Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing excerpts like this one from Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real-Life Engagement. We’re excited to read through a few chapters, complete challenges, and experience our first (in)courage book alongside you! Each Tuesday we will share part of a chapter, as well as challenges we will all aim to complete by Friday; and each Thursday at noon (12:00 pm CST), we’ll broadcast a Facebook Live video with the author of that week’s chapter. For more information, click here.
“We love because He first loved us.”
1 John 4:19
I Can’t Even
I can’t even. I literally just cannot even.
This trendy saying pops out of my mouth more times than I care to say. Sometimes it’s because my kids are hilarious or adorable and I JUST CAN’T EVEN. I can’t even believe how gorgeous my daughter is. I can’t even understand how my son got to be so fun and funny. I can’t even comprehend how their sweet faces and sweet hearts came from a holy mix of my husband and me. I can’t even begin to fathom how God would put me as the mama in charge of their little lives.
I just can’t even.
Sometimes, though, that “can’t even” comes out because I literally cannot even deal with them for one more second. I just can’t even think about having a civil word in my head, much less have one come out of my mouth. I cannot even deal with their disrespect, their disruptions, or their disregard for me and each other.
One night as my daughter was trying to fall asleep, everything broke loose. Her patience was gone. Her senses were at high alert and she literally could not even keep the covers on her bed she was so fed up with the noises coming from her only brother.
I went into the room first, full of parental wisdom and vigor. I fluffed her blankets, tried to roll over the snoring boy and set everything to right. I gently closed the door and within minutes, she was calling out to me again full of frustration and woes.
I tried again with a little less patience to snuggle and calm and pet her to a comfortable space for sleeping. The third time she called, she was beyond herself. She was overly tired and maybe I was too, because my heart started beating fast, my stomach was in knots and I felt tension in my arms and hands, my shoulders were taut. She complained about her bedcovers one more time and I just couldn’t even. I walked out of the door leaving her to cry and wail for Mommy.
I looked at my husband who was at his computer and said, “She needs someone to be gentle and love her but I can’t do it.” I sat down, breathing heavy and let my husband hold her while she slept, just like when she was a baby.
It’s surprising when you can’t show love to someone you genuinely love. When my kids were babies, I don’t think it happened often. Even in the middle of their worst tantrums and freak-outs, I loved them so much, I was willing to hold and rock and nurse and do whatever it took to calm them down, show them love, and keep them happy.
As they’ve grown and become well, real people with real desires, real thoughts, and real opinions, I find myself wondering who these small people are. How did they grow up into someone so other? Why can’t I read their minds anymore?
My pride in motherhood takes a blow on days like those. I should be able to comfort my daughter when she is clearly upset. I should be able to help her when she is literally unable to help herself. And yet, my Self is so upset, I can’t show love to the fruit of my womb, the apple of my eye.
If you read 1 John chapters 3 and 4, you might get a little dizzy from the up and down, back and forth about God’s love — love one another, love comes from God, love is God, love is born of God, love knows God, if you don’t love you don’t know God, and on and on it goes. It reminds me of the girls weaving in and out of a Maypole dance — His words spinning round and round and tightly tying up this deep description of God’s Love.
One sentence, toward the end of the letter gets me, though. It’s an oft-quoted verse but when you read it, there are layers and meaning beneath the words. John says,
We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
Go ahead, read it again: We love because He first loved us.
I think, a lot of times, we read this as, “I’m only able to love because Jesus loved me first. I can only serve at the soup kitchen because Jesus enabled me to do so with His love. I can only be kind to my rude neighbor because Jesus set love into motion in the beginning. He’s a good example of how to love.”
I think it’s more than that. Jesus first loved us. That’s the important phrase. His deep love sent Him hurtling through time and space to be born of a virgin in a stable in Bethlehem. His strong love kept Him on a Roman cross when He could have stepped down without a word. His love rescues us, surrounds us, covers us and holds us together.
