LET LOVE COVER
the miracle of love
It wasn’t a fast pace by any calculation but rather uneventful and boring. There were not any perceived dangers but my mind was still twisted and contorted by the events of the prior day and somehow I just slammed into his rear bumper. It seems impossible that I could have been so aloof. His car was pretty and expensive and it looked very new so certainly he would ask me where in the hell my brain had been and he would have had every right to be disgruntled by my senseless lack of attention and the untimely disruption during his morning commute. He got out of his car as I fearfully anticipated some nasty remark about women drivers, but instead he looked at his bumper and then asked me if I was okay. I let him know how sorry I was and then the unthinkable happened. This tall, very physically fit and beautifully dressed black man looked at me and said “I’m just glad you are okay. Don’t worry about my bumper”. He got in his car and drove away. Maybe it didn’t occur to him in that moment that he loved me, but he did, and I felt it. He loved me by not getting angry and by not placing the appearance of his car over the condition of another human person. He loved me by letting his tender heart cover a multitude of wrongs that day. And he didn’t just love … he loved deeply, allowing the love in his heart to interrupt a collision.
The day before had been September 11, 2001, the day that evil overwhelmed and succeeded in shaking and rattling America as we knew it. I believe in the moment that I plowed into the back of his shiny car, that sweet man realized that there was something bigger than he or I causing commotion in the world. He knew I had been shaken too. He knew that shiny metal and fancy chrome emblems had little value in comparison to the value of the love our world so desperately needed. In that moment he gave me what the whole planet craves; grace, a do-over, forgiveness and a hope for redemption. In every way, he interrupted the standard. The day before 9/11, he might have been angry and responded very differently to me, but on the day after he had an entirely different perspective; a perspective we all need from time to time. Love is a miracle just waiting to happen and who doesn’t need a miracle? Jesus has this perspective of us and we need to know it. He loves us just as much the day after our collisions as he did the day before. He knows what is going to hit us even when we don’t see it coming and He is prepared for every crash and burn.
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear-minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:7-9. Wow. Love covers a multitude of sins! Do you know what I think might be going on here? If we are supposed to love deeply and not grumble because love alone can conquer sin, then I just bet we are exposing a multitude of sins every time we get upset or angry. If love covers then anything less must reveal, or worse, expose a multitude of sins. Just maybe that is the miracle of love.
~ The Purpose of Pain ~
Even though God empowers us to combat our pain and the pain of others in the world, He desires for us to see its purpose. For you and I to leave a legacy of love with Christ’s name written all over it we will need to embrace our past, present and future pains. You see, God has plans for us to carry His light into our places of darkness if for no other reason than to help someone who is lost to find their way out and into His saving grace. He alone makes it possible for us to find and hold onto joy, peace, comfort and hope amidst any trial we might endure. It is also there that He is best able to prove His love for us. Our pains are not meaningless. When revered as pivotal moments in your relationship with Jesus, pain is often the catalyst that drives impactful change, change that may be behavioral or relational.
None of us want pain. Isn’t it the last thing we ever want for ourselves and for our loved ones? Sure it is and I am no different in desiring detours that would steer me clear of every possible painful catastrophe. Though I can confess that when I look back on every deeply painful trial I have walked through, I emerged stronger, more compassionate, less arrogant, more humbled, less prideful and more thankful. So, if I can see that it is true for me that pain has produced refinement and an improved quality in my heart then I believe it is also true for you. For this reason my prayer is that we could all see and appreciate that God has a purpose in pain and that it is ultimately to be used to honor and glorify Him.
The book of Isaiah has something interesting to share about how God works in the darknesses we will experience in life. What if the darkness is where treasures are hidden?
Isaiah 45:3 (NIV)
“I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”
In her book, “Choose Joy”, author Kay Warren said this about darkness, “The immediate challenge for me was to believe that treasures in the darkness actually exist and then to believe I could find them. And yes, I had to accept and embrace the truth that these treasures are a special category of gifts from God, hidden riches ONLY to be found in the secret places of my deepest pain and agony.”
When we can truly begin to embrace that God is at work in every situation of our lives, even the most painful, I believe we can find strength to hunt for the gold. Those nuggets are precisely what helps us to look back on the hardest parts of our lives and exclaim confidently, “I would do it all again” because we realize that without the pain we might not have ever uncovered the treasure.
In Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV) we can see that God also uses circumstances with unpredictable outcomes to reveal His greatness. “Call to me. I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah was in confinement when God gave him that instruction. There are very great things, insights, wisdom and mysteries - things we cannot search for answers to on our own - that God will reveal to us, and it is possible that some sort of painful confinement is exactly what we need to motivate us to call out to Him.
Finally, throughout the Psalms we witness over and over that David’s sorrow turns into rejoicing and his pains become songs of praise. God referred to David as a man after His own heart, the source of the greatest love of all. David was barely able to avoid pain for a moment but yet his life was used to help accomplish extraordinary fame for Jesus.
