Having my child as a student in my public school classroom wasn’t easy, but I learned how to see people like Jesus sees them, give God room to do what only He can, and love people even when I don’t particularly like them. This last lesson was probably the hardest to learn, so let me save you the trouble.
Loving people when you don’t particularly like them
Until my daughter became my student, I played favorites among those with whom she interacted. Her sense of well-being my subconscious first priority in any situation that involved her, I doled out love in direct proportion to the love she received, heaping grace on those who heaped grace on her and withholding mercy from those who withheld it from her. I claimed to love everyone the same in Jesus’ name and truly believed that I did, but then proved myself a liar by my actions sometimes.
Is it natural for moms to feel and act this way? Yes, but that’s the problem. Those of us who claim the presence of a supernatural Holy Spirit in our lives as a result of our faith in the Gospel shouldn’t exhibit natural patterns of behavior. We have a God to glorify, and He doesn’t play favorites. When He sent Jesus to die on the cross, He extended grace and mercy to everyone, making a way for ALL of us to be forgiven. As His children, we must too, regardless of how they treat us and/or the ones we love.
It wasn’t until I saw a spiritual need in a child who had been mean to my daughter that I realized the counterproductive nature of my biased actions. I had the answers this little girl needed, but had burned the bridge of relationship between us that could have born the burden of the truth I had to share. I did my best to share God’s truth with her anyway, but saw distrust and doubt in her eyes. When I realized what my actions could cost her, my heart sank, and I vowed to keep the most important thing the most important thing from then on.
Oh, my mother’s heart kept screaming, “Do unto others as she thinks they do unto her,” but the Holy Spirit was faithful to whisper, “Love her enemies,” so I focused on treating people better than even they thought they deserved to be treated, showing compassionate restraint, and giving everyone a clean slate daily, hourly, even momentarily. It did help to remember that while a person’s perception is their reality, we all operate from a skewed perception of God’s omniscient truth. The only way to be in the right for sure is to love like He tells us to and leave the results up to Him.
Now, let me be clear, there were times when appropriate channels of authority and influence had to be brought in. We still forgave. That is, we believed and behaved as if individuals who had wronged her no longer owed us anything, but justice had to be carried out in those instances, not only for her good, but also for the good of those who acted inappropriately and those whom they might have hurt later. Remember, the cross wasn’t just about grace and mercy poured out; it was also about justice met.
What was the result of working to love those I didn’t particularly like? I can’t say for sure. I wish we could. I hope it led them closer to Jesus; I know it led me closer. I guess we’ll all find out in Heaven. One thing I do know is that it left room for some fences to be mended between my daughter and her friends that might not otherwise have been. We mommas tend to hold on to things longer than our children do, a tendency that can prevent the development of true and beneficial friendships in our children’s lives if we aren’t careful.
In the end, I learned trying to keep the roles you play in life separate from one another is as futile as trying to prevent roots from getting tangled once you’ve planted your garden, but that’s okay. Sometimes the tangle becomes a platform for the Gospel you preach, proving the sincerity of your faith and giving others hope.
If my daughter hadn’t been my student—if I hadn’t had “skin in the game,” so to speak—the people in her world might not have had the same chance to test and ultimately receive the unconditional love I promised them. My daughter, knowing the depth of my love for her, might not have had the chance to watch her mother learn to put personal feelings aside in pursuit of her calling to represent Jesus well.
To be honest, I still don’t have it all figured out. In fact, I wince when I think of all the times I’ve had to apologize and/or work to make up lost ground when the mama bear in me got riled, but I’m trusting God to use those failures, too. After all, if God can forgive and use an empathetic, over-protective, compulsively verbal mom/teacher like me to love on others, there’s hope for everyone else!