This Crazy Thing Called Love

 This past year  or so God has taught me a lot about love. It’s a pretty large topic, and central to our existence as humans. I learned a lot about this subject, but like any human being I have been forgetting what this incredible force looks like in day-to-day life. People always talk about “how God loves us.” What the heck does that even mean, anyways?

One of my good friends (Mackenzie Hester!) and I wrote letters to each other all of last year. She lives in North Carolina, and it was a fun way for us to keep in touch. This woman, I swear. She is so encouraging. I always looked forward to getting her letters.

At one point in the year, I sent her the above letter. The reason it’s on a computer file is because she liked it so much. She photo-copied it and gave it out to a handful of the women who attended the Women’s Retreat at East Carolina University. I was pretty shocked that she liked it so much…It’s really only a testament to how powerful the message of True Love is. As women, we search for this unconditional love through men. As men, y’all seek for it in your own ways, probably in addition to seeking out relationships with women. (I’m not gonna pretend I know for sure what all those ways are…) I do know that it’s only natural, because God created us with this need for love! It’s supposed to drive us to Him, but we don’t understand that and seek it in sex, alcohol, drugs… even just little things like escaping into our favorite TV show or novel, so that we feel like we are the characters who seem to be so loved. But each time, these things fail us. Even the best boyfriend/girlfriend can’t meet our expectations 24/7. So what does this mean for us?

I put the .jpg of my letter above so you could see that it’s actually rather goofy-lookin’… just a real, hand-written verbal processing of what God was teaching me. It’s not polished or great writing, but God used it in the lives of women I didn’t even know. So I had the idea to share it here (I’m just gonna retype it). Hopefully it will re-encourage me, and present a fresh point of view along the way.

November 2011

“Dear Mackenzie,

As I am writing this you simply must know that I LOVE YOU! 🙂

Speaking of love, God has been teaching me a bit about love this Thanksgiving break (imagine… as if he didn’t teach me enough on project!) We are never finished learning, not that I thought I’d arrived but I just feel blessed to be shown more and amazed at how much there is TO learn.

First of all, of course there are the verses in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

God gives us a clear picture of what this “LOVE” is.

You know, ❤ , L.O.V.E., “All you need…”  This incredibly evasive and undefined thing in our culture. Well, it’s clearly DEFINED in the scriptures.

But not as an emotion — as an act of will. I just googled “love” and the first line of the Wikipedia link defining love says: “love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment…” You can stop right there — love is not even an emotion!  Can an emotion be patient and kind and stop being selfish and not get easily angered and trust and protect, ect, ect…? NO. Emotions are uncontrollable, they run rampant inside of us. Love is a matter of sacrifice and self-denial.

Of course, I haven’t arrived at these realizations on my own. My friend Lauren told me about an Elisabeth Elliot article, and when I read it, it rocked my world. I totaly recommend taking some time to read it, even though it’s a bit lengthy. Anyways, she talks about how so many single women are almost to the point of marrying just ANYONE so they can be married, when in actuality marriage is freakin’ HARD! You’re promising another sinner that you’ll give up your freedom in a million different ways and continually self-sacrifice and love them when they have hurt you and are not even talking to you and so many other things… and we crave this? It made me realize that:

1. What I want is not really marriage but the good things in marriage. In actuality there is a whole can of wormy hardship that comes with unity with another imperfect person. I just want unconditional and intimate love, which 2. I ALREADY HAVE. I’m waiting and waiting for my prince to come, but gosh dangit, he’s been here for quite a while! Needless to say, THAT realization blew me away.

But it also depressed me just a teensy bit. Because, well, I’m still trying to figure out how to feel and be fulfilled by this perfect, invisible love. And if the hope of being completed by any sort of earthly love (which is only a gift from God, a blessing and an add-on), if the hope from that is completely obliterated then I’m left with only glimpses of fulfillment and no hope of knowing concretely when it will get better through God teaching me the fullness of being complete in His love.

So that was an interesting thing to learn and it also made me very wary about marriage. I mean, at least any time soon. Am I ready for that kind of sacrifice? HECK NO. Read the article, you’ll see what I mean.

But anyway, as a spin-off of this, it’s helping me to see how I can start to love others. I don’t need to be married or in a relationship to start practicing this “love” thing! By the way, the word love is starting to take on a whole new meaning for me. It used to be this magical, rainbows-and-ponies, healing, flowery, easy kind of word and now I’m beginning to see it as something painful, powerful, supernatural, and difficult. After reading that article I was almost like, “don’t sign me up! I don’t want it anymore!” But of course I really do.

This love thing is all we really ever want. And there aren’t any people in the world who can give it to us in full capacity. That’s why the love of God is an amazing thing. We’ve never experienced anything like it. We can’t match it, and we don’t deserve it.”

It’s there that the photocopy ends, even though my letter continued on. It probably just talked about my life at the time, ect.

What a good reminder, though… wow. It’s always kind of cool to go back and read what you wrote a year, or a half of a year, before. God is always teaching us different things, and while what I wrote in the letter is so truthful and eye-opening, that was a whole year ago. I’ll be honest: I’ve SUCKED lately at keeping this concept of overwhelming, fulfilling love via Jesus Christ in my heart.

But when I really begin to think about it, it’s a CRAZY love. Insane. Knocks me off my feet.

Imagine if Jesus was just the lover of one, instead of many. For instance, what if it was just you.

Pretend with me for a second here. What if you were the only human on earth who was separated from God. He said “if you disobey me, the penalty is death,” and you disobeyed. Oops. You’re sorry, but that doesn’t fix it. If being with God is heaven, and being separated from Him is hell, then you’re stuck in hell on earth. He is SO holy, and so the fact that you’re stained by this disobedience means He can’t be reunited with you. Not unless you’re clean. He’s more sad about this than you are. He created you, and even though you messed up… He wants to change it. Wipe it away. But He is a JUST God, He has integrity and he doesn’t go back on his word. When he said there had to be death, he meant it.

BUT here comes the good part: instead of leaving you helpless in separation from your creator, he sent his Son down to earth. Jesus. This dude, He lives perfectly. Then one day, your sins, mistakes, bloopers — they’re put on His shoulders. God, his father, turns away from His own son. Jesus is put to death as a living sacrifice for YOUR mistakes. God said there had to be a death, so there was. It just wasn’t yours. 

When Jesus died, those sins that were on his shoulders died with him. And let’s not forget that he rose again 3 days later, defeating death once and for all. You’re in shock because suddenly, you’re reunited with God, who created you. It’s all fixed. You are whole again! He pulled off this huge, painful, complicated feat, just so that He could be in relationship with YOU. So you could know Him, the one who created you. When you know the one who created you and your environment, everything begins to make sense.  You’re not an outcast anymore. You belong to something.

Needless to say, this isn’t just pretending. We were just pretending about it being only you. You’re not alone though. Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But we can’t even focus on that, because God loved us enough to fix it!

SO having said all that, this is what I return to when I am having trouble feeling fulfilled by Jesus’ love.

Typically, the conversation goes something like this:

“But Lord, this love, it’s not tangible.”

“Jordan, beloved, what is more tangible than a real person coming to earth with his only mission being to die for your sake?”

And after pausing for a second I think, “Touché, Jesus, touché.”

Then the result is the desire to love Him back, which is better than I had ever hoped for in the beginning.

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