And when I begin to pour out love, especially when it’s difficult, I’m doing it, not as a random act of kindness, but as a deliberate move to engage others in the love I’ve experienced.
If I can’t love the hard-to-love people around me, I’m not loving God. What a beautiful (and hard) spiral this love thing is. Loving God and loving people is all intertwined. And I think I like that. Jesus’ love for me is not so I can bottle it up and save it. It’s not so I can simply enjoy it and keep it like a pet. Jesus’ love for us is a beautiful gift to be shared, a present to be enjoyed by all.
He loves me. He loves you. I can’t even not live in that love and share it with others. Especially those that call me upstairs ten times a night to fix bedcovers.
- Ask God to show you one person in your path you can show love to today.
- If you are really feeling brave, think of the one person in your daily life that is hardest for you to love, or ask God to give you the opportunity to love a woman in your community in a particularly challenging circumstance. Ask God to really help you see how much He loves that person.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
When I think of “I can’t even”….I think of my adult daughter. My thoughts are I can’t even believe how much love I’ve poured out on her and yet it is met with such anger and either hurtful words or complete silence. I still think of simple ways I can show love, like sending a valentine, even though I know it will be met with disdain. I know that hurt people, hurt people and I will try to be kinder, more compassionate to those who are difficult to love because God loves them just like He loves me. I will dive into your chapter this afternoon. Challenging post, for certain….
Beg, I’m praying for you and for your relationship with your daughter this morning. We have known that hurt with my husband’s youngest son, who sadly passed from this life still clinging to that hurt and disdain for his father. I pray that won’t be your story, but that your relationship will be restored and healed and made more beautiful than ever, as only God can do. In the meantime, I pray you will feel his arms of love wrapped tightly around you.
Oh, Bev! It’s so hard when the ones we love best spurn our love–and what’s worse, it makes it hard to love them, even tho’ we want to! I’m praying for your daughter today. That even in something as simple as a Valentine, somewhere deep inside her, it will be met with love. Not just from you, but from the One who loves her best and knows her most. Also, that God would be close to your broken heart today and bind up your wounds.
I’m so sorry things haven’t changed. Sometimes when one detaches it’s their way of trying to be independent. I hope, and pray for both your sakes this resolves soon.
Have a blessed day,
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Thank you sweet Penny…
Oh Amanda, understand your pain completely as I live it with you! Occasionally there have been some breaks where she is reaching out now, this is after years of prayer. My heart breaks for you! Just lay it at the cross! He will hold you, and her, even though those lovely children resist with all their strength, don’t they? Just pray! I cried until I had no more tears to cry with, I am sure you have too! After finally honestly laying it down, I tried many times, I finally was able to find peace in Him with my life. I know you can too. It took a long time, I never gave up praying for reconciliation and can now see light at the end of the tunnel. All things are possible with He who is within us.
It is just in His time, not ours. I will be praying for you and your daughter. I found that by just taking my hands off completely, my girl came around on her own. It took a long time, but , though it was hard not to contact her, time was needed for her to have her space. When she decided to contact me, I just acted like I had talked to her the week before, like nothing had been out of place. She seemed relieved with that. Be blessed and praying for you both
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Thank you for your kind and caring reply. God has given me a type of peace that abides most of the time. I do pray that eventually one day my daughter will come around…it’s just hard not to mourn the passing of time, but perhaps God needs this time to do a work in her that I might only get in the way of?
With thanks and blessings,
Sarah Geringer says
I just received this wonderful study from a giveaway. I’m reading it during my lunch break, and I’ve already enjoyed the “I Can’t Even” devotional. This is a helpful quote: “He loves me. He loves you. I can’t even not live in that love and share it with others. ” I’m trying hard to apply that in a difficult work situation right now.
Yay! So glad you won the book! How fun! 😉 Isn’t it true–once you’ve tasted and felt His love you CAN’T EVEN not relish and share it! Praying for your hard work situation today.
Sarah Geringer says
Thank you for praying! Glad to meet you here!
