Loving: It All Begins With God
Can you imagine the freedom that would come to our hearts from having full confidence in the love of Christ? Would it help us love better?
It recently dawned on me that if I could create a magic pill to help people find love, get love and keep love that I would be rich.
Think about it. The number of books in your local book store on learning to love well are astounding. You can find instruction on how to love your spouse better, your dog better and your kids better. You can find info on how to love your mother-in-law more and get along with the hard-to-get-along-with people in your life. Not only are bookstores filled with helps on how to love well, but the Internet, television and magazines all provide "insight" on becoming a love guru.
So why is there so much info out there on learning to love well? Because no one has mastered the art of loving well—except Jesus.
Because Christ is God, He loves perfectly. So. . . when we learn to give and receive love from Him, we can love others well. Here's how receiving and believing in God's love for you will help you love well without spending a lot of dough on books.
Begin with God's love to give love
In his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning writes:
"Imagine that Jesus is calling you today. He extends a second invitation—to accept His Father's love. And maybe you answer, 'Oh, I know that. It's old hat. . .Lay a new word on me. I know the old one.'
"And God answers, 'That's what you don't know. You don't know how much I love you. The moment you think you understand is the moment you don't understand. I am God, not man. You tell others about Me—that I am a loving God. Your words are glib. My words are written in the blood of My only Son.'"
Can you imagine the freedom that would come to our hearts from having full confidence in the love of Christ? Would it help us love better? You bet it would. We would be freed from the fear of criticism, the prison of being performance driven and the tragedy of being ungracious. All of this would equal loving well.
Embracing God's love destroys the fear of criticism
If love is like a motor, then fear of criticism is like a big wad of bubble gum that gets stuck in that motor so it won't run. Fearing what others think always ruins the ability to love well. Why? Because it makes it impossible to be transparent with those we want to love. After all, how can you open up to someone you fear?
Thankfully, embracing God's love for ourselves destroys the fear of criticism.
When you accept the reality of God's love for you, you will no longer fear others' opinions. Therefore, you'll be able to focus on the object of your love instead of on yourself. God's love will create a new sense of security and confidence in you.
Don't get me wrong. No one feels secure all the time. I can't think of one person who hasn't feared criticism one time or another. However, it is possible to live a life that is generally characterized by freedom from the fear of criticism so that loving others well and in transparency is standard practice.
Embracing God's love destroys the fear of emotional pain
I once read that there are only two things that can pierce the human heart: beauty and pain. Isn't it interesting how closely the two are connected? Sometimes the thing that brings the greatest beauty is the thing that brings the greatest grief. For example, loving a spouse "for better for worse, for richer, for poorer," through the ages of life can usher in immense beauty, but when death steals our mate away, it can usher in immense pain. For this reason, loving can sometimes feel frightening when we wonder if we can handle the pain that comes from "putting our heart on the line" whether it's with a mate, friend or co-worker.
However, when we know that God loves us with agape love, which means we are confident that He has our best interest in mind, and that He is in control of our lives, we will find the confidence that we need to entrust our hearts to Him as we love others. God's love provides us with the security we need to make it through all heartache that loving well may bring.
Embracing God's love helps us to give grace
Have you ever thought that if you just had perfect people in your life that you could love better? If you only had a nicer mother-in-law, a more gracious wife, a more patient friend, you could finally love well.
Hollywood has fed us a lie that the good love only exists between perfect or almost-perfect people: the beautiful, the successful, the rich, those who look like they have it all together.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Love is not only experienced by those who are perfect. Instead, love can thrive between the unlovely and the imperfect, between average people like you and I. Why do I say this? Because love is never produced by the object of my love. Instead, love exists in me first when I choose to love in spite of someone's flaws.
This can only happen as I accept God's love and grace for my own imperfections. When this happens, humility will settle into my being and I'll know that if God can love me, that I can love others with grace, too. Therefore, no one in my life will be required to be perfect. Instead, they can just be. As I receive grace from God for my imperfections, I can pass that grace in love on to others.
Don't you find that knowing you can love well by living in a love relationship with God refreshing? I sure do! It frees me from stress of always trying to do everything in my relationships flawlessly. If I truly believe that God's love is transforming, then I know that all I have to do to love others well is to stay in a close love relationship with Him. Could there be anything better?
Copyright 2009 Shana Schutte. Used by permission. All rights reserved.