Yesterday I took just Mary to do her Christmas shopping. Every year we draw names for the kids to give to each other, so she only had one; however, she wanted to buy for all three kids. But when we were on our way to Target she changed her mind about her older brother. She said, "He doesn't even like me. He's pulling away from the family. Even when he's nice to me he's aggressive. So I don't want to get him a present."
"Well, Mary," I said, "It's hard to be a 14-year-old boy. He needs to feel love from the family so he'll want to be close to us. If you treat him well then he'll rise to your expectation." These are the things I say to myself on a daily basis.
"Yeah, I don't know," she replied. "I've tried it and it doesn't work."
"You know, if you lined up 100 boys his age, most of them would be a lot like your brother. So you probably have less trouble with Tyce than you do with him being a teenage boy. You need to accept him for who he is and how he is right now, just like we do with you," I said.
"You're a parent though. You're obligated to be responsible about that," she grumped.
I laughed. Then I said, "Jesus loved the unlovable. He loves us, even when we don't deserve it. He would want us to love everyone, particularly our family members, especially when we feel they don't deserve it." I looked over to see how she was taking my sermon. "But the choice is yours. You don't have to get him anything."
She looked relieved to be off the hook.
We went to Target and the dollar store. I stayed with her most of the time but she enjoyed the freedom of strolling the aisles alone. On the way home she said, "Why did we draw names anyway if I didn't have to get anything for Tyce?"
"You did if that was the name you drew. Wait, did you draw his name?" I asked, eyebrow raised. She confirmed that she had. "Then you really should have gotten something for him," I sighed. Dang. I tried to think of a way to turn this around. Did I have anything already at home she could sign her name to? Was there any candy in the treat closet?
But before I could come up with a plan, she declared, "It's okay. I did get him something."
"You did?" I was surprised.
"Well, he is my brother," she said, "even if he is hard to deal with."
"Yes, he is," I said. "Thank you."
Later that day I cried. Tears for how hard things can be. Tears of gratitude for understanding hearts. Tears of love for my Savior--who came to the earth, descended below all things, lived a perfect life, and died so that we can be forgiven of our sins and live forever.
Love. I felt love.
Love for others. Love for my family. Love for the Son of God. And love for myself--because I know I am loved, even when I don't deserve it.
I hope I never forget. I hope that you never forget. You are loved--loved for who you are, and in spite of who you are.
I saw that love manifest in a 10-year-old sister for her punch-you-in-the-arm, tell-you-to-go-away teenage brother.
And that is the true miracle of Christmas.