I heard once that in previous centuries time was not viewed as a line you move through, with a beginning and an end, but circular–the way the sun rises and sets, or the year always circles back to spring.
In my own heart I often recognize this circular pattern. I learn something true about living every day, and I do my best to remember it. But new thoughts come, distractions drift my mind away, and the sharpness of this truth becomes dulled. Months later, I’m reminded of these truths again and around the circle goes. My prayer is that each time becomes like the blow of a great hammer, driving it deeper and deeper into my soul. Like the unforced rhythms of grace.
When I first started this blog nearly three years ago, one of the first things I wrote about was love. The more I live & pray about living, the more I’m convinced that this is each of our great lives’ works–the work of love.
Lately I’ve been challenged again by what this means–about how living with and knowing Christ should make me the best at loving, not just the best at thinking hypothetically about love.
I can’t stop thinking of how one speaker described the habit she has formed when meeting someone for the first time. In the depths of her heart, she thinks to them, “The image of God in me greets the image of God in you.”
I believe that someday, it won’t matter whether I read all the right books and knew all the right people and all the right words to say–it will matter whether I lived my life in love.
This is our measuring stick, and it’s an impossible one. Love is really the highest calling–higher than respect, empathy, or allegiance. Love requires that I not only desire the good of the other, but sacrificially give of myself to make it happen.
Love requires that I don’t simply hand someone money, but I look in their eyes and recognize their humanity by sharing a meal together.
Love requires that I don’t simply acknowledge my privilege, but I’m willing to renounce it and work to bestow it on others.
Love requires that I don’t keep silent simply because it makes things more peaceful, but am willing to speak the truth even when it’s painful.
Love requires that I don’t simply wave at my neighbors from the safety of my kitchen window, but walk out the front door and introduce myself.
Love requires that I don’t simply get angry about injustice from a distance, but I step into the fray.
Christ showed us the way of love when he put aside his perfect wholeness in eternity and stepped into our broken world to reconcile us to God. Our life’s great work is now to be an icon of this love to the world. When I read these words, my heart cries with Paul, “Who is equal to such as task?”
Certainly not me. I’d much rather sit here in my comfortable apartment, watching documentaries and reading books about injustice than stepping out my front door. I’m so easily self-absorbed and distracted by the events of a week or month, and before I know it I’m no longer living a life consistent with the values I claim to hold. Whenever I’m faced with the opportunity to radically love someone, I find this strong hesitancy in my spirit. Where does this come from?
True, deep community can only be built by being willing to love well and love risky. And here is where I think that hesitancy comes from: deep down, I truly don’t believe that there is enough.
I don’t believe there is enough time, money, energy, you name it to lavish it lovingly on everyone who needs it. I allow my heart to be distracted & discouraged by forgetting that in Christ, the verdict is already in. If I’m not secure in my identity–the enough-ness–as a beloved child of God, it’s no wonder I’m so hesitant to give that love out to others. The mentality of scarcity whispers that there’s only so much to go around, so dole it out carefully.
But if how I love is telling the world something about God, then a mentality of scarcity is nothing less than blasphemy. And if I truly believe that love has its origin in the God who is not bound by time or space, who controls the universe and yet calls me his daughter, how can I possibly believe there won’t be enough?
We are limited now by our finite place in time & space, and I will always fall short in my attempts to love well. I’m so thankful for the Spirit of Christ which lives in me and empowers me to live out even the tiniest bit of His love.
As a friend of mine recently commented as we talked over our failures to love well:
“Our hope is not in our ability to love perfectly, but in the stance of being in Jesus and ‘wanting/willing’ , desiring to obey and delight Him because it’s our joy and pleasure to obey Him. So, we go to Him daily and ask for the grace and power and ability to love as He loves.”
Amen! What a glorious day to someday throw those shackles off forever and spend eternity loving perfectly, the culmination of our early years of training here on earth. And until then, the circles of love and life and time will continue, beckoning us to go deeper up and deeper in.