"Well, I like playing with you, and I do really love you, but you...not so much."
This was how she returned the sweet words and loving request for a hug from one of my sons.
I fumed internally. I asked her to hold her tongue, then I payed the cashier and pushed the cart out of the store. We drove home.
After the milk was tucked away on the icy refrigerator shelf, and the eggs delicately placed in their spot in the door, I called my little girl to her room.
She skipped in, smiling. Maybe she thought I was going to give her a lollipop?
As the words steadily came from my lips, I realized that this was the first time my youngest child was experiencing a true grown-up rebuke.
My little Lady wasn't in trouble for sneaking candy, or refusing to come to the bath when I called her. She was in the deep weeds of James 3, where hell's flames can engulf our world:
"But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself."
-James 3:5-6 (NLT)
I laid it all out for the precious girl.
"We love one another in this family. The way you spoke to your brother is unacceptable. It was mean and hurtful to say you don't love him. You will love all the people in our family. That is God's will, that we love Him and others more than ourselves."
In our home, you don't get to choose if you will be loving, you only get to choose how you will be loving.
She apologized to me. Then she humbly went and sat with her brother, apologizing to him. That gracious boy held her for a long time, covering her with kisses.
The Lady spent the rest of the day making pictures for everyone in our family, writing their names and the words "I love you" again and again in her adorable chicken scratchy penmanship.
I watched her, and and she was shining with joy. My heart welled up with gratitude for my family, for God's love, for the lessons of grace and forgiveness that draw us away from our selfishness.
James was right, and my prayer over our home are these other words he wrote:
"Come close to God, and God will come close to you." -James 4:8
Yes, Lord. Come close to us....