Ouch. Do I do this perfectly? No. Is it an area of growth and obedience for me? Yes. This testing ground for so much of this love stuff is within my own marriage. True love isn't all the mushy stuff of a young and whimsical heart. True love is tested in the fire of the nitty gritty of marriage and family life. So this is my take on this part of the I Corinthians 13 love chapter, because I'm still tackling love!
With love forgiveness is paramount. Does forgiveness mean you forget and pretend the offence never happened? Yes, in some cases. People make mistakes. People are tired, hungry, overwhelmed, and ignorant of how they effect you. We all hurt one another and I hope that those stupid mistakes I make are not in a record book. And yet, when there is someone who continually hurts you with not ever trying to make things right, yes you still forgive, and you do not keep a record of their wrongs, but you can remember that they are unhealthy for you and choose to keep at a safe distance. If the hurtful person wants to reconcile and makes an effort to repent from their unhealthy behavior, of course you forgive, you probably already have. But I want to add a warning, an abusive person will feign reconciliation during the cycle of abuse. I do not believe that we are to stay within anyone's cycle of abuse. Over time you will know if this person is genuine.
Be liberal in your forgiveness Christian brother and sister. Be good caretakers of your soul as well by not keeping a record of wrong, do not harbor bitterness a home in your heart, yet be careful to not allow unhealthy relationships destroy you.
So my original plan was to write about love in 2016. For some reason at the beginning of any year, I think that I posses the power to make plans that I am sure I will have the time to follow through on. Instead of hitting those plans out of the ballpark, I'm super busy trying to hit all the curve balls of that year. As the school year approached last fall many parts of my life filled up and got busy. Oh how I hate that word, busy. I don't use it any more with pride, I use it to describe that the unexpected took over my vision of how I wanted things to go.
This is where I left off my attempt to "Tackle Love". Love is not easily angered. I didn't really want to focus on thinking about this. I didn't want to be tested and tried in regards to anger. I don't know that I have been tested and tried in this area, but I have a few thoughts (I'm sure you do as well).
When you love someone, I mean really love THEM, you get to know them. Getting to know someone is knowing what makes them tick, and what sets them off. It is more difficult to get angry at someone that you know these things about. It is more difficult to get angry when you know these things and love them.
The people that I am closest to are my husband and my boys. I live with these people (except my oldest son now lives on his own). We know each other pretty well. Yes there is frustration. It is easy to become frustrated with someone when they don't do their part of chores, or who are too loud when they need to be quiet. I don't have a huge amount of anger toward them because I try very hard to know each of them and their differences. What I mean by anger is red blooded hot I want to ring your neck kind of emotion. But we do have frequent frustration. We are all different and have different likes, dislikes, wants and needs. Friction can happen without sparks flying if you keep things lubed with love. I think of love as knowing the other person and respecting their boundaries and trying to meet their needs. Love is saying thank you, please, and other life-giving words. Love is having respect for preferences. Love is other focused. Anger on the other hand comes from self focus and wanting what you want, when you want it, and your way. You can't really control other people's anger, but you can control how you love. Love doesn't breed anger, nor does it let itself be angered easily.
Love is not self-seeking (I Corinthians 13:5). I have been chewing on this one for a while now. I thought that this year would be easy to dissect love as it is shown I Corinthians. It is not easy. Not. One. Bit. This is painful, looking at what God says is love. It’s like pulling out multiple splinters out of the bottom of your foot, painful and necessary. Some of those splinters are deep and they need digging out. This whole not being self-seeking business is one of those deeply embedded splinters.
I always think in terms of relationships. Really, how else would you think about love? When I think about not being self-seeking, I go straight to thinking about marriage. The relationship of marriage is so often looked upon, by women at least, in terms of how we feel about what our husband does or does not do to make us feel loved. Wow, if that isn’t self-seeking I don’t know what is. But let me tell you, I have had many conversations with many different women, through different phases of their marriage and it is very much how we look at marriage. I am no different. I judge love in my marriage by what I get, not by what I give. This reality has come to the surface of my self-knowledge and it needs to change.
Yes, there are times that I think of my husband and what I can do for him or how to make him happy, or feel loved. Yet in my heart of hearts I know the truth, the truth that I really want to be more on the receiving end rather than on the giving end. How can this be turned around? Oh, it is like trying to change the course of a huge ship going 25 knots! The turn must be wide and will take time and a lot of resistance! It’s time to move the rudder! Read along as I think of what to do to express love in a way that is not self-seeking and remember that I’m preaching to the choir.
