“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
~ I Peter 4:8
Six of us were tucked here and there between blankets on couches, with mugs of hot chocolate and marshmallows in hand and enjoying the crackling fire in our den. A freezing December day, with snow falling heavily outside, we sat warm in body and soul in the fine company of each other.
Gathering all my children home, from far corners of the world over the holidays, was just the gift I needed to fill my heart that long-ago Christmas.
After a seeming heavy sigh of great relief, one of my boys said, “You know, almost everyone I have met in my world of work comes from some kind of a broken background of abuse or divorce or unhappiness. And the background of instability and pain seems to paralyze them in so many ways. I hardly know anyone who came from a healthy background in their family.”
“It is so great to be back on our family culture of love—no matter what conflict or difficulty or failure or attitude, I know I can come home to unconditional love and have all of you here to support me, to accept me, to help me. What a grace to grow up in a family culture of unconditional love. I never knew how blessed our family was until I left home. We have so very much to celebrate together now that we are together again. I am so happy to be here to be able to restore.”
A Culture of Love—I had never thought of it that way, but it spoke volumes to my mother heart. All of us as families create a family culture of some kind. The traditions we keep, the meals we make, the routines we practice, the values we espouse and hold, the movies that are our favorites, the church we attend, the generosity we practice, the way we invest time, the company we keep—all of these come together to craft our particular family culture. We can also inadvertently create a family culture that is negative—a culture of anger, neglect, guilt, discord, disharmony, worldly values, and so on.
I have realized over many years that crafting a culture of love requires that I, as a mom, become the conductor of a loving and generous heart that leads all of my children to understand gracious, generous, sacrificial, validating, forgiving love. To create such a culture requires planning, intention, mature responses, words of life and affirmation, patience, and just lots and lots of unconditional love.
So often, we as moms are caught up in the immediate things—getting the tasks done, housework, homework, bills paid, child discipline. Yet, it is the air our children breathe, the foundations we live by that will attach their hearts to ours and ultimately, potentially, to God.
True influence and discipleship is formed intentionally by modeling ourselves after the ultimate lover—Jesus. He who bowed his knees to wash 120 toes, to embrace sweet, wiggly children who were clamoring for attention, who touched the prostitute and gave her grace, who gave Peter, his own failing disciple, hope and affirmation even in the midst of his failures on the night He was crucified, and then ultimately gave everything, out of love, for our redemption—He becomes our own source and inspiration of what it is like to form a culture of love.
Valentine’s Day is a great day to celebrate love and to do something intentionally to build on our family culture of love. To be loved is a longing, a desire and need to our hearts as much as oxygen is to our lungs. To thrive and live productively, we all need love. God underlines the value of love over and over again in scripture…
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lays down his life for a friend.”
“These are the two greatest commandments, to love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
“God is love.”
“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
“Faith, hope and love remain, but the greatest of these is love.”
“Love is a perfect bond of unity.”
I wish you God’s gracious, unconditional love and peace to have a lovely day with those you love!