Wednesday, March 1, 2017

for when you are learning about love part 4: Him first

The house we have called home for almost two years now sits on a corner and is surrounded by yard, yards in fact, full of trees to climb and hide under, grass for running and rolling, stone walls for jumping and upping the coolness of sword fighting and the occasional pretty flower that I haven't yet accidentally killed, but have no worry there is still time for that.

Three boys spend many hours using the space for exactly why it was created, to live and move and have their being.  Somewhere amidst the middle of disagreements, one on one on one basketball games, and too many ninja/knight/star wars battles to count an appreciation is being built for the beauty of the outside world while inside their hearts, the groundwork that can continually connect that love they have for creation for the love the Creator has for them is being laid and cultivated.

Surrounded by a fence, the only area blocked for every day play, lies a most favored part of the outdoor adventure space, our pool.  As soon as weather and water are warm enough gates are unlocked-with adult supervision of course- to this space where everything from relaxation to intense competition takes place.  However, if you were to walk out today and take a glance at this treasured spot, you would fail to see the inviting blue sparkly water begging you to put your toes in.  You would also fail to see the somewhat green-tinged not as inviting water that tends to spring up in the off season.  Instead, before you lies an empty cement hole, banged up a good bit, missing integral pieces, most importantly water, that makes a pool serve it's designed purpose.  Sure standing at the bottom of an empty deep-end is a semi cool experience and having a sword fight there did make a 5 and 7 year old boy giggle with glee but that fun is most assuredly short lived when you know what the full potential of the space feels like.

Without the essential element that fills it up, a pool is simply a hole in the ground; likewise without the love given through the Perfect Love, a heart is simply a lump of muscle pumping blood to keep your body alive but doing nothing for the Spirit within.  Both items are needed, but until they are filled to overflowing with that one key ingredient they will continually cease to perform their designed purpose.

While walking down this bumpy road of learning about love, we recognized the need to actually love better or at all, we have discussed what love truly is, and that we are not at all capable of doing it but hopefully you remembered, "do not despair because you cannot love, none of us can.  Do not give up because you have been hurt, we all have.  Do not fear because you are terrible at loving another, we all are.  Hold on to the Hope of the promises our Savior fulfilled.  Rest in the Peace he brings in the midst of your turmoil.  Rejoice with the Joy that he is above all circumstances."

So then, how is possible? How do we go about loving another?  How in the midst of our massive inability are we able to do anything?  Like all things we fail at doing, when we dig and dig to the root where we will find waiting the same Truth, the same wondrous reason for how "we can do all things" (phil 4:13)

We are able to love for one single reason, we were loved first (john 4:19)  

A simple statement that holds the heaviest of weight.  However quickly spoken, it is a thought and truth that can be unpacked and put away into every nook and cranny of your life each and every day.

Jesus is the beginning of it all; the beginning of our ability to see that we need to love, how we understand what love truly is, and the reason we can't, no matter how hard we try, love another on our own.

Because we are loved, we see the need to love.
Because we are loved, we understand what True love is.
Because we are loved, we can love, not on our own, but with the love given to us.

In Life Together, Bonhoeffer continues his look at human and spiritual love by saying "spiritual love comes from Jesus, it serves Him is bound solely to his Word...because spiritual love does not desire but rather serves, it loves an enemy as a brother" and if you remember, on any day, your enemy can even
be who you believe you love the most.

If ever I am given the honor of writing a book or multiples at that, one will be about this tricky topic of loving others.  It's title, already jotted down in one of my notebooks is "It's not me, It's You: loving because Jesus loves first" 

It's all Him guys, but He openly and lovingly gives it to us to then give away, amen and hallelujah.

Jesus is that Perfect Love, the water to your swimming pool, that essential ingredient to the heart, and we are told that Perfect Love casts out any fear. (1 john 4:18)  Yes, you may make a list of all your fears-if you want to see mine here it is-and see how that Perfect Love takes those fears away, lets you see the truth behind them, and ultimately just reminds you of who is holding you throughout everything.  Because of that, Do not fear.

Another thing fear does is keeps us from loving others because we fear the rejection of not being loved in return.  As that Perfect Love fills all your spaces it pushes those fears out and allows us to love others because we aren't looking for something in return.  If we are filled to overflowing with His love it's not the love of others that matters, but His and His alone.

In one of the most common passages about love we learn that love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails. (1 cor. 13:4-8)

And if God is Love, then this is a description of His character towards us, His children, as well as an example of the Love we are capable of only because of Christ's Perfect Love in us.  Will we fail, yes.  Will His Love fail us, never.

However, the first four verses before those oh so familiar ones are not to be ignored.  Within them are wise words reminding us of what happens when we try to go forth on our own, love on our own, without Love within us.

Two years ago on our second trip to RO we studied these words in depth and were given the task to reword them, making them specific to our struggles, to our personality, to what our imperfect love could result it if not overwhelmed with the only Perfect Love.  I'd love for you to try it and share your results.  For me it looked something like this...

If I speak with kind words and encouragements but do not have love I am at best morally superior and at worst an annoying goody goody or hypocrite.
If I show empathy and understanding to a situation and give great advice believing all will get better but do not have love I am of no help or significance to another.
If I sacrifice my money and time for my children, friends, and strangers but do not have love I might as well have given them nothing.
Love is patient and kind, it doesn't show off and point at itself on instagram or facebook.  It does not assume its way is better or get mad when things do not work out perfectly.  Love does not enjoy when others fail but gives praise for the glory of God in everyone's life.
Love takes it all in, the good, bad and ugly, it believes in Truth and clings to Hope knowing whatever comes that love will never fail.

Our pool guy told me not to look outside until all the work was done because it would be a mess, it would not be pretty behold but all I could think was if I miss the mess in the middle, the ugly parts, the not so pretty in the midst of restoration, how can I fully appreciate the beauty of the end result?

Though that Perfect Love is indeed living in you, this loving thing still might look like a big ol' mess to you before it ever looks anywhere close to good, but without seeing your beginning and middle you can not fully appreciate the end God has already begun to reveal and will fully complete as promised.

I'm praying you will see His love first so that His is what you give away, pray for me.

For other posts in the learning to love series...

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