(My good friend, from far too great a distance, Nathan, has suggested, in response to “smiles by Ayda” that I write about true love and how to sustain it. So, this one’s for Nathan, even though it’s probably not what he expected.)
Cowardice and selfishness are the arch-enemies of true love. There, I’ve said it.
True love is a mystery. It is a gift. It is idealistic and abstract. It is a person – Jesus – and all he represents. I don’t think I’ve ever really grasped it, much less experienced its fullness. But I have tasted it, seen a glimpse as it moved past, and I’ve smelled its aroma lingering in conversations, the words of a story, and the love of my wife.
Although I’ve experienced an amazing loving relationship with my wife, and I can’t imagine it’s possible to love someone more than I love her, I know how I fall short of the actual expression of love presented by God as true, deep, and untainted. Furthermore, I can’t tell you how to find it. It comes from God, and I don’t know how he makes it nor even how to place an order for it. I wish I did. I have many friends for whom I have prayed, even begged for that kind of experience. God must know, and yet . . . Here’s the best I can do:
How do you find that kind of love? Find Jesus. How do you find a spouse who hints toward that love or encourage your spouse to love in that way? I don’t know, but I suspect it’s related to the same answer: Find Jesus.
Every example or point God ever makes in scripture regarding love, seems to direct us to extreme acts of giving: give your life, your all, without hesitation, reservation or limitation. We struggle with love because we struggle with the instinct of self-preservation. To save ourselves, we protect ourselves from things we fear. We fear far too much. We are cowards. We are afraid of being foolish and of hard conversations. We’re afraid someone’s taking advantage of us. We’re afraid we’re wasting time and money. We’re afraid we’ll run out of money. We’re afraid we’re being too aggressive, or too passive. We’re afraid people won’t love us in return, and that we’ll get hurt. We’re afraid of missing the will of God. We’re afraid of the will of God.
You know what God’s will is? You’ve always wanted to know, right? I have. Here’s a hint:
Give, give, give. Everything. All you have. Today. Give everything you have for today to today. You’ll have more to give to tomorrow – his mercies are new every morning. Manna comes every morning. Grace abounds. Give to everyone. Give everything.
“Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Luke 6:38.
This verse is not a formula for wealth and prosperity in terms of your bank account or possessions. The context is about giving mercy, and pardon, and avoiding condemnation. Jesus is telling you to be generous with your heart and in response, your heart will be running over.
Why don’t we do it? We’re afraid. We want to preserve ourselves and in the process, we’re gaining the world (nothing) and losing our souls. We’re misappropriating the grace of God and the abundant life he offers.
You want true love? Be courageous and generous. Say the words that beg to be spoken. Say the difficult things, the confrontational things, but also say the beautiful, meaningful, deep things of your heart. Take a stand. Stand for what’s right in the face of adversity, even when you look like an idiot because everyone’s going the other way. Serve others. Stop and help a person shovel the snow from their driveway or change a tire. Help someone. Go on a mission to serve someone every day, especially if it’s embarrassing and other people think you’re foolish. Expect the best from people. Give the benefit of the doubt. Don’t be easily offended. Forgive someone. Stop whining and complaining. Write a letter and tell someone how much they mean to you. Buy someone’s breakfast. Learn to appreciate grace, and depend on it, for all of the days you can’t do any of these things – there will be plenty – and even on the days you can, because you know you can never do enough.
Love Jesus with all of your heart, rather than saving parts of your heart for other things.
These simple, courageous, generous acts of faith and love will open your eyes to a huge, marvelous world. They will set your heart free and light a fire under it. They will make you attractive and make others attractive to you. Will they help you find the right man or woman? I don’t know. Only God knows. Maybe you already have the right man or woman; you just don’t realize it. Either way, these things will definitely help you find God, and finding him is finding love more true than another human can offer.
Being cliche doesn’t mean the words aren’t true: Love is worth the risk. Life is worth the risk. Give your life to gain your life.
“Listen carefully to what I am saying – and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.” Mark 4:24 (The Message)