It's easier than you may think. At least, it's easier than we'd like to admit. The world pretends love comes naturally, springing out of an unexpected kiss or a baby's first smile. But if love is an iceberg, these things are just the tip. They're the tiny parts we see, the snapshots we post online. Below the surface, true love is daunting.
It's not the stuff of fairytales; it's the stuff of war. True love is about bone-weary battles against our flesh, endless determination, and desperate cries to the General in the darkest nights. Love is many things, but "easy" is not one of them.
Now hatred, on the other hand, comes easily. It's not pretty or socially acceptable, but it is easy. Hatred is a reflex to injured pride, trampled dreams, and the wrongs we suffer. Cross me twice, and I can almost feel my heart harden. Can you relate?
Growing up, my mom explained it with the phrase, "Closing your spirit." She used to say, "It's so easy to close your spirit to others, Jeanne. But I promised God I would never close my spirit to my husband or my kids." I imagined her "spirit" was like a little door on her heart. Bam! Slammed shut!
When I got married I thought the promise was unnecessary. Of course, I'll never close my spirit to him! Why would I? I love him! But then the misunderstandings, disappointments, and resentment piled up along with the dirty dishes and laundry. Bam! I wanted to slam the door of my heart in his face! Bam! Bam! Bam!
Do you want me to show you how easy it is to slam that door? How easy it is to let your heart grow cold toward your family? I can do it in three steps.
Step 1: Expect your family to satisfy you.
The very first step to hating your family can begin long before you've even met them. All you have to do is build lofty expectations. Believe you are incomplete without a man. Set your hope for happiness on one day becoming a mother. Tell yourself these things will satisfy every empty crevice in your soul. Then idolatrously anticipate them. Threaten to doubt God's character unless He delivers them on your timetable. I promise when these gifts finally arrive, you will be ripe to resent them.
Few things beat a faster path to bitterness than disappointment. The loftier the expectations, the graver the disappointment. But remember, in order to truly disappoint you, these things must take Christ's place in your heart. They must bear a burden they were never meant to bear.
Otherwise, you might turn your eyes upon Jesus, and in the light of His goodness you might let your family off the hook. You might give them the freedom to fail you. You might love them when they wrong you, serve them when they exhaust you, and endure because Someone Else is rewarding you.
Jesus is just like that! He has a way of satisfying so thoroughly we're not hungry for anything else. He makes promises like, "Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:13–14). The first step toward resenting your family is to give them Jesus' job: expect them to wholly satisfy you.
Step 2: Value "happiness" supremely.
Next, you must love happiness more than anything else. I'm not talking about "contentment happiness"; I'm talking about "comfort happiness." Facebook happiness. You know that image you have of the picture-perfect life? The sweet, healthy children, the romantic husband, the nice house and fabulous vacations?
Frame it! Frame it on the walls of your heart, so you can bow down and worship it. Let it become the goal of your existence. And when real life doesn't measure up, daydream about an easier life! Daydream about freedom, about selfish ambition, about everybody else's blessings.
Do this, and you will learn to hate suffering. Moreover, you will hate the God who dares develop character through hardship (James 1:2–3). Where sorrow could have been a tutor in your life, she will instead become an enemy. Where difficulty could have born courage, she will instead bear bitterness. And the more you hate these teachers, the more you will hate the family who welcomed them into your life.
Step 3: Fix your eyes on the temporary.
Finally, you must live like this life is all that matters. Strive for momentary pleasure. Pin all your hopes—your very identity—on how your children turn out. Nag your husband into becoming the kind of man who can make your life on earth better. More financially comfortable. More exciting. More enjoyable.
When he and the kids let you down, tally up their shortcomings. Count the number of ways you "out-serve" them. The number of things you've sacrificed for them. Meditate on these sacrifices, until they eclipse the sacrifices Christ has made for you. At all costs, do not view these light, momentary troubles with an eternal perspective lest you glimpse the everlasting glory they are achieving for you (2 Cor. 4:17).
Embracing Our Inadequacy
Have I convinced you the path to a hard heart is wider than we'd like to think? I wish I could tell you I'm writing this article based on all the observations I've made in other people's lives. But I'm not. I'm writing it (with tears in my eyes!) based on the observations I've made in my own life. Oh, it is such a battle! Love is such a battle. And sometimes victory feels impossibly distant. Have you ever felt that way? Like it's just too hard?
Dear sister, embrace the failure and the inadequacy. Because hiding within is our need for God. Much to our sorrow, as we grow older we may have to say, Oh how many times I have failed! But joyfully, we can also say, Oh how faithful He is! Oh, how much I will always need Him!
Our brokenness becomes beautiful when it magnifies God's grace.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10).
Precious daughter of God, where are you weak when it comes to loving your family? What might change if you invited Christ to empower you with His strength?