Updated: Jun 25, 2020
What does it look like to love well?
We experienced it after our triplets were born at 29 weeks and spent a long time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
Two of our kids had life-threatening infections and had intestinal surgeries. One of them had a harder recovery than the other and we didn’t know if she would make it.
At three pounds, she had surgery one more time to try something, anything. The nurses said she was a miracle baby and after five months in the NICU, they were all thriving and finally at home with us. We are so grateful to the Lord and it was a joyous, joyous day.
The in-between time was hard. We had just moved to a new city one month before and I was on bed rest so we weren’t part of a community yet and our family lived ten hours away.
But, the Lord provided and the outpouring of love we received took our breath away.
People everywhere were praying for our babies. People we were close with and people we had never met.
When one of our babies came home, friends and family tag-teamed, coming out to Virginia to watch her so we could see our other two babies in the NICU.
Friends of friends who heard about what we were going through started meal chains with their church to bring us meals.
Friends sent gift cards for gas since the hospital was far from us. Some sent restaurant gift cards.
Some sent cards of encouragement, and some wrote emails.
People all over prayed for our babies.
Knowing we had these people coming together for us, helped carry us.
These might seem like simple gestures of love, but the amount of love that was put into the giving was immeasurable. We could feel it. We could sense it.
As Mother Teresa said, “It's not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving.”
You might think you’re not giving much, but if love is behind your actions, you are giving much.
I want my kids to help and serve because they are moved by love, not because they’re forced to.
How do we teach our children to be motivated by love and to have compassion for others?
I think it starts with reading Bible stories like the Good Samaritan, the boy who shared his lunch, the poor widow who gave everything, and how Jesus gave his very life for us.
In Mark 12, as Jesus was sitting across from the treasury, he noticed a widow giving just two coins, but it was all she had. He called his disciples over to him and said this widow gave more than all the others because she gave all she had.
Jesus noticed the widow giving from her heart and was pleased.
We can also use everyday moments to show our kids what it looks like to love well.
When we talk with our kids about people around us who are in need and come up with ways to help together, they will begin to see through the lens of Jesus and will notice others – not just themselves.
Our kids are creative. We can ask them for ideas on how to encourage others and love like Jesus.
When our neighbor lost his wife after being married fifty years, I asked our kids how we could show we care, and they said to make him cards and a meal, so we did. It was simple, but it helped lean our children more toward compassion.
We can also share the realities around us to open their eyes to other children in need. One way is to have them write cards for kids who stay at the hospital and to go to the store with our kids to buy toys for them.
It’s a simple gesture, but it gets our kids to start thinking beyond themselves.
When our kids notice needs around us, compassion grows in their hearts.
To show our kids how to love others, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
We can show them how to love in simple ways like sharing with their sibling, praying together for someone in need, helping fold laundry, or making a meal for a friend when they’re struggling.
When we point out to our kids that these are simple ways to love like Jesus, they will be more likely to do them.
Recently, when I was folding laundry, my daughter came up to me and asked if I needed help. That was a huge moment to celebrate. While it might seem small, to me it was big because she loved me from her heart without being told to help. That’s what I hope for.
When our kids do this, notice it. Then, occasionally say something like, “Thank you for loving me well, just like Jesus tells us to.”
And, when our kids misbehave, we should remind them that our choices affect others and focus on the heart.
As Dr. Townsend and Dr. Cloud say in their book Raising Great Kids, “You should focus on the ‘whys’ of what you are doing. Not ‘Don’t call your sister stupid. That’s a sin,’ but ‘Don’t call your sister stupid. That hurts her feelings.’ Do you like it when someone calls you names?’ The latter is more relational.
When our kids see that their actions affect others, they will be more likely to choose the way of love.
I want my kids to be motivated not by applause or duty, but by love – by the very commands the Lord calls us to: Love God. Love others.
That kind of motivation is pure, renewing, and life-giving.
It reminds me of the words by Mother Teresa: “Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.”
It might seem like these simple gestures aren’t noteworthy, but they are to the person on the receiving end, and they are to the Lord.
He always sees.
And as our kids see the joy in giving, they will be more inclined to give.
As our kids see the freedom that comes with selflessness, they will lean toward selflessness.
As our kids see us loving like Jesus because of our love for him, they will be moved to do the same.
As our children love well and go beyond what’s expected, beyond the world’s ways, and beyond their own self-interests, they will see that this is where true joy and life are found.
Because this is Jesus.
(Written by Guest Writer Linsey Driskill)