I’ve been crying on and off all day. It hasn’t been a bad day at all, really. I’ve gotten all quizzes finished and my written assignments are turned in for this first week of the fall semester. The tears that have come on and off have been both happy and sad ones for one main reason. Love. Up until yesterday afternoon I didn’t have a clue what this third blog post was to be about. The topic started to come together over a three hour lunch with friends after church during which we discussed how we relate to one another and if we really grasp what God’s love for us means. It was a timely conversation because I’ve had a difficult time this past week with various painful things all coming from relationships. Have you ever had a week like that – where you ask yourself if it’s really worth it at all to deal with those you love? Of course the answer is a resounding “Yes, of course, it’s worth it!” But this week I was physically, mentally, spiritually (and probably hormonally) challenged so I asked the question quite often. So back to the tears…one of the reasons I was crying today was because I have felt quite unloved lately by certain people in my life. I felt deep pain over this. It was the kind of pain that lives in the present tense but also feels like it’s drawing on something historical in your life. It’s the kind of pain that haunts you – the kind you’ve tried to protect yourself from all along. I heard Beth Moore in one of her video studies say that “we can self-protect ourselves right out of our callings“. It stung when I heard that because I knew I was doing that very thing. I’ve been protecting myself for a long time. Even writing this freaks me out because it means you know something more about me and that scares me more than I care to admit. In my brain that means you can have some kind of power over me, and I’ve always fought to control that at all costs because I believed myself to be an ugly human being. What goes through my brain is: If you really knew me, the private Sonia, you wouldn’t want anything to do with her because she’s not as smart as you first thought or as fun-loving as she comes off or as clean and neat as she seems to be. And for some reason, your opinion has always mattered most to me. So in public I’ve always smiled bigger when my heart is breaking (or I want to punch you out because you hurt my feelings) and laughed louder when I want to run to make everyone think all is okay with me. I hide behind walls sometimes, even as a believer. The truth is this, I am an ugly person apart from God, but aren’t we all? We just have varying degrees of damage and perhaps different colored baggage, but baggage just the same. The two greatest commandments are about love and can be found In Mark 12 when Jesus was asked by a scribe which was the first commandment, Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. ‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. “And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-30). I was thinking hard about what God’s been trying to speak to me about love…both His and mine. Do I really have an understanding that God loves me – that He loves us? PERIOD, not a question mark. Since I’m being honest here, my answer is that I don’t always understand His love for me. I know the Bible says He does, and I have seen His love on display in so many ways in my life, even before I committed my life to Him, but somewhere in a broken place in my heart and mind I want to ask Him, “Do you love me because You have to or because You want to?” I don’t know why I’d want to ask Him that, but I do. I want to hear Him say, “I love you because I take great delight in you.” But even in asking the question, the answer is that He does say that. When discussing this with a friend she suggested I look in the back of the Bible for the word love and read all the verses on what God has to say about it. Jesus gave His life for me, for us, and that’s the display of His love in action. That’s how far He’s willing to go to show us He loves us. The only way for us to have a relationship with Him was for God’s only Son to come to this earth as a baby, live among us for 33 years, die on a cross and on the third day rise from the dead conquering death forever and offering us a way out of a life of sin. The only way for me to have a relationship with Him was for a ransom to be paid for my sins, and He did that. My only job was to receive it, and I did. I do. I just struggle with love in general, so I have to trust Him with my heart in order to know more about His love. I have to be willing to hurt. I know I’ve hurt people by accident or on purpose, and I need to forgive and to be forgiven, but most of all I need to love the way He says I should. In order to do these two commands, I need to know the truth of that kind of love. I need to know the truth. The truth is love is painful, but it’s worth it. We love by action, by sacrifice, by willing to be wrong, by willing to be vulnerable even if it kills you – which it probably will, if you’re like me. We get to see the heart of God through being honest with each other, laughing with each other, forgiving one another, rejoicing with each another, weeping with each another and reconciling with one another. God made us to love Him and to love each other. We are made in His image. I am His daughter, and He loves me. That’s what He says, and I need to take Him at His Word. He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t change His mind. He isn’t cruel, He isn’t out to pull a fast one. He isn’t going to betray me. He isn’t going to deceive me. He is going to free me every day as I walk with Him. So, I am going to grab a hold of His hand as He walks me through the discovery of that truth until the day I walk into eternity with Him. I close with posing the question, “Do you know that God loves you?” If your answer isn’t a confident yes, look deep into His word, cry out to Him and let Him have your whole heart. You can trust Him with it. I’m scared too, but He tells us not to be afraid. Listen to what He says about His love in 1 Corinthians 13 (starting in verse 4-8a): Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. His love never fails. That’s a promise from Him to us. NEVER FAILS. So the way I see it, the more I understand His love, the more I love Him and love others. So let’s travel on the path of discovery of that kind of love….the real kind…the “never fails” kind. Last week I wrote that that post was the hardest to write. I lied – I have accumulated quite the pile of tissues next to this laptop because I am wrecked by writing this one. Until next week, my friends 🙂
P.S. As to the the ugly stuff inside of us, look at what Jesus says about a sinful woman, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.“(Luke 7:47) That’s what Jesus’ love can do – turn a sinful woman into a loving woman.