By Pastor Paula Burchill
Many years ago in a mom’s group I was a part of, we were having a conversation about our kids. If I remember correctly, many of us were complaining about bad attitudes and stubborn kids and kids that were picky eaters, along with some bigger things like the autism spectrum.
One of the moms said something that has stuck with me ever since: It is not my kids’ job to be the kids I want them to be. It is my job to be the mom my kids need me to be.
I hadn’t thought about it for a while, and maybe it is that my kids are getting older and my illusion of control seems to fade with each passing day, but that saying seems to be particularly important for me these days.
On Sunday, the reading from John was one where Jesus shares that his disciples [meaning you and me] lay down their lives for each other. It is just what we do. Jesus of course literally laid down his life for us, but we are also called to lay down our lives for each other in small ways all the time. This saying about my job as a mom has brought this call from Jesus home to me.
And I really think the saying might bear thinking about for us as Jesus’ followers whether we are moms or parents or not.
I don’t know about you, but so often I expect the people in my life to behave in certain ways. I don’t mean to do it, but I think things like: She should call and invite me over more. Why doesn’t he help out more? She should really stop being so impatient. He needs to quit being so emotional.
While these expectations might bear some truth, the bigger and way more important truth is that it isn’t other people’s job to fit a mold I want them to fit. It is my job to show them love and care no matter who they are. This is very hard work, but that is at least in some ways, what it means to lay down your life.
I don’t mean that we should be doormats, so let me give you an example. I might have a very emotional child who is very needy. I can try [and I should try] and teach this child to toughen up. But I think that I also have to realize that I might first need to focus on the fact that I need to work on my listening. I might be tired of it and want a child who is better able to roll with it when life is hard, but the fact is that I have THIS child. And this child needs a shoulder to cry on, and so I need to lay down my expectations and offer up my shoulder.
Maybe it is also like that story of Jesus telling the Pharisees to take the logs out of their own eyes before pointing out the specks in someone else’s. The reality is that we are all hard to love a lot of the time, but disciples, or friends, keep trying to focus on love. And love has eyes that look with understanding and care and compassion. Not seeking to change, but rather seeking to understand.
I think this might be at least part of what Jesus meant when he told us to lay down our lives for each other. It is not the people in our lives job to be who we want them to be, it is our job to be the people they need us to be. Keep at it, disciples!