Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Things no one will tell you about love....

Anyone who has ever had a teenager in the house knows the truth spoken when one says, "You can't tell them anything!" Teens, by nature are very hard headed and also very sure of themselves. It's a brain chemistry thing. It means that they are going to make some very painful and hurtful mistakes, but once they learn the lesson, one also hopes that they will have it all firmly implanted in the hard drive for future reference!

I speak from experience, not because my own teenage daughter is all that hard headed, but because I was. VERY hard headed, indeed! I insisted on never listening to anyone over the age of 25 and I made a lot of costly, well learned mistakes. I have to say those lessons that were painful are ones I generally didn't repeat. Looking back, there were some things that I wish I could have listened to a little closer. I can't say it would have changed my path, but it might have at least slowed me down just a titch.

I wish that one of the things I could have learned about without all of that painful experience was love. I know that love is an intensely personal thing that differs for each person on an individual level, but there are some universal truths about love that I believe we all could benefit from.

In a land where divorce is commonplace, rudeness is accepted and common courtesy is not the norm, having some basic rules about loving others might keep some of the sanity in our daily living.

First off, let me say that love is a choice. It is not an emotion, passion, lust or a state of something we can be in, per se. Love is a process of decision making that takes over when we care deeply for someone. Love is a choice. We choose to stay when leaving would be easier, we choose to forgive when we have every right to be angry, loving someone means sacrificing our rights and yet not resenting those choices to do so... Ok, well at least not every time!

Not sure I know what I'm talking about? I agree, my view point is unconventional, but it is biblical... Check this out: Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn't want what it doesn't have. Love doesn't strut, Doesn't have a swelled head, Doesn't force itself on others, Isn't always "me first," Doesn't fly off the handle, Doesn't keep score of the sins of others, Doesn't revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 MSG) Does that sound like a volatile emotional response to you? Yeah, me neither! Wish I had known that when I was seventeen and trying to make some very important decisions about my life...

Secondly, love has lots of different stages. Weird. We grow up watching Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Julia Roberts and we buy into Hollywood's lie that it all looks the same. That love will find us in a coffee shop somewhere, and the guy will be the same guy for the rest of our lives: always romantic, always well dressed and always showered. Um... yeah... Nope. It changes. It comes at us in our youth full of hormones and looking very passionate, but if we truly do love, we stick it out through baby vomit, weight gain, balding heads and crabby pants. It becomes much more like the super comfy sweats that you slide into on a Sunday afternoon. Not something we want our neighbors to have to look at, but we love em just the same!

Lastly, love of the durable kind isn't really possible without God. We just can't wrap our heads around it without that most perfect of examples. Christ truly had the love thing down pat. He loves us when we are most unlovable. Christ loves us even when, in our sin and ignorance, we hate him. That is what I mean by choice. Christ has every right to leave us in the dust and despair that is the human condition... He doesn't. He picks us up out of that filth, brushes us off, gives us living water and chooses to love us even when we don't deserve it. I am immensely grateful for that, aren't you?

Choosing love isn't the easy thing to do. Choosing love isn't always understood by outsiders. Choosing love means that you might get hurt. Choosing love is, however the most important charge we get from Christ. "You didn't choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won't spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you. "But remember the root command: Love one another. (John 15:16, 17 MSG)

Thursday, October 6, 2011


You've seen the poster of the cute, cuddly little kitten hanging on the tree branch, mouth open wide with eyes like saucers. You can almost hear the pitiful meow as you read the "Hang in there!" caption that is supposed to encourage us and remind us that the waiting is only temporary...

If you have lived on this earth for any length of time at all, you know what waiting it out is all about. You know that after the job interview there will be waiting, after the tests are run there will be waiting, when you pray desperately to God for His guidance and aid there will be waiting. It isn't something we excel at, this waiting thing. In fact in the modern day, if you are asked to step outside the line at McDonalds to wait for your order you get rather incensed and irritated, "What exactly is 'fast food' if I have to wait?" Oh, and don't let the internet connection get bogged down... That is cause for all kinds of angst and lamenting! Waiting is not pleasant, and frankly we stink at it! Being stuck in limbo, waiting on something we deem incredibly important, can drive us into all kinds of unattractive behaviors.

You may not have known where the phrase, "Being stuck in limbo," originated. It has been around a long time and originates from the Latin word, limbus which means the edge of something or the boundary. It was used often to describe the edge of Hell. Limbo is one of those places described by certain religious traditions to be that place the dead were hanging out, waiting for Christ to escort them into Heaven. It was only a holding area for those that died in God's favor, but since Christ hadn't come to open the gates they had to hang out and wait for their guide to accompany them into paradise. A very fitting way to describe how we feel when we are waiting out there on a limb...

We can look into the gates of Hell, see and hear the wailing and the laments of past mistakes. We know we don't want to be there, but we have to hang out and wait for Christ to take us on to our true destination. Waiting is hard! The image of waiting at the edge of Hell should be encouragement not to make hasty decisions because we want movement - of any kind! If only I had the forethought to look at my Limbo moments like that!

I know from my own experiences that waiting is a dangerous place to be. I want to make something happen, often even if it is the wrong thing. Once I make a decision, I am often ready to move, with or without my escort there. The problem is, God has designed certain times in our lives to wait. It is a part of Christian growth that often gets overlooked. Well, ok... Maybe overlooked is too nice a phrase. Perhaps "ignored" is more accurate. We don't want to wait. We want to hear the Almighty answer right away, send us on our path and make it all easy peasy! But is that growth? Is that preparing us for times that we will need our patience and trust in our Lord? Not hardly... And it isn't likely that God will deliver it either.

When we wait God is growing us. He is growing our trust, growing our faith, building our spiritual muscles. Like anything, we have to practice to excel. If I decided to set a goal to run a marathon, I had better begin training for that marathon months in advance. Showing up the day of the race with no training or conditioning will spell disaster for my ultimate goal. My lungs will be ill prepared to deliver the oxygen my legs will need to keep running. My legs will not have the muscles built to keep my feet in motion to reach the finish line. My mind will be ill equipped to handle the mental stress of such a long run. God knows we need training and conditioning to run His race as well, and so He teaches us to wait.

Wait with anticipation and trust in God's will to give you hope and a future. Wait in prayer, communing with God about your anxiety and desires for the outcome. Wait knowing it will have a purpose to strengthen you and deliver you to a better place in the long run. Wait and treasure the time the Father is giving you to share with Him your heart.

When you are in Limbo, waiting on Jesus to walk you into the next phase, keep and eye and an ear open for the proof that bad decisions and hasty movement aren't worth the pain. In all movement toward your goal, pray for God's guidance and His will so that you won't be tempted to move without Him. God is very good at letting us know when we are on track. He may not give you billboard signs, but he will cause doors to be shut and windows to open. He will walk with you through anything He puts before you and He has promised to never leave you.

What are you waiting on today? Hang in there... It's worth it!