Three years ago, when I stood in our guest bath, staring in disbelief at a positive pregnancy test with my 5-year old and “last” child banging on the door begging my attention, I never imagined all I would learn about life from this surprise package. (Okay, so all our kids were “surprises” … but that’s a different story.) He has brought to the forefront many timeless truths that affect all of us regardless of age.

One of those timeless truths stares me in the face often. A truth about love.

To say that Jack lacks personal space is an understatement. The kids are in his face daily … one of his sisters especially. I watched the interaction recently on a trip to the park. Exhausted (probably more like lazy), I asked the girls to play with him. Within minutes, I witnessed two types of love. Selfless and Selfish.

One of the girls tends to love the kid the way she wants, almost like he’s a toy. If she wants him to go down the slide… down he goes, whether he wants to or not. If she feels like holding him, he’s in her arms regardless of any desire he might have. There’s often crying and kicking in their relationship. She can’t understand why he runs from her and rarely calls her by name. Yes … he often calls her the other sister’s name. (In her defense, she admits her struggle and is working on it. We all have our challenges. If you want to know her heart, which is unbelievable, check out this link to the March 11 entry “Encouraging Word“)

Flip side – the other sister consistently considers the kid’s wishes before her own. She talks to him, asks him about the things he likes, gently corrects him and sets her agenda down before interacting with him. The result? He runs to her. He seeks her out when he needs help. He looks for her when she’s not around.

One sometimes loves him selfishly. Almost unconsciously forcing her agenda on to him. The other, selflessly. Genuinely pursuing him… not a free ride to anything his little heart desires, but within appropriate boundaries putting his needs ahead of her own.

Okay … let it sink in for a moment. How does this apply to me/us …. because it does. How am I loving my family? Am I furnishing what they need, or am I fitting them into my expectations, my needs, my desires?

Food for thought … Do I want my child on a certain team because it meets my need to be seen, or included. Do I push my daughter to be on the cheer squad because I never was, but always wanted to be. Do I stake some worth in my child being included in a certain group going to a dance because it fills my need to belong. Fill in the blank with questions that hit home.

Then ask yourself what are you modeling for your children. Ask yourself how you might feel or act differently if you opted for a more selfless approach to loving people in your life. Quite frankly, this doesn’t apply exclusively to family. I need to be selflessly loving my friends, too.

One major component of the equation that may not be obvious hides just below the surface of – the need for margin.

The truth?… I get frustrated with my kids, crazy driving from place to place, distracted by homework and the schedule of a 5-child family … I sometimes (maybe way too often) forget to remember the tender needs each one of them has. I need to keep margin in my schedule to love them the way they need and to steer clear of promoting my own agenda. I need to take the time to come along beside them rather than dictate their direction all the time.

The timeless truth … selfless love is always better than selfish love. We tend to be happiest with our eyes genuinely on someone other than ourselves.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

(Sorry I’m a little late in posting. I’m off on a girls’ weekend … we have a hilarious airport story, but I’m not sure they’re going to give me permission to blog. I may have entered a blog-free zone! We’ll see…. )

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