Love-Longing

winter berries bestIt’s a gloriously slow, snowy morning…quiet and peaceful. All my sweethearts are warm, cozy, and asleep.  Me….warm and cozy in my comfy chair, pondering the truth of God’s love.

Recently a friend challenged me to consider what love really is.  What does it mean to be loved by God?  What does it mean to be loved by another?  What does love look like in a relationship?  What is it supposed to feel like?  I think those were all her suggested questions for pondering…there were probably more, but you get the idea.

I am accepting that challenge.

It’s something I want to understand.  I need to understand. Sometimes I struggle to allow myself to be loved.  I think in the back of my head and heart I’m waiting for someone to say, “Nope.  You aren’t worth it.  I thought I loved you, but you just really haven’t lived up to my ideals. You are not ideal.”

Maybe it’s because I’m so intimately acquainted with my failings and my fears and my frustrations…I know myself.  

Maybe it’s because I don’t really understand how I can be loved for me, not just for what I do or say or don’t do or don’t say.

Maybe it’s because I don’t understand how much the Father really and truly loves me.  I can’t comprehend it.  I can’t grasp it.  I can’t believe it.

Intellectually, I believe it. But in every other way, I don’t seem to get it.  

Why in the world does He want to love me, much less actually love me?  

What is it about me that is lovable?  What is it about me that is beautiful to Him?

My life has been marked by conditional love…if my behavior, my actions, my accomplishments, my looks, my work, my spirituality, the circumstances all work out, if no one else is available…then I’m quite lovable to some.  But if the stars aren’t aligned then not so much…

I think I’m finally understanding that I can’t make people love me (nor should I) and wondrously I can’t make God not love me.

Sigh.  There is so much comfort in that.  I wish I knew how to live like I know it.

Love….such a huge concept, and yet so simple.

It all comes together in three little words.

God is love.

Three profound little words.  Three syllables.  Three short little words in a short little sentence that encompass all the meaning the world could ever truly need.

I need love because I need God.  

I am daring love to change me.  Daring love to strengthen me.

I can do this, because I believe that God speaks truth when He says that He is love.

Love isn’t some feeling I have to feel to live.  It is a Person I have to know to survive.

A capital P person.  

I keep thinking that some little p person is going to help me understand love.  How unfair of me!  No one can possibly love me like Jesus does.  They can try…and honestly please do! But I can’t expect the love-longing I have in me to be filled by any person.  

What person could possibly love me perfectly?  

I love my children more than I thought I could possibly love another human being and I fail miserably at it.  Daily.  How is another person supposed to step into my far less than perfect life and love me perfectly?  

What would someone loving me perfectly look like anyway?  I mean really.  

Sometimes I think I really want the Hallmark movie love…the fairytale, pursue me, happily ever after kind of love.. I thought I had that…but clearly I did not.  I kind of had the Lifetime movie love…drama, adultery, betrayal.

But really and truly I want the kind of love that God talks about…the lay-down-your-life love.  The no-fear love.  The unconditional love.   The you are such a mess and I love you anyway love.

Already have it.

Have always had it.

Just keep forgetting it.

I believe that when I grasp how loved I am by God, I will be better at receiving love from others.  When I understand that I’m worth loving because I’m the me God made me to be, then I can love without fear.

And be loved without fear.

I’m working on it. I’m making an effort to allow myself to be loved and to not try so hard to earn love…to let go of the trying.   To let go of the working at being lovable.

I’m probably more lovable when I’m not trying so hard anyway.

There are verses about love that I love. Verses that remind me that love is more than just feeling warm and cuddly.  Love is bold and daring.  Love is action.  Love is strength.

There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. 1 John 4:18

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8

And over all these virtues put on love which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18

I love you Lord, my strength.  Psalm 18:1

I have loved.  I have trusted when it was really, really difficult to trust.  I have leaned in to anxiety and pushed through fear and determined to know how to love well and received love well and see God work

I have succeeded and I have failed.  I have opened up my heart and I have closed it as quickly…only to break it back open again.  I have softened my heart and hardened it…and allowed it to be massaged back to tenderness. I have laid awake with fear and closed my eyes in prayer for peace.  I have determined to understand this thing called love.

It is challenging.  It is terrifying.

Love is all the beautiful things and all the heartbreaking things.  But isn’t that life?  Isn’t life about living messy?  

Love is messy..  

When Jesus was beaten, whipped, and bloodied for me, it was messy.

