoke to me in my current situation of life, including not just parenting but loving anyone I am called to love. Like Kara, too often I find that my love is “self-serving, self-fulfilling, and self-centered,” though that manifests itself a little differently for me than it did for her, as our personalities are very different. I guess the struggle to love as Jesus did will be a lifelong one, since we have our flesh to deal with. But by His grace, resting in His love for us and letting that overflow to others, we can grow.
There were a few formatting problems in the book – I wonder if that’s because it was designed for a different format than the one on which I read it. It was distracting just at first but then I was able to overlook it as I got into the story. I highly recommend the book especially to parents, but also to anyone seeking encouragement to love Biblically.
(Sharing at Literacy Musing Mondays.and at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)