Wednesday, February 8, 2017

for when you are learning about love part 2: what is love?

There have already been tears this morning.  Tears over inexperience, frustration, lack of understanding, risk of humiliation, fear of disappointing myself, others, someone.  Tears over venturing forth into a topic I have not and honestly will not, if lessons so far have been any indication, master. Why is there this need (desire, push) to try to tackle it?  Seriously people, this is hard as heck already!  Why in the Sam Hill am I doing this!?  --sorry my southern tends to elevate when emotions are, who is sam hill anyway?--

Surely there are classes about this somewhere, which are taught by much more qualified, educated, and theologically trained humans.  Am I just reinventing the wheel? Or more like remaking a much shoddier wheel that could bring the whole car down?  Lord Jesus, protect the passengers.

(I really wanted to say "Jesus take the wheel" right there, but the sarcasm might not have come through and instead it would feel like the cheesy factor had been pushed up to uncomfortable levels.)

Love is a huge topic. Love is something that could be written about daily and still never truly unpacked. Love is the reason "the word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14) because "God so LOVED the world..." (John 3:16). The massive quantity of verses, interpretations, the ways it fits into every single aspect of life is what starts the knots in my stomach. There's a meteor shower of thoughts in my head, which all have the potential to be beautiful if seen, but moving so fast it instead feels like a 360 degree fireworks show and you're not sure where to look.

So why write about Love?

The answers that come are, for one, because I am supposed to. I'm saying another scary yes on the road to obedience and faith where swerving will most certainly happen.

Two, because chances are, the majority of you are also feeling unqualified, uneducated, and untrained on this subject, and by sharing my struggles, it will encourage you to try to tackle yours as well.  Together, we are learning, taking on topics, and searching our souls to try and change our inner dispositions to be more like Christ, and walking alongside another in the midst of it makes all things better. 

Three, because there are just some subjects you can't take a class on, score a 100 on the test, and then move on to the next thing--I'm talking to you every geography map quiz I ever took.

Some information is so important you HAVE to seek, gather, put on lists or in bullet journals or note taking apps, or just let soak into your mind. By whatever means necessary for you, it must be done to become part of your being, mixed in with the knowledge already gleaned, and play itself out with the rest of the wisdom gained through practice and experience, failures and successes.

Yes, much more qualified people can explain it better and understand it better than me or you, but the question is, do we understand it, and if not, well, let's ask for guidance and go forward and try.

Tuesday is piano day on our family calendar. Two of my three boys are in lessons now, and while they both really enjoy lesson day, there is more than one occasion during the week when the reminder or command to practice causes less than acceptable responses. "It's hard", "I don't know how to play this one", "I don't know what these notes are", and a few others are the phrases whined to me while I stand in the kitchen trying not to grit my teeth or roll my eyes but to instead give the appropriate grown up response.

Whether it is Tuesday piano, math homework, or the numerous sports all the boys love, there is often a push back when time comes to begin practice. Doing the basics becomes boring. Repetition can crush your exuberant spirit with its monotony. In their little hearts (and in ours as well) there is a desire to just be good at something. We want to succeed, to excel even, but when we see the amount of work required to get to where we want to be there is either a pause to ponder, or even a decision to quit before we start, because the goal seems so far out of reach we doubt that it is even worth trying.

Funny thing is, that initial step is what keeps us from moving. Once we get going, once that practice begins, once our body starts to feel the familiarity of what it has learned and shows the signs of improving and of gaining skills, we see the goal getting closer, we see the need to keep going even when we continue to battle the desire to give up, and we look to see the hand of our Creator pulling us through, reminding us of His faithfulness, and calling us to just Trust and walk.

Basics come first, but they lead to big things.

So here we go. Small steps. First things first. When you are learning about love you need to know what love is.

Love is laden with misconceptions. It is forced to take on roles it was never intended to take on, required to fill gaps it isn't fit for, misinterpreted and pronounced nonexistent when really, it is right there ready and willing, trying to pour itself over the hurts and needs of people waiting for it. When love is waiting arms wide open for us to fall into, we reject it, misunderstand it, because it doesn't look the way we think it should look or act the way we want it to act.

When understanding and recognizing love, looking at it in a worldly sense will always skew its original design. There are many words the world uses in one way, but viewed through the lens of the Gospel take on a much different meaning. One such word is Joy.  In the world, we think of joy as happiness that comes from success or good fortune.  With a redeemed heart, we know joy can be found in the deepest sorrow, because joy is not circumstantial - it comes from being in Christ. 

Love is one of those such words.

In the world, 'love' is a greater level of 'like'. It is an 'amped up' feeling of fondness towards a person or an object. If you do not like something or someone, love will never be present. If you stop liking someone or something, love will cease to exist as well.

The best definition I have been given for love was from our former pastor during our hardest season of marriage, and it is one I will not attempt to re-word. Instead, I'll use it, with his blessing, and share it to as many people as I am able.  His definition radically changed the way I love, understand and respond to others, and inspired the title of this little space here on the interwebs where I can share with you.

Love, gospel driven-inspired by God LOVE, is an Inner Disposition that produces compassionate acts that builds up the object of your love.

Love, real and true love, starts inside yourself - your inner disposition - in your heart overtaken by the Spirit. If it doesn't start there, it is not love.

Love produces, not just anything, but it produces compassion. Not just thoughts of compassion, but acts of compassion. If you are not inspired and overwhelmed by the need to feel compassion for another, and to extend compassion to another, then you are not feeling and showing love.

Love builds up the one you are showing love to. To build is to put together, to develop and gradually form, slowly even. Love does not mean puffing someone up. (This is where things can get sticky).  Loving another does not mean telling them what they want to hear, just to make them feel better about whatever they are doing or what is happening. Truly loving is to build, to renovate, to take out parts that are not helpful, so that the parts that are can grow and climb closer to the sun.

Learning what love is will help us see it everywhere, in big ways and small, and will give us the confidence that it is always there to help us place it correctly in the spaces and ways it is intended to be and go.

Later down the road we'll tackle those times when even our best attempts at love will still cause hurt and rejection from another. But, for now, know that when love starts with a pure heart, when its desire is to show compassion, when its goal is to build up and not tear down, then LOVE will shine! Because in the end, it's God in you, not you, who is producing it.

When we understand that Love was not created by us, but put in us by our Creator, the knots in our stomach unravel. Our understanding of it is fine-tuned, and a huge amount of untrodden places are opened up to practice, show, and see love in its desired form.

Please pray for me, for yourselves, for others to truly understand Gospel driven love and the ability to pass it along to the ones around you. I'll be praying for you.

More in this learning to love series...

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