The first step to loving in a way that isn’t self-seeking is to allow the other person to be who they are. As I wrote those words, pictures of people come to mind, reminding me that I do not accept them just how they are. I want others to fit into my script, they should play the part I want them to play in my life. In the real world, life just doesn’t play out that way. We all are different and at different stages. I would want someone to love me for the real me, at whatever stage of life I am at. I need to do the same. This is especially true of my husband. He and I are very opposite in our personalities and I find myself wanting him to be more like me. I have a high need for people and activities of life, he on the other hand is more to himself and happy to be home when not a work. We are in agreeance with our values and lifestyle, but the difference comes in our approach of life and what we need socially. This is an area that I’m always working on, acceptance of him, just the way he is, without trying to change him. It is strange how women always want to change and improve their man, but we don’t feel we need any of that turned around on us! My goal is to have more patience and acceptance. You can ask me how I’m doing.
The next step in loving in a non-self-seeking way is to ask questions. When you ask questions, and do not assume that you know something about another person, you are showing that what they prefer or feel is important. Good questions to ask are, “How would you like this done, what would you like, when would you like to do this or that?” This shows that one person is interested in the other person’s preference and feelings about something in their life. I have always been a take charge and get the job done kind of person, believing that my way of getting things done was good enough for everyone. Over the past two months I have been involved in different things with a lot of different people. What has really come to the forefront of my awareness is how different people like things done, and how different all of our taste are (food and everything else under the sun). Asking what the other person in your life wants and trying to get things right for them is such a loving task.
Learning the other person is so important to loving without being self-seeking. When Jeff and I were just newly married I learned that when I get him a drink he likes it in a big cup filled to the brim. When I get him something to drink I do my best to do it the way he likes it. It has taking him years to learn how I like my drinks, but he has finally got it! If I am drinking a soda I want a lot of ice and for the soda to be poured very slowly so that it won’t lose too much fizz. Not doing things your way for the other person, but doing it their way is a very simple, yet powerful way to show unselfish love.
Hear ye, Hear ye! This is a big-y! Listen up, I’m going to tell you a tip that will speak volumes. Listen. Really listen. Try and not focus on what you will say in return and listen to what the other person is saying. Listening to the one you love says so many things without saying a word. My husband is amazing at listening to me (it’s a good thing because I must process everything in my head by talking and I really need someone I can trust too listen to me). He has given me the gift of freedom to say whatever I need to say and he listens so that I can get out of my head my thoughts that get trapped unless I give a true voice to them. You know what that says to me? He loves me enough to let me share my very deepest soul. He gives me a safe place to let the raw me come out, without judgement or correction. He is the soft pillow for my truest self to land on. He has modeled non-self-seeking love by listening. He doesn’t need to match my every story with one of his own, he doesn’t take over and make the conversation all about him, he doesn’t tell me that what I feel or what I’m going through really isn’t all that bad. Nope. He listens. That is a gift of unselfish love. I want to be increasingly like that.
This was not an easy thing to ponder over the last few weeks, this topic of love not being self-seeking. If non-self-seeking love were a contest in my marriage, my husband would win. God has been showing me that although I think of myself as a giving person, one who isn’t selfish, I need to work on loving in a non-self-seeking way, more and more, with my husband. What relationship needs your attention in this area too?
To love, honor, and respect are terms that have been in traditional wedding vows. These terms must have been rooted in the biblical definition of love in I Corinthians 13. As I have gone down through the verses on love I got stuck on the one that says that love does not dishonor another. Over the past few months I have just been slowly and thoughtful chewing on its meaning. There is a general meaning and then their is a more specific meaning.
Here I will turn the word around from what it is to dishonor to what it means to honor. To honor someone is to give preference to them and to lift them up. The tradition of opening a door for a woman by a man is a public way of showing honor and respect. To be polite and say words like excuse me, thank you, and please may sound like just good manners, but they are in fact showing honor for another person. To the believer in Jesus, we are instructed in Romans 12:10 to "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor others above yourself." In a general sense, honor is thinking of and acting in a way that gives preference to the people in your life, those you know and strangers you encounter. This seems so foreign in our "Me" culture. This very lack of honoring others is a killing disease among us socially. We all feel the effect of being dishonored and know intrinsically that it is wrong. Our sinful nature has been given free reign with far to little social constraints. Rudeness has been widely the norm. I can't change the whole world, but I can change myself by trying my best to act in love to those who are close and those whom are strangers. I encourage you as well to be mindful to show honor to all those around you. Honor is manifested in kindness, gentleness, patience, truly listening and caring. If you are a follower of Christ, remind yourself that you are an alien and stranger in this world and that you do not live by the ways of this world, but you live by the rule and reign of your Lord whose kingdom is a heavenly kingdom.
