Barbara has two teenage daughters and, like most parents, finds her role challenging though rewarding; recently she reflected that too often she causes her girls to feel guilty for the many thing she does for them. Then she resolved to do things without thought for thanks. She was later pleasantly surprised to receive an unsolicited note of thanks and apology in return for something she did.
Not all investments pay dividends. But most made in relational settings do—that is what must motivate our faith to love others who have no vibrant history of returning such love.
The sort of love we discuss here really is better termed, respect; perhaps the respect beyond that which is deserved. Therefore, such respect uncovers grace—the extension, to someone, for something of undeserved favour, love loaned freely, for unmerited reason, couched in no form of repayment.
This is critical in parenting when children and teens can be expected to be somewhat narcissistic (and aren’t we all a little narcissistic?).
In this setting it’s perhaps never harder to give way to thoughts for respect over authority and to risk for love. The risk is we might be walked over—it’s true.
All investments have some element of risk attached to them—just look at the money market. After all, we are trusting our judgment and discernment. There are no guarantees.
Good parenting requires trust; the capacity to trust and trust some more, even sometimes after that trust has been dashed. Venturing forward the respect we would normally show an adult we can expect some level of return by love, but the key is not to. Grace has no expectation, but we do know that good works of love—remitting practical respect—will eventually be rewarded.
Real leadership is known for its situational discernment; to issue the respect-of-grace whenever it’s afforded—either because the love-of-respect may be returned, or because we can afford to drop our guard to risk, appropriately, for cordial intimacy.
Giving grace without thought to what we might lose dissolves suspicious mistrust and it forces people to reassess us—“Have I got him/her sorted in my own mind?”
None of us likes to be pigeonholed unless it’s positive; being at peace with grace is ensuring we keep people guessing regarding any negative attributions they might have about us.
A Covenant, Everywhere
These things are difficult to achieve because they don’t come naturally. How else are we to do them than via prayer?
We start, continue, and end our days praying and we furnish our world, more and more, with grace. It’s only unlikely to take place if we limit ourselves in it. The best of prayer is the covenant of belief everywhere; a divinely-poised optimism. We can do this.
Respecting others when we know it may not be returned is an investment in grace: a co-operative venture with God. Gospel truth suggests our respect-of-love dispatched stands to return to us, in joyous ways, the love-of-respect. Faith fuels such investment.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.