Friday, August 27, 2010

On Love

Deuteronomy 11:1 is my text: "You shall therefore love the LORD your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments."

According to culture Americana, "love" is a gooey emotion that happens when a handsome young man and a pretty young woman lock eyes. That's why we can fall into it, 'cuz it's liquid and gooey.

Think about our phrases:
  • Fell in love
  • Love at first sight
  • Have feelings for
  • Young love
  • I can't love [some person]
While this emotional aspect is an important effect of love, it is not love itself. God here COMMANDS us (in the Deuteronomy text) to love Him. But how are we to force ourselves to feel emotional "love"? I don't know. Our emotions should be subject to God too. But it starts with a choice (which we can only make by God's Grace). It should effect the emotions, but it shouldn't be solely an emotional thrill. Else how do we love our spouse, or our children, if we wake up on the wrong side of the bed?

Indeed, sometimes we must love in spite of our emotions. As they said so well in the film Fireproof- my paraphrase- "you can't follow your heart. You've got to lead your heart."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Sister's Role towards her Brother

Treat Him like the Man You Want Him to Become
Be the Kind of Woman you want Him to Look For
From G. A. Hudelson

“It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” (Pr. 25:24, NASB)

It has been said that a woman has the (figurative) power to make a man or to cut him in half. This isn’t talking about decapitation- it is talking about the truth that woman, created to help man, can fulfill that role gloriously and result in encouraging and helping her man to heights beyond his wildest dreams. However, she can also become a weight on his wings, and hinder him from doing what he should have done as well as he could have done it.

A sister can do much to encourage her brother to become a Godly man. It will not all be verbal- in fact, most of it will be by her actions, which “speak louder than words.”

Sisters, if you are quick to quarrel with your brother, you will make it difficult for him to act as he should. You need to model by your actions things that you would be pleased to see in your brother’s wife, and you wouldn’t want him to marry a whiny woman who would argue with every decision he made, would you? Then you need to show him what a godly, submissive, woman looks like. Show him what he should admire. When he asks you to get something for him, then do it gladly! Or if your parents already have you doing something else, then lovingly say something like “Daddy already had me doing this- may I finish?” or “I’m sorry, but Mom told me to do this- if you can wait a minute, I’ll be right there.”

Don’t be argumentative. If it’s a little thing, something that’s not important, then just give it away. Jesus Himself said that “it is better to give than to receive.” You just “seek first The Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.” That will bring more joy than fighting over the little things, even if you win. I believe it was Harvey Newcomb, in his excellent book How to be a Lady, who encourages us, but specifically young women, to take a moment in the middle of our fighting with one another and ask ourselves: “Will this matter in the great span of eternity?”
Now ask yourself this: by being an argumentative, grating sister, what are you teaching your brother? You are teaching him that women are not pleasant or loveable, that they are to be avoided, shamed, defeated in combat of the mind, if not physical struggle. If you shame your brother by showing off that you know more than he does, remember- you are teaching him that he needs to strengthen himself to defeat you. He will jump at the chance to prove himself better than you. Mind, I am not saying that he will be right in so doing- but if he doesn’t have the strength of character to withstand your misconduct, he will likely resort to that. Remember, though- I am not speaking to him. I’m speaking to you. Don’t take that sentence to say that he is the problem- “if only he would man up and treat me like he should”- no, but take the plank out of your eye, and let him be, if God so wills it, “won without a word” by your conduct.

If, however, you are a submissive, gentle, quiet- not reclusive, but quiet- sister, what are you teaching your brother? You are teaching him that women are pleasant and loveable, that they are to be protected, cherished, defended from any enemy. If you build your brother up, not only by complimenting him, but by speaking well of him to others, by bragging on him, so to speak, you are showing him that you are not his enemy, but that you love him, and you are not ashamed of him. My sisters do this all the time, so I speak from experience when I say that it tells your brother that you know you like him and you want others to know it too.

Mind, I don’t mean for you to lie about how good your brother is- but find the things that you can praise him for. I also am not encouraging flattery. Speak the truth in love. Encourage your brother, and build him up. By doing this, you are teaching him that he should strengthen himself to protect you. He will jump at the chance to prove himself ready to do his duty as your brother.
Which do you want for a brother? And which do you want for yourself? For while it is ultimately his responsibility to walk with God humbly, it will be much harder for him to do this if you, every time he climbs nearer to Christ, pull him down to your level again with a temptation to quarrel. You will make it much easier for him to take his place if you gladly take yours.

