The boy stomped into the kitchen, cleats clicking on the tile as he muttered low, “He never keeps his word . . . never!” With my hands in a sink of soapy dishes, I looked out the back window to the other boy standing in the middle of the grassy field throwing a football to himself. Frustration boiled under my skin and I felt like saying in my thin mama voice—“Can’t you two just get along?!”
Rubbed raw at the end of a long day, I closed my eyes, fighting the urge to pretend I didn’t see him. But the boy in the cleats plopped on the kitchen barstool with a dramatic sigh, so I breathed deep and asked,
“What’s the matter, son?”
“Well, J,” he pointed out the window at football-throwing brother, “We made a deal, and he ALWAYS backs out of his deals and it makes me soooooo mad!”
“Well, he wanted to kick field goals but I wanted to catch passes, so we agreed to switch off. That way we can each do what we want. So, I helped him kick his field goals, but then he refused to do what I wanted!”
Tit for tat. This for That.
“So what you’re telling me is you played kicking with J just so you could get what you wanted? How do you think that made him feel?”
I looked over at M, his finger scraping at a speck of dinner stuck to the countertop, eyes down. “Not that good . . .”
Self-love chokes sacrificial Love till thistles and thorns grow between brothers.
“Buddy, love doesn’t make deals. Love sacrifices for the sake of another. When daddy plays football with you, does he expect you to give him something in return?”
“No . . .”
“When daddy makes coffee for mommy every single day, or watches you so I can do schoolwork, does he demand that I cook dinner and clean the house?”
“No . . .”
Greater love has no man than this—that he lay down his life for his friends.
“Think about what God did for us. He died for us because he loves us. Could you give him anything in return?”
“No . . . ” The boy sighed, shoulders slumping.
Love as I have loved you.
“So, what would it look like for you to love J?”
M looked up at me, the answer in his eyes. He paused, staring out the window at his brother. It was hard to answer Love’s call, to choose to die for the good of another.
Little children, let us love in deed and truth.
M spoke thoughtful-slow, “I should go out and get his ball for him when he kicks? Bring it back?”
“That’s a great idea!” I smiled.
“But . . . but what if he never wants to do what I want?”
Oh son. I know. The world, it tells you Love is pleasure because you get what you want, but sometimes Love is pain because you must lose to truly gain.
“You know, you can’t demand that he love you back, but you can love him and you can pray. God is the one who grows love in our hearts. ”
He sat there a few moments more, my boy-man, watching me suds and dry the dinner dishes. Then he slid off the stool and out the door. As I scrubbed crusty pans, I watched the two brothers out the back window—J kicking his kicks through the goal post and M running back and forth, back and forth, fetching the ball, learning what it means to lay down his life for a brother.
When and with whom do you struggle to love sacrificially? Why? In other words, in order to love this person (or in this situation), what might you be called to give up? (Time, energy, money, etc.) On a practical level, what might love look like in those moments or with that person? Pray for the God of grace to grow sacrificial love within your heart as you walk it out in practice.