Showing respect is the more specific way to show honor to an individual. Now this is where I got stuck, this is where my writers block came in and froze me in my tracks. I had to stop and check myself before I could even write about respect. I have heard the term "disrespectful" used many times to describe me. I have been told that my words or actions were disrespectful and it has broken me. In the depths of my heart I do not will to be that way. My core being loves people and wants very much to respect them and relate to them. And yet I have embedded in me this notion that I am disrespectful. Because of this I have developed a desire to not be disrespectful at all, ever, to anyone. And let me tell you, this makes it very difficult to manage in this world of power hungry rude people. When I talk about respecting others I do not want to give the message of being a doormat. I do not believe that it is ever ok for someone to take advantage of another because of bullying, abuse, or power grabbing. As my husband says respect is earned and to be respected you need to act respectable. Respect is dependent on your actions, not the interpretation of them. Respect is honoring the desire of another person. Disrespect is not something that happens by mistake, by making someone angry, or by stepping on toes that you had no idea were even under foot. To respect someone is knowing what bugs them and not doing it. Respect is knowing what someone would like and doing it their way. Respecting an individual is based in knowledge of them personally. We all must teach each other what it means to be respected by each other in the fine details of interpersonal relationships. These differences could come in the form of values, cultural differences, and personal preference. It always takes two people who are willing to relate openly with one another and share what these differences are.
To those who really know me, you know that my husband and I are opposite in so many ways. If I come at a problem one way he will come at it in the exact opposite. If I naturally move to the left, he will naturally move to the right. In our dance of life we step on each others toes. Recently we have taken on a diy construction project. We had a shed built just off our deck back in March. This shed is to be a haven for me. I'm very extroverted and love to be with people, but at the end of the day I need some place to go and take the introverted side of me and recharge alone. ( Did you know that for people who are equally extroverted and introverted there is a term called amnivert? Yes that is me!) The shed needed to be finished on the inside and we are in the process of doing that. It is slow going because neither of us have experience in this and we have a hard time working together on projects. During the first few Saturdays of working together we were really getting frustrated with one another. I felt that whatever I said wasn't being understood. My husband has a way of knowing what he wants to say in his head but then never really says it, and I just don't get the message. I think he just is being careful with me and I just wish he would blurt it out, like me. In the frustration I was afraid that I was being disrespectful to him because our communication wasn't going so well. In reality we are constantly learning each other because we are so vastly different, and will always need to work on communication. Once I come across something that makes him mad or frustrates him, out of respect I have to make a mental note of not doing something or saying something. That is respect. Now I hate it when I step on his toes, but like I said before, if you don't mean to it isn't intentional disrespect. Honor and respect is knowing what is important to another person and complying. Philippians 2:4 explains this by saying, "Look not only to your own interest, but each of you to the interest of others."
What about honor and respect when someone is rude or abusive? In this situation complying is all they want and they have no respect for you. The type of respect I talked about above is when there is a relationship of mutuality and reciprocity. When you interact with someone who is rude or abusive you must always keep yourself safe first, then secondly respect yourself. Respecting yourself can mean removing yourself from the situation or the person. If you choose to stay with the person, respecting yourself would mean not joining into the abuse behavior and keeping yourself safe.
With a rude person respecting yourself means that you will set up boundaries and be firm about the way you expect to be treated. If the other person does not respect your boundaries you will have to accept that the trouble lies with them and be responsible to be a respectful person in how you handle things. Respecting yourself is to stay on the high ground and not retaliate. Jesus taught his disciples to turn the other cheek. Turning the other cheek is choosing to not retaliate even if the person chooses to continue to disrespect you and wants to strike again.
To love other people with the love of Christ may look weak. To show honor and respect to people who are unlovely in their actions and words may seem like you have no backbone. But in reality showing honor and respect to unlovely acting people takes God powered strength. The amazing thing is that when you show honor and respect to others you are showing honor and respect for yourself as well. Go be God's love in the world!
I have been brewing on this topic for months. Some versions of the bible say instead of these words, "it does not dishonor others" that love is not rude. This topic has been coming up in my life in so many different ways and to share about it is difficult, because in every incident it is very personal. It's like the subject is just about to be birth and I'm ready to deliver it! I need to find the quiet space to pull my thoughts together, or maybe I should just push it out, like birthing a baby and let it be messy and unorganized and not necessarily pretty. I'm in labor and will soon deliver!