You and I would be hard pressed to find a person in the Bible who didn’t endure deep pain. Every apostle and disciple, prophet and leader walked through something they would have rather given up an arm than to go through and yet all of our Biblical heroes died leaving the legacy of the love of Christ. God desires the same for us, to expose beautiful treasures in the depths of our darkest pain.
May be we blessed to know that every pain we endure has a purpose and if we let it, in hope, our pain will lead to the kind of love that Jesus has made famous.
Love is risky, I know. And it hurts so much at times, I hear you. But the greatest sacrifice yields the deepest rewards. When it comes to love, God will always return to us what we give away for His sake.
(Prayer) Jesus, you have loved like a wild man, crazy with a passion and desire to see the massive collection of us redeemed and restored to you. Lord, empower us with more than a gentle or timid willingness to love a little. Empower us with hope that never doubts, energy that never fades, courage that never fears and joy that cannot be contained. Lead us in love that conquers evil. Amen.
I lack the proper wisdom to offer you a self-help book in this arena, so instead, here is my best attempt at a self-help paragraph. Roots of bitterness, hatred and unforgiveness will strangle the best and most beautifully potential parts of us if not weeded out. Be honest with God about your feelings, your old or fresh unhealed wounds. You can pray for healing and restoration. I also recommend asking God to ...
Yes there is pain in love. Love is a sacrifice and in many ways a risk because we are asked to give away the most precious thing. We may have to give up comfort and risk emotional safety and we may even open ourselves up to more pain - but our sacrifices bring rewards.
LET LOVE SACRIFICE
the pain of love
I’ve known a bit about the pain of love, even knowing what it feels like to want to withdraw it all, strap it to an anchor and leave it on the ocean floor where the sharks might chew it bit by chunky bit. I’ve thrown in the towel a few times. Some of my deepest wounds have been betrayals by very close friends and loved ones. Many people do not take love, honor and loyalty seriously, leaving the rest of us feeling foolish. Our fear regarding love has everything to do with the reality that it might not be returned or that it might not last forever. I have been hurt by a couple of close friends in my lifetime which led me to a very personal pledge that I would never allow myself to have a “best” friend again. It felt much safer to me to just categorize everyone as a “friend” and maintain my deeper feelings as private without ever revealing my softest side. Tina Turner evidently understood this. She sang “What’s Love Got To Do With It” like she deeply meant it. The rest of the world could relate, apparently, because it was her biggest success ever in a career that has spanned 4 decades. Rolling Stone magazine even named it one of the top 500 best songs of all time. The lyrics were simple: “What’s love got to do with it? What’s love but a second hand emotion? What’s love got to do with it? Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?” We are so affected by love that we either run full-speed toward it or full-speed away.
What if we were to reverse the waste, abandon the greed, destroy what is self-serving to instead become drenched in the overflow and get back into the business of doing exactly what it is we were created to do? To do love and to be love. To be hearts in the shape of Christ, walking it out step-by-step across the planet until Heaven comes. It may sound far-fetched, but who cares? If we carried love into the darkest places the whole world would be brighter and everyone could see where they are going. Jesus made it simple when he said in Matthew 22:37-40 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” If we love God and love others, the full extent of the law is being fulfilled in us.
I don’t know about you, but when my time passes and I meet my maker, I want but one great accomplishment to be stamped across my earthly file. SHE LOVED WELL. More than I want to be pretty and in good shape I want to be love. More than I want to accumulate riches I want to drip love. More than I want to be a notable author, I want to live love. More than I want to raise children to succeed in the world, I want to raise children who are love. More than I want to be remembered for knowledge or wisdom, a talent or ability, I want to be remembered for love. I want to love when it’s hard, when it hurts, when it seems impossible and to love with a love that stops the flow of tears and turns frowns upside down. I want to love with a hope that can never be undone, and with a fury that makes demons cry. I want to be of the love that defeats evil, the most excellent kind of 1st Corinthians 13:4-7 love; “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” And when I’m gone, I want my love to remain, to keep working, and to keep loving. I want to leave a legacy of love.
The only way we can feasibly love the way God loves us is to first receive the full offering of His love and let it steep. Let it be. To let love be our DNA, our ground-wire, our equalizer and neutralizer. God’s love is in us so that we can be love to the world. Let us let love be.
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Nehemiah 9:16-17 “But they and our ancestors acted presumptuously and stiffened their necks and did not obey your commandments; they refused to obey, and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them; but they stiffened their necks and determined to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them.”
Hold.Up.Wait.A.Minute! Like me, are you wondering how your biography wound up in the book of Nehemiah? Stiff-necked much? Oh the ways I have refused to obey.
I have remained in situations that God asked me to step away from.
I have worked with stubborn persistence to try and force outcomes.
I’ve withheld encouragement from those who needed it.
