Tuesday, December 20, 2011
On The Third Day of Christmas...
1 Peter 4:8 -- Above all, love each other, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Let's say you find a baby. It's on your doorstep. It's crying. What's the first thing you do? Do you stick a bottle in its mouth? Do you spoon some baby food into its mouth? Do you leave it on the porch and dial 911? No. At least, I hope not. You pick it up and hold it.
We all want to feel safe, secure, and loved. There are very few needs we have as humans -- food, water, some bodily functions -- but a life without love is rarely survived. I'm not talking about ooey, gooey, mushy, sweet, sap-covered, "I love yOOooOOooOOu more" kind of love. I'm talking about the sort of love that covers a multitude of sins.
In any relationship, two people will not always see eye to eye. Spouses, siblings, best friends, colleagues. There will be strife, and tension, and arguments. The question is, are you going to let it get in the way of loving one another? Is your desire to be right more important than your desire to be peaceful? To love and be loved? To be happy?
Let's say your significant other leaves his or her dirty t-shirt on the floor next to the laundry. Choices: yell at them until they get it right, ask them nicely to put it where it belongs, pick it up yourself and put it where it belongs because that takes two seconds and isn't demeaning at all.
Next level: Let's say your significant other pulls your car out of the garage and breaks off the mirror. Choices: make a scene about how awful and irresponsible that was, tell them it's their responsibility to call and make an appointment to get it taken care of, bash their mirror with a baseball bat, or duct tape it up and make an appointment yourself.
There are many levels to which we can take this. But my point is, there's always a choice in how we can deal with things. Letting Love rule is always the best option. Whether someone has hurt you emotionally, accidentally destroyed something you prized, or was simply thoughtless or careless, loving them through it, in spite of it, can place your relationship smack in the middle of something beautiful.
My husband loved me when I was at my lowest. When I did not deserve love. When I did not give love. When I could not love myself. He was compassionate to me when I was devoid of compassion. He taught me what true, unconditional love, was all about. Engraved on the inside of each of our wedding rings is, "The greatest thing..." The whole quote wouldn't fit. "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." Without him, my husband, loving me... I would be lost. I feel that with this gift of love, I'm more equipped to love others. Loving him is easy. Loving others, not so much.
Loving people you already love, when they love you back, is usually pretty simple though, right? Learning to love people you can't stand isn't. Loving people that you don't think deserve your love is nearly impossible. "If you love those that love you, what credit is that to you?" -- Luke 6:32. "But I tell you who hear me, love your enemies. Do good to them that hate you." -- Luke 6:27
Wow. Talk about difficult! There may be nothing harder to do than to love someone who hates you. The people who treat you terribly. The people who you can always count on to make you feel like the smallest version of yourself. The people who get under your skin, who talk about you behind your back, who make your life a living Hell. I mean people who have lied to you, betrayed you, ruined your reputation, messed up your past, caused others to hate you, made fun of you, belittled you, condescended to you, lied about you, broke your heart, and stomped on your trust.
How do you love someone like that? Isn't it impossible?
How did God love the world so much that He sent His Son to die for us? To give us another chance?
We've treated Him terribly. We've wasted His gifts. We've talked badly to Him and about Him. We've tried to lie to Him, we've betrayed Him, we've spread falsehoods about Him, we've caused others to hate Him, we've belittled Him, put Him down, made Him inferior to our own wills, and broken His heart countless times. Every single one of us, every single day.
Sure, He can do it -- He can love us, because He's God. He's omniscient, omnipotent, eternal. He *is* perfect Love.
Oh, but wait... that same book also says that we're made in His image.
If that's the case, then inside each one of us dwells the spark of potential. We have the ability to love. We just have to exercise it. Some of us know what its like to want to exercise, but to be so exhausted at the end of the day that we have no desire left to do anything but eat potato chips and watch sitcoms. At the end of a long day of being bombarded by anything BUT love, the last thing we feel we can do is love others. But we can.
Start by looking deep within yourself and identifying your own flaws and problems and wrongdoings. Put yourself in another person's shoes -- how would you feel if you had to live their life? This isn't something that happens overnight. You don't just simply decide, "I'm gonna love people today" and then it happens instantaneously as though it were a made-for-tv movie. It takes soul-searching. It takes gut-wrenching honesty on your part. It takes courage, and strength, and wisdom. It takes prayer.
Oh, man -- does it take prayer.
I'm praying for each and every one of us, not just in the Christmas season, but all year long, to be able to love. To exercise that potential within us. To stretch our hearts as far as they will go. There's a little Grinch in each of us, isn't there? We might be surprised to find that our hearts are a few sizes too small... but if we place ourselves in the right circumstances, those hearts are bound to grow.
Our resolution starts today.