Tackling love. That is the journey I am on this year. I want to dissect love according to what God tells us about it in His word. If this journey was on a mountain and I was hiking along a trail, I would tell you that I have stopped as the trail bowed out and brought me to the edge of the mountain. I am standing with a clear view of the raven below and the soaring mountain across the wide open expanse. To my surprise I see something climbing up from the raven to the top of the mountain. This thing sorta looks human, sorta looks like bigfoot, and is ugly as sin. What is most striking are its large green eyes. I’m surprised that I can even see them that far in the distance, but they seemed to glow. In this creature’s hand is a megaphone, a really large one at that. The creature climbs the mountain oddly, not bent over trying to ground himself, but upright, erect, head held high, and always looking to and from as if he was looking to see if someone was watching. When he reaches the top, he raises the megaphone to his mouth and speaks out with great confidence, first to the right of him and then to the left, so that the whole forest below can hear. Little creatures, before unseen by me, peek their heads out from their hiding places to see and hear this creature. He has them captivated. But then all of the sudden, seemingly out of nowhere a huge ferocious lion leaps from behind a rock and tackles this unsightly loud creature to the ground and knocks the megaphone from his hand. He doesn’t kill the creature, but roughs him up just enough as to teach him a lesson. The creature then grabs the megaphone and rapidly descends into the raven. The visible little creatures rejoice with little chirps and squeals and then go back into hiding. The lion disappears as well. Then I notice a peace and calm over the land that I inhabit and carry on with my journey, trying to make sense of what I just witnessed.
Love. I want love to be warm and fuzzy as the sun on my skin at the beach or the microfiber blanket freshly bought, at an amazing price at Costco, in the fall. The way God talks about love is more gritty like the sand on the beach and that feeling of the microfiber blanket getting too hot and you want to shed it and turn on the ac. Love can make you uncomfortable. Period. Plan and simple.
Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Bible/I Corinthians 13:4
This is not the stuff that Romantic movies are made of, but more on the tough side of love.
I wanted to meditate and really think on what it is to not envy and then low and behold envy comes my way. Back a few months ago, my husband had to take a business trip for a sales meeting in another state. These meetings happen about two times a year. He flies a way to stay in a nice hotel and eat out. I’m jealous. This time the hotel looked not like a 5 star but a 7 star hotel. Yes, the green-eyed monster was coming out in me. But then I had to remember that love does not envy, so I had to work/pray at changing my attitude. When I thought of my husband and all his hard work, I was happy that he got to stay in the Grande Dubai Palace…...um I meant really nice hotel.
But then this trying to love the way God talks about got harder. And I will be vague as to not reveal too much. Someone else came on the radar of having what I wanted and I struggled with envy. Envy wants what someone else has. At a deeper level I think envy is looking at what God gave someone else and didn’t give you. I have to remember that it isn’t my world, I don’t run it, and God does. When I envy someone else, I am focus on the wrong thing. I turn my heart toward coveting and away from thankfulness and dependence on Jesus. Oh I hate it when my heart envies! That was the green-eyed monster on the hike! Oh and how it is ugly as sin, because it is sin. What is the cure, you may ask? The only way to love someone and not let the monster of envy come out of the pit is to look to Jesus and thank him for what He has given you and ask him to tackle the monster and take him down.
Remember the old Pantene commercial that had the slogan, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful?” Well I want to say, don’t hate me for what I’m about to write. Love does not boast. What is boasting? Boasting is when you toot your own horn, as my mother would have said to me as a child. Boasting is trying to make yourself look good to others by telling them what you have, or what you have done. It is when the monster takes the megaphone, climbs the mountain and announce to the world what he just got, or has, or does. I see this on Facebook all the time. We are a boasting generation. Some might say we are a sharing generation. There is a very fine line between the two. Last night I was talking about this to my three sons. I wanted to hear what they had to say. One son said that you have to boast and put yourself out there, and I think that is just how we feel in this generation. So if love does not boast, then why? Why is boasting not considered loving by a loving God? If I boast I draw attention to myself, like the green-eyed monster on the mountain. When I boast I elevate myself and draw attention to the fleeting things in my life. I make me big, on the mountain top. I make all the little creatures in my life small. I can also tempt someone to envy when I boast. If I boast and brag about my vacation and someone sees that who can just barely make their mortgage payment this month, I may have caused them to envy me. If I see someone get a beautiful new car and my old clunker is going into the shop and needs half a mortgage worth of repairs, it sorta double tanks me.