I’ve celebrated the failures of people I secretly dislike.
I have worshiped my children.
I have disrespected my spouse.
I've been selfish, greedy, judgmental....
This list could continue for pages but the bottom-line is …I’ve ignored Jesus when my own will has struggled for control.
There are two paths to choose in this life, my own or His. When I choose to ignore Him (disobedience) and create my own path, I am stiff-necked.
Think literally about a stiff neck for a moment. Regularly I wake up in the morning with a sore and stiff neck due to the position in which I sleep, and as I get older the problem worsens. At times I have trouble turning my head to see when I’m driving to change lanes or merge because my neck is so sore. When I’m standing and someone behind me calls out my name, I have to turn my entire body around to communicate because the range of motion in my neck is limited. Literally, my neck is too stiff to look.
If you have naughty children or naughty pets, you may have experienced times where you discovered something they’ve done that they shouldn’t have and so you raise your voice with a disappointing tone to get their attention. It’s not unusual for me to find a mess and approach my youngest son, Shawn, with my mommy tone and say, “OH SHAWNIE – what happened here?” In his wildest dreams, he believes that if he doesn’t acknowledge me (sitting 2 inches away from his face) and doesn’t look toward me, that I might simply let it go. This is stiff-necked, the refusal to acknowledge disobedience. We refuse to look because we know. We know exactly what we’ve done or not done and we simply cannot bear the eye-contact, the confirmation. We’d much rather pretend it never happened and hope for a redemptive do-over. The error in that though is that the redemption comes when we look toward, not when we look away. When we look to, we see a God who sees us with unfathomable love.
Such beauty and comfort and joy find my heart in these words. “Abounding” is a word to describe a sense of overflowing, something that has been well provided, while “steadfast” simply means firm and unwavering. Hope lives here in the love of God. Even when we are disobedient, when we ignore the wonders of the Lord and when we choose slavery to this world over freedom in Christ, God loves us with an overwhelming, firm and unwavering love that overflows. Unstoppable love. Timeless, His love knows not only no end but also no beginning. He has always loved us. Pure, there is nothing more amazing as the healing, saving, perpetual condition of being loved by the One who gathered dust in His hands to form the first man, thereby breathing life into each one who would come next. Yet we’ve spent millenniums confusing what we were created for, substituting all manner of waste for the one thing that truly can never be wasted... love.
LET LOVE BE
Africa and her orphans have done something irrevocable to my soul, having shaped me into a messenger and an advocate for the motherless, hungry and other vulnerable children in her heat. After years of finding ways to bring water or food, provide school fees, blankets and other needs, what they keep thanking me for is my love. But I know this love and it isn’t mine. For it to be mine would imply that I brought it up and out and gave it away but only Jesus can do that. So, I’ve looked at His life and studied His feet, sensed the movement of His Spirit and all that I can see is love. Soft love. Hard love. Even disciplinary love and ultimately unfathomable sacrificial love. And the Bible asks, even challenges us to live and walk like He did. We know how difficult that is but still His example hangs stretched out before us. Do we watch and observe or look away? I believe we are supposed to imitate Him until it becomes real in us, His love that works wonders, because after all we are the ones charged with carrying out his mission of love. Every single thing He has done demonstrates our way. This is the challenge - that we would let His love be in us so much so that we become love at every turn and every standing still.
This may be complicated but yet it is this simple … that we would let love be the underlying, common denominator in every aspect of our lives, what drives the things we do day in and out. That love would be our bottom-line in relationships, at work, and parenting. That love would be the motivation in why we carry out tasks and chores, resolve conflict, acquire things and that it would be the object of our desires … love to a world of hurting people.
Sometimes we try to place our love in people, things and experiences, which is misguided at best. Let’s ponder this, that Jesus invited us to “follow” him. In repeated instances the New Testament shows us that Jesus would ask his disciples as he chose them, one by one, to leave whatever they were doing (working, family, etc.) and walk with him. We can imagine it as him saying something akin to “follow me and I’ll meet your needs for work, enjoyment and relationship.” In this modern age, however, we tend to focus first on meeting our needs for these things and then to give Jesus whatever we might have leftover; a couple of minutes for prayer or possibly a few moments for devotional or Bible reading. I believe we are tragically missing out. Jesus’ focus for healing was love, as was his focus for salvation. He rescues because he loves and redeems and restores out of and because of His great love. Love was his constant motivator, his reason for everything. It is possible for us, and maybe even necessary for us to live with the same set of desires and intentions. To let love be the reason for everything.
In order to let love guide our hearts, focus our minds and lead our lives, we have to be intentional about putting it in front of us and then to go where it goes. What if we thought about every little (or big) thing in terms of love? Love that is patient and kind, that puts others first and recognizes the weaknesses and wounds in others to know that they might need special handling? I believe we can do this. With God’s power, anything is possible.