Over the last few days, I’ve had opportunity to learn a lot about myself. It’s amazing to me that at my age, with my breadth of experiences, and as self-reflective as I have always been can still be discovering such major things about myself. But there it is. A series of unrelated incidences left me in a little emotional puddle for a few days, and after I was done wallowing in my own hurt feelings, God showed me a hard truth:

I still need to learn how to love.

It’s not that I don’t know the mechanics of it. I read The Five Love Languages when I was 20ish, and I have not forgotten them, and I can identify them pretty well, too. And I know how to be a friend… to cook the dinner, pick out the gift, give the huge hug, kiss the baby, remember the name of your great-grandma’s neighbor’s dog, but those are really just tasks. Niceties. They’ll do for awhile, but they have nothing to do with the manifestation of God’s love, which goes like this:

i John 3/The Message:

18-20 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.

21-24 And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.

~
Can you imagine what it would be like to be free from condemnation? To be free from looking down on yourself for every little mistake and shortcoming… to be free from a critical eye toward others who are struggling in their journeys as well? I’d like to stop imagining it and start living it.

My whole life, I have loved as a defense mechanism. I have loved with either lofty expectations or with willingness to be destroyed in the name of love. None of that is part of God’s plan for perfect love. That kind of love gives power to the wrong entities. That kind of love asks for something in return that can only be given by God. That kind of love will never be satisfied. That kind of love always – always! – results in a broken heart, no matter to whom it is given.

But God’s love…oh, God’s love~

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…”

That verse (1 John 4:18) goes on to say that fear involves torment…torment! Who needs that? Who willingly inflicts that upon herself?

If perfect love is waiting to be opened like an elaborately-wrapped birthday present that you know will be just as exciting once opened as it is sitting before you waiting… why not receive it? Unwrap that thing and claim it and treasure it forever!

~

Nothing dramatic has happened in my life to bring me on this latest journey. Oh sure, circumstances always occur around us. People I care very deeply about are hurting or searching right now. And I… well… it’s the story of me to always be wondering if I am good enough, if I am doing the right things, if I am being productive or as we say in Christianese, “bearing fruit.” But John’s lovely first letter is being carved in my heart this week. Instead of looking outward at how love fails us, I am looking inward, where long ago I invited my Savior to live, and I am learning how He loves us… oh! How He loves US!

{I admit, this song drives me a little crazy in its junior-high-poetry-somewhat-overdoneness, but perhaps God is just that dramatic… and if I’m going to drown, may it be in an ocean of grace…}

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