So how can I share on social media without boasting? Well, let me tell ya it is not saying that “God has blessed me” with this or that every time you “share” a boast. One of my dear dear friends and I talked about this. It is such a dangerous trap for those who follow Jesus, to tell the world how God is blessing them. We think we are giving glory to God, but I dare say it is a way to cover up our own boasting. God’s blessings do not always come in earthly “good” ways. I have had a rough time of accepting that I have a child that gets sick frequently. It feels like a curse, but it may just be a blessing. I do not know what God is doing in his life to grow him and shape him for future service to Himself and humanity. I do not know how many connections have happened with people that are God ordained and have come through this hard difficult blessing. God doesn’t always bless us with what we think are good things, sometimes he blesses us with trials to do the good in us he wants done. So to share about something that we see culturally as good and stamp it with God’s blessing, is in some ways proclaiming favor with God and making others wonder way they missed the boat. Be careful what you share with others, I urge you follower of Jesus to heed what Paul writes in I Corinthians 10:17 “But, "Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord." If you say that God is blessing you, save it for friends and family who know that you speak that way in humility.
Love is not proud. Pride is worldly and not from God.
I John 2:16 “For everything in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--comes not from the Father but from the world.”
I have been reading a book on humility and it is kicking my butt. I know that for over a decade the Holy Spirit has been scraping pride from my heart like a wood carver chisels wood. He is gentle and is taking His time and just when I think he is getting close to being done, nope, there is more. Argh! So frustrated with myself. This book is opening my eyes to the fact that Jesus is our perfect one to look to for humility. He totally submitted himself to the Father and came to do his work.
NEWS FLASH!!!!! Christian - YOUR LIFE ISN’T ABOUT YOU!!!!!!!!!!!! (I need to hear this too!)
Colossians 3:3 “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
We are called to be dead to self. Ouch.
We are called to be alive in Christ! Wow!
Pride is the opposite of humility. Pride promotes self. Humility promotes the one served. Jesus came to serve. We are to be servants of all just as our Lord. And that really hits me between the eyes. I forget that truth, and my pride gets in the way.
Oh that God would be the lion on the hike and tackle me down, knock the wind of pride right out of my sail, and kick my megaphone to the side.
I’m working on wrapping my head around humility, and what it looks like in the everyday world of life.
One of my long time heart-to-heart friends and I were chatting it up a few nights ago. We both have worked as full time home and family slaves…..um I’m meant to say…..Family Managers for a very long time. She recently got hired on to a full-time job at her church. We often have talked and dreamed together of where we want God to take us and use us. We have in our own mind of what that will look like. After I got off the phone, I realized that God was using her right where she was at. She is the receptionist at a large church on the Central Coast of CA. I shared with her the many times the women who answered the phone at the church that I attended, and it has been different churches as we have moved around a lot, often ministered to my heart the most. Also, that the women who answer the phone, if they are kind and speak with love and respect, can make someone comfortable enough to share a bit so that they can be directed to the right person at the church. Being the first link in the chain is important. She also has taken in a young lady that has a father who lives a life in and out of jail. My friend in shaping the life of this young lady and modeling Jesus style love in this situation to her three children that will shape their lives forever.
My dear friend thinks she is just working as a receptionist, a lowly entry level job as she puts it. She is more than that and I know that God has her in the right place for service to him, which is obedience to Him and loving others. She wants to work in the youth department at her church and feels that she is well equipped to work in that department. She is working with youth! In her own home, with her own children, her children’s friends, and the young lady that they have taken in.
So what does this all have to do with humility? I can see that God has placed her in humble positions to serve him and the people he brings in her life. By seeing this in her life it speaks to me about my humble places and how I need to trust that God is working…...because sometimes hanging out in the humble places can make you feel that you are left out of the game. But God is showing me that the game of life is everywhere and all the people are important ones. He loves all, He came in the Son and died for all.
Christian, I urge you to love by not envying, be happy for what God has for others, he hasn’t left you out, and maybe He is leaving you out of the secret trials that they bear. I urge you to love by not boasting. Drop the “God is blessing me” disclaimer because there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling with the trials they are in and you don’t want to cloud their view of God in their life.
Check yourself, is it sharing or bragging? Is it tooting your own horn? I urge you to ask God to tackle your pride and kick it to the curb and help you to live with humility. I urge these all on myself. Because you see, while I was on the hike looking across the raven at that ugly-as-sin green-eyed monster pridefully climbing the mountain to pull up the megaphone and bring attention to itself…….I saw myself. Vomit. Kill the monster!
I’m taking time this year to tackle one word that is small and huge. Love. I want to look at it from a Biblical perspective. This is what my brain has been mulling over lately: God is Love. So if I were to look at that statement as a mathematical equation it would look like: God = Love. Then in the bible in I Corinthians chapter 13 the bible tells us what love is. So as a mathematical equation I see it as Love = x,y,z (the x,y,z representing all the words that are expressed to show us what love is and thus showing us the character of God and Christ).