When someone we love comes under fire or is threatened in any way, our instinct is to go on the defense. Any (honest) mother will tell you that the child causing her child undue stress has been the victim of a mental, verbal tirade. It doesn't take much to bring out the lioness when one of her own faces harm.
In 1 Corinthians 13:7 Paul writes that love always protects. As you might logically conclude, always means always. However, I wasn't sure if his idea of protection was going to match my idea of protection. When I think of protecting, I think of defending against harm that has arrived or is imminent. But the Greek word used here in this context, stego, means covering to keep off something which threatens.
I stared at that for a couple of minutes because the idea of 'covering' caught me a bit off guard. Of all the things I thought the word might mean, that was not among them. As I sat quietly, God spoke to my heart and showed me that this isn't just a defensive act, but an offensive act as well.
In order to protect those we love, to cover them to keep something off which threatens, our most effective offense is prayer. Prayers to endure, prayers to make wise choices when temptation arises, prayers to guard hearts and minds with thoughts of Christ not worldly thoughts, prayers of all kinds on all occasions to bring peace. But it doesn't stop there. We must realize that our spoken words play a signficant role in this covering. We can't look at our husbands and say "whatever" or "do what you want" and be fulfilling our role to protect if that which essentially threatens is us. And we can't unleash a verbal 'you never' or 'you always' on our children's behavior and think that we are doing them an ounce of good.
I would assume, that like me, most women who have uttered those thoughtless words have done so because they have felt under-valued or under-appreciated. But maybe instead we can opt to express our thoughts and emotions with what is really going on so that we can give others the best opportunity to respond out of protective love themselves.
Sharing our deepest needs will always leave us vulnerable and susceptible to being hurt. But it also leaves us open to experiencing deep intimacy in our relationships unlike anything we've known before. The question is, are we willing to put ourselves out there to know what it feels like to be protected by love?
Father, make me accountable to my words. I want what I say to build up and encourage not tear down and destroy. Keep me in constant prayer to protect those I love, covering them from what threatens. Thank you for the gift of prayer that allows me to be on the offense rather than the defense. Amen.