My ” I can’t even” moments are with my husband and 12 year old son. My husband has TBI and multiple other brain injuries from a car accident. Due to the injuries he is not who he used to be per say. Every moment of every day can be a different mood. His moods flip like a light switch, very sad. I know he can’t help it and he is working in brain therapy and we are trusting God for healing. The 12 year old, well…he is by all means 12. Life has not been easy and I am pressing into God and scriptures more and more. Something that the Lord has shown me is what love truly is and how our family has struggled with true love. My “I can’t even” moments are met with love is patient, love is kind. And since my son is online schooling and we are all home together 24/7, I have really been having to practice not sounding like a gong or clanging cymbals…lol
Praise God we are forgiven and understood by our Abba Father. Praise God that He knows the plans He has for us, and they are amazing!
Oh, Lydia! What a gift you’re giving your husband and son–real true patient and kind love when you don’t feel like it. I’m praying this Valentine’s Day you will have a positive “I can’t even” statement—a small miracle from God to remind you of His great love for you–something you can’t even believe could happen for/to you! And I will be continuing to pray for complete healing for your husband. Nothing is impossible with God!
(ps: my daughter’s name is Lydia! )
Thank you so much for your response and prayers. We need them! I wanted you to know that my husband and I went to a late lunch yesterday, so it would be less crowded for him, all of the restaurants we were going to choose were closed or closing. So we ended up in a parking lot. As we were taking a minute to think we saw a taco restaurant we had never been to. We looked it up, good reviews and open, so we went. There was no crowd we were the third table on that side of the restaurant. The staff was so kind, the food was wonderful and they gave us a significant discount just because we had never been there before. They even gave us food to try “on the house”. Oh what a blessing! The rest of the evening was sprinkled with blessings as well. So, thank you! Thank you for your prayers and (in)couragement.
“I can’t even” believe what a blessing tacos can be…
Praise the Lord!
I love this! God is so good–and yes, tacos are total blessings!
Beth Williams says
I can’t even fathom Jesus staying on the cross for me! Why would he do it for little me- who messes up all the time? There are days when my aging dad can be hard to love. His mood can be good or icky. Still I visit him and shower love on him regardless. I know he can’t help how he feels.
Loved this: ‘If we can’t love the hard-to-love people around us, we’re not loving God.’ That is so true. We need to love everyone regardless of how they act or seem. You never know what they are going through or feeling at the moment. Life can be really hard for some and all they need is a gentle hug and I’m here for you. That just might brighten their day!
So true, Beth! You never know how your one act of love can change–literally change a life! Thank you for your encouragement!
I really enjoyed your post Amanda, and appreciate your honesty.
“We love because He loved us first.”1 John 4:19, I can’t think of more to add to that. My ‘I can’t even’ moments are certain noises that ‘I can’t even tolerate’. I have no idea why but it can be upsetting,
I hope that you all have a heartfelt Valentine’s Day,
Thank you, Penny! Happy Valentine’s Day to you—may you feel and know His love today!
Rebecca L Jones says
I can’t even believe me sometimes. I do have that love and joy but I feel like I don’t have a civil thought or word. The behavior I deal with from others is like I’m speaking a foreign language to them. I tell everyone to rest in Jesus, everyone needs to practice that calm and peace, even as children, or it’s easy to derail. Happy Valentine’s Day!
Anna Brown says
Wow the rude neighbour resonated with me. Our neighbour physically assaulted my husband in front of our children, a year ago. He then accused us of slashing his tyres and complained to any one, particularly officials like dog wardens and the police about anything he could make up. From vicious dog to children making noise playing. He’s picked and thrown around our plants and his partner and him have run us down to everyone and anyone.
We want to show him love (not all the time, to be honest sometimes we would love him to die, just do it all stops). We have an annual street meeting coming up which appears to be where this kicked off last year. I will not be going, please pray my husband is able to show him love and maybe start to heal whatever had happened. They won’t even tell the police what we have done to cause the reactions so we have no idea what we can do to put it right.