Hope begins to fade as the words are whispered,
“He loves me…”
With a quick pause and short sigh, so not to prolong the inevitable,
“He loves me not.”
Those are the words spoken as the last petal from what once was a flower falls to the ground…
It seems the word love gets thrown around so loosely these days. Often the words “I love you” are based on an emotional moment more than a sacrificial choosing. We fail to realize that it’s only after the choosing that the real feelings of deep and lasting love come, and endure.
There are many levels of love, but few of us take the time to really get to know what true love is. From the moment of our birth, we’re bombarded with messages from most every media outlet telling us that life is all about me. If you get, you will have… If you have, you will become… If you become, you will be… You will be happy! You will be fulfilled! You will be a success! We’re told, “If it makes you feel good, do it!” “YOU” have a right to get – to have – to be. Sadly, we attach our personal love meter, how much we’re willing to give and how much we’re willing to receive, on what others can give us, what they have to offer, and what we perceive ourselves to be.
Our Creator tells us different.
“Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matt. 22:37-39
Yet, at the same time we’re told to guard our hearts with all diligence.
“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.” – Proverbs 4:23, (msg)
How do we love God and others with all of our heart, soul, and mind? The Gospels of Mark and Luke add, “and with all of your strength”. How is this even possible? How is it possible to love openly while being guarded at the same time, and while we’re trying to get, to have, and to be whatever it is that will make us feel accepted and happy, and dare I say loved?
It’s not at all possible, if we are measuring our love out by our own human emotions. We should not dismiss our emotions. Often times God uses our feelings to move us toward or away from something, but we should not depend solely on them either. We all have been bruised by the evils that war against us in this life, and the spirit of fear is not shy to scream its accusations of others and of God at us. We all have met people who chose to manipulate tender hearts in order to rob from them something that they themselves never intended to repay. Those people have chosen the “it’s all about me” life. Fear follows closely behind these encounters, then causes us to lock away parts of our hearts in hope to guard against further painful attacks.
“Hurting people hurt people.”
This is both a true and a false statement. Who hasn’t been hurt? You’ve been hurt. I’ve been hurt. But, I do not set out to hurt others before they can have the chance to hurt me. I refuse to buy into the mindset of “every man for himself”, nor do I live by the motto that we should “take before something is taken”. I get highly tempted, but I refuse to lock up my ability to care because someone(s) else has chosen to do me wrong. I am choosing to let the lessons of pain cause me to ask the question, “What is love and how can I walk in it, even when others don’t?” Only I can choose to allow a cycle of abuse to continue or not. Only I can choose to pay it forward by inflicting further pain or becoming better myself. Only when I allow the trials of life to better me will I be able to love as I long to be loved, and to “love my neighbor as myself.”
“As long as you’re not hurting anyone, do whatever you want.”
How many times have we heard it said, “Well I’m not hurting anybody”? If we choose to live with this as our life’s motto, we choose to live a lie! Our actions do matter. We will either impact this world in a positive way, or we will leave a trail of tears, a destructive trail for those who follow after us to clean up. The questions we should all be asking ourselves is, “How would I like it if I were on the receiving end of what I’m about to do?” “Am I loving my neighbor as myself?” Or, how about the tougher question, “Am I loving my family, my spouse, as I do myself?” Ooo, I think I just heard a great big “Ouch!” echo throughout cyberspace. If we cannot learn to love at home we’re nothing less than a hypocrite when we walk out the door.
All is not hopeless.
If you are the one who has been the wounded now turned thief, the one who chooses to hurt before you get hurt, welcome to the human race. We all have been both the victim and the robber. But here’s the good news, you can choose to stop a vicious cycle. Today you can choose to do right. Yesterday is gone but today is before you. Be courageous! Let God in so He can heal and transform you. He wants to give you beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of a heavy burden (Is. 61:3).
You’re the victim?
Here is where we learn to guard our heart. We do not have to let others have the keys to our hearts. We do not have to let them continue to rob from us, especially after they are long gone from our lives. It is possible to love someone from a distance when they’ve proven be to unsafe. There are times when saying “No” to someone is the best way to love them. To enable them the ability to continue to victimize us is not loving them well. This is when we take back our keys. First, we must be sure we’re thinking clearly ourselves and not making false accusations. It’s perfectly okay to seek godly counsel from a trusted friend or studied therapist. God gave them this gift of helps, so they can help!
When we take back our keys it’s not to just hang them on a hook. They have a great purpose. We should use them to unlock those places that pain has punched and fear has sucked up our life’s-breath. If we choose, we can ask God to give us the courage to visit the painful places (Here is where a trained psychologist may be very helpful) and search our own hearts motives, and then we can ask Him to correct our thinking when our thinking has proven to be destructive either to ourselves or others. We can ask God to show us His truth from the lies, and then allow Him to take our wounded hearts and make them whole.
(I cannot stress enough that a trusted licensed, and godly, therapist is more than ok to talk with. Remember, we are a body of believers and we need each others strengths to help us grow. We are all in this growing process together. Don’t let fear, pride, or legalism keep you from being free. Exposing things to light purifies!)
Just one more thing!
Have you ever noticed that those who tell us that we have a right to get, to have, and to be, are usually the same people who ask us what’s next before we even have time to celebrate our most recent achievement? If we meet a special someone, we’re quickly asked when the wedding will be. When the wedding happens, we’re asked when the baby is coming before the cake gets cut. When the baby’s born, we’re asked when he or she will have a sibling before we leave the hospital. We are constantly reminded that we have a void within, and that emptiness causes us to keep reaching for the next thing, or social level. Rarely do we pause just to give thanks.
May I pose a challenge to you here? Will you take this moment to pause and to thank God for all that is right in your world right now, even what you consider to be the small things? Do you have a roof over your head and running water? Thank Him. Do you have a family that is driving you crazy? Thank Him that you have a family – many do not. Do you have gum in your pocket? I love gum and I’m thankful for it! Do you see where I’m going with this? If we will pause to think about all of the little things we so often take for granted, we will realize how much we do have and how much we’ve already achieved.
I was so painfully shy and scared as a child that I could barely speak. I kept my whole world lock up tight deep inside. My own grandmother had to back me into a corner just to give me a hug. Today, I love people and want to share how beautiful life can be with them, and I hug people. In this process of discovering all the blessing we have, we will also realize that the void we feel deep within our soul is God-shaped. Only He can fill it. The more we thank Him, the more our focus will turn to Him. The more we focus on Him, our empty place will be filled with Him, and the more we’re filled with Him, the more we can receive and give His love to others.
Trusting God is the first step. We have to let Love in so we can let Love out.
“He Loves Me!”
…God picks up all the fallen petals and says, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you.” – Jer. 31:3