When Jesus carried that horrific cross down the Via Dolorosa, it was messy.

When Jesus hung on that scandalous cross dying, it was messy.

A magnificent mess of love.    

God loves me in my messiness.  God loves me in my chaos.  God loves me in my fears, doubts, anxious thoughts, and frustrations.  God loves me regardless of how well I love Him.  

He will always love me.

I pray my heart grasps the deep, deep love of Jesus.  

I pray my heart opens wide for that love.

I pray my heart learns from that love how to give and receive love well.

Love is worth it.

My Savior tells me that I’m worth it.  

 

Help Me Beez Good

Image  This past Sunday morning, my kids and I were sitting around the living room sharing prayer requests and talking.  As we prepared to bow our heads, my youngest daughter asked if she could pray.   I said, “Sure, sweetie!”

Now Allison can be a little spicy…you never know how much spice is gonna hitcha, but hitcha it will.  So I was expecting something if not surprising, at least amusing, to come out of her beautiful little lips.

I opened us in prayer and then she shared her prayer…

“God help me beez good…”

It was followed by a request that others of the family would beez good as well…we all smiled.

My sweetheart struggles with anger, frustration, and acting out.  Just like the rest of us.

We all needed that prayer.

I definitely need to pray that prayer too.

I just finished reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  It’s a beautiful story…a challenging story…a story that puts my struggles in perspective.

It’s beautiful because of God in these people…in Corrie and her family and their friends.

Its’ challenging because I want so much to be like them…like Corrie ten Boom’s mother who graciously gives even when they have so little, who takes the time to reach out to those in need even though she herself is in need, who steadfastly loves God and her family and everyone around her.

I want to be like that.

I want to be good like that…not just for the sake of being good though.  I don’t just want to appear good, I want to actually do good…be good for God.

How many people’s lives were touched because of the simple, loving faith of that beautiful woman?

I know sometimes stories don’t share the rough days when tempers flared or frustrations were evident, but even so, the beauty of a woman willing to love others despite her own poverty and pain…that’s glorious.  That’s good.

Writing about being or doing good is always tricky…especially because I’m all about grace.  I don’t want to live without grace and I want to be overflowing with it toward others.

But God does call us to do good…

And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap,

if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone,

and especially to those who are of the household of faith.  Galatians 6:9-10

Paul’s description of good, I think, is laid out in the verses before these.  Verses were he shares the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – and in verses where he reminds us to “walk by the Spirit.”  He calls us to do good, but it is with the strength of the Holy Spirit and the realization that it is not within our power to do much of anything truly good without God.

I think the good comes in…when I love well, when I speak words that encourage and edify, when I don’t sin in my anger, when I offer hospitality no matter the inconvenience, when I forgive for the millionth time…those are good things…exquisitely good.  And those things…those things offered as sacrifices of praise to God…that is us loving God.  That is us thanking God.  That is us loving others.  That is us doing good.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 

Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 

Each of you should use whatever gift you have

to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. 

If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength

God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. 

To him be the glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.  1 Peter 4:8-11

Not good for good’s sake…or good so others can see that we are good…it’s good for God.

As a parent, I don’t want my children to think that they have to be good to earn love…not from me or from God.  But sometimes I think that is the message I give without meaning to.  But God NEVER gives that message to us.

He says, “When you were at your worst, at just the right time, I died for you.”

He says, “I love you and you are precious period.”

He says, “I forgive you.”  There is no “again” at the end of that sentence, because God doesn’t keep count…I do, but He doesn’t.

My heart just leapt in my chest at that realization.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.

He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to his children,

So the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.

For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:8-14

I can’t be good.  Just can’t do it.  I can pray for it, but really I don’t think I can do it.  But the Holy Spirit working through me can do it!  He can give me the ability to love others well, to serve well, to be all those things I want to be that constitute good.

I think an appropriate list of what it means to be good is 1 Corinthians 13:1-8…how cool that those verse describe God…and God, who is love, is good is He not!

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,

I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,

and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,

but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,

but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.

Today when my sweet little Allison gets home from school I’m going to talk to her about being good.  But not the usual talk.  You know the one, “Sweetie, can you choose to be good today?  To be kind?”

I’m going to talk to her about how Jesus is the only one who can truly help us to be or do good.  That I’m so proud of her for asking Him to help her.  And I’m going to ask if she’ll pray with me – that we can both beez good!