The following are from the book, Children’s letters to God by Stuart Hample and Eric Marshall:
If we come back as something, please don’t let me be Jennifer Horton because I hate her. (Denise)
My brother is a rat. You should give him a tail. Ha ha. (Danny)
Please send Dennis Clark to a different camp this year. (Peter)
I bet it’s very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only 4 people in our family and I can never do it. (Nan)
Well, there it is—“from the lips of children and infants.” Their words are humorous because we can relate to them. They touch upon the same kind of situations we struggle with as adults and their proposed solutions (God sending Dennis Clark to a different camp or giving someone a rat tail), at least track along our feelings, if not our thoughts. Nan is right—it can be very hard to love!
Making the decision to love others is an important first step, but that’s all it is. There’s a reason Paul doesn’t just tell the disciples at Corinth to love each other and leave it at that. The Beatles might be right that love is all we need, but for most of us, it doesn’t come naturally. Love, even that between a husband and wife or within a family, is a learned behavior.
When Paul speaks of patience, kindness, and not being envious, boasting, or proud—he is sharing the vocabulary of love. Those who love best assess a situation and come up with the right combination of “words” for the moment—instead of being easily angered, they might show kindness that offers hope to someone in desperate need of it. Love doesn’t exist as a glorious ideal; it is only known in the down to earth manifestation of these kinds of traits in the gritty situations of life. Although it’s commonly thought of this way, there’s nothing easy or soft about love. To commit yourself to loving others is the hardest work you’ll ever know (but also the most fulfilling). And it is a big part of what it means to follow in the steps of Jesus.