So how can you practice a gentle and quiet spirit? My Dad and I once went to a meeting discussing a new policy that a city legislature was considering. One of my sisters also came with us. Dad and I both got up and spoke in front of the council- my sister didn’t. But by simply sitting quietly and contentedly in the back of the room, she spoke volumes about what true, godly womanhood looks like. She modeled for all those people there the beauty of following God’s Ways.

So don’t take every opportunity to speak that comes your way. Practice sitting and listening. You will learn a lot that way. It has been said that God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk. Even more importantly, Scripture exhorts us to be “quick to listen” and “slow to speak.” That is a very good thing to practice for sisters AND brothers.
Be very careful to treat your brother like a man. Obviously, he is probably not fully grown and mature (though he may be, depending on your situation). Regardless of whether he is or isn’t, don’t let the fact that he is your brother cause you to treat him with contempt, as familiarity often does. Treat him like the man you want him to become. Don’t expect perfection- that bears repeating!- do NOT expect perfection from your brother. But humbly encourage him to and let him be the man. You can do this by looking for times when you can purposefully submit to him- let him take the lead. Follow him gladly. Do this in the little things. Let him be the fearless captain of the expedition exploring the backyard, rather than insisting that the caravan goes your way. Obviously this can only go so far, especially with older sisters who must watch over their younger siblings. Yet Godly habits can and should be modeled in day-to-day play. Another example- when you play with your brother, are you usually pretending to be enemies? Or does your brother practice protecting you? And do you practice letting him protect you? That is what you want your brother to do when he’s grown up, right? So encourage him to do it now. If your brother takes advantage of your submission, he is wrong to do so. But remember Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, and how God told her to submit to her cruel mistress. Even in that situation, remember to focus on the log in your own eye first, and do what is right. God has put your father in your life to protect you- if your brother does wrong, God will vindicate the innocent! You just make sure you are innocent! So ask yourself- does your brother feel like he’s pulling teeth every time he asks you to do something for him? Or is he afraid to ask you, knowing that you will get angry? Do you treat him like a pest or a friend, a tyrannous ogre or a respected and honorable king? When you are talking to your friends and your brother comes up beside you, do you look disgusted with him or happy and proud of him? Practice your role of helping now, and rejoice in it! Remember how the Proverb 31 woman represents her husband well. He is not ashamed to sit in the city gates with the elders of the land. Make sure that you also do this with your brother.

By treating your brother as a man, I also mean that you should not pamper him. Especially older sisters- don’t teach your brother that every time he scrapes his knee he needs to come crying to momma or sissy. Don’t tell him to get down every time he gets somewhere a bit dangerous. While I’m not advocating letting him do things that are foolish, let him train himself for manhood- bloody knees and bruised foreheads are part of the process. Let him fall off the swing. Maybe you knew it was coming- maybe he did too. Obviously, if he was one year old, you wouldn’t let him fall off the swing- but if he’s old enough to understand what falling is, and if the swing is reasonably near the ground, and he wants to balance on the moving swing on one foot while punching the air with both hands, let him go for it! Let him push his limits and do dirty, bloody, sweaty things. Just because you as a girl wouldn’t enjoy it or even think of doing it, don’t make a girl out of your brother. If he fails at what he was attempting, maybe he’ll learn from it and not do it again- or maybe he’ll try again until he conquers. That can be a very good thing, and one you should encourage. I’m not advocating barbarous or boorish (vulgar, lowly, common) manhood. I am advocating men who are Strong and Courageous- and your role as a sister in fostering that is valuable beyond words.

So remember that when you interact with your brother, you are practicing right now how you will act as an adult. Don’t think that your family is hard to get along with, but no one else is. No, everyone is sinful. God has given you a great opportunity to grow now, in your home, instead of being thrust out into the world and realizing that it is not as perfect as it may seem. Take that opportunity and praise The LORD for it! And remember that your brother is being raised into a man- a prophet, a priest, a king- so use this precious time that you have to invest in him. When you touch him, you touch the future. Your calling is glorious. Rejoice in it, and play your part in encouraging your brother to become a man of God. This will help both of you to grow exponentially, and it makes family life a joy and a beauty. It also will refine you into a more virtuous, Godly woman- one who models what her brother needs to look for in a wife one day. My Dad rightly says, “One of the greatest compliments a young lady can have is when her brother refuses to court a girl because she’s ‘not like my sisters!’”