If love is a worthy investment, how can I use the summer to grow in it? Love can make or break my summer. If I accomplish a lot, make good money, or have fun, but do not grow in love– there is no lasting profit (Take a look at 1Corinthians 13, for it says something like this). The greatest life change usually comes from love. Someone took the time to care for us, believe in us or make a sacrifice for us. Remember the verse which some think could be written, “For the fruit of the spirit is love: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?” These kind of qualities change us and the people around us. So how can I grow in this?
Well, before I get to the three simple things, I am going to jump into the impact the greatest act of love had in my own life. When I think about what Jesus Christ demonstrated for me– I am amazed. This may be great news to you or may be just old news, but either way, stick with me. I was generally a good kid, by my teacher’s standards, my parent’s standards, and, for the most part, my own standards. But deep down inside, I knew I would never really measure up to my high expectations. I could always do more, be better, or achieve more. And then, there were the critical thoughts, the jealousy, the anger, or even, the insecurity that I knew was a part of me. I carried a heavy weight that felt very cumbersome for one person. If someone could have peered deep into my soul, they would have understood me better, and probably would have had compassion on me. Really, I needed compassion. We all do. On the other hand, I wondered, if I was really known, would anyone really approve of or like me? I felt kind of filthy on the inside. However, if I was known by the right person, maybe they would show compassion or love.
This is where Jesus stepped into my life. He knew me completely and also showed me compassion. I came to understand more fully His great sacrifice– His life for my life. I slowly began to comprehend something was very different about Him, something perfectly different. His love began to change me for good. I no longer felt so filthy, but clean. I began to grow out of my insecurity and into security. I no longer questioned my future, but knew I could trust in His grace and work done for me. I was loved and filled with a new freedom I had never experienced before. That is what love did for me. It set me free. Love began to set me free also, to love others, more like the way I was loved. Love received became love, a gift.
Who in your life do you need to grow in your love towards right now? They may have hurt you deeply and seem undeserving of your time or love. Or, they may just be difficult or annoying to be around. Whatever the reason, we can always grow in love. Remember, love is not just a feeling, but shown in qualities of patience, kindness, faithfulness, etc. Love produces; and is not idle. It abides, profits and endures. As we spend love, there will be something produced– in us and in others. Here are three simple things, but not easy things, to help love grow in our lives:
1- Hold on to His hand
When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand.…. Whom have I in heaven but You? Psalm 73:21-25
When children are young they hold unto their parent’s hands for safety and security. As we hold His hand we are trusting in God to take care of us. We know He is the one to meet our needs not this other person who we have a difficult time loving. He is the one who will provide for us, not this other person. God can be trusted to do what is right, even if I am hurt or disappointed. Can I trust Him to meet my deepest needs?
But, as we are connected to God, we will be challenged to love better– a natural part of growing in intimacy with Him. If I am holding onto His hand, His true love will show me how to grow in love. As I look at the life of Christ, I am reminded of the kind of love He wants to grow in me and to demonstrate to others. As others see this love in me, they see Christ.
Because of His love, I can…..
2. Speak forgiveness
Some time ago my husband was in a situation with someone which was agonizing for him. I hated to see him go through it, but there was nothing I could do about it. He had been misunderstood, and treated poorly. Words were said and unsaid. It seemed like there was nothing else he could do at the time and he let go of it. In time it resurfaced, not between he and the other person, but between he and God– and the situation continued to come up, even though it had been a few years. Now was the time to deal with it. He realized there were things He need to ask forgiveness for from the Lord– unkind thoughts, anger, etc. Several months passed before my husband came across this person and invited him to lunch. He was able to say he was sorry for the things which transpired, which had not been resolved. He was able to ask for forgiveness. The other person also asked for forgiveness. Now they are friends again and my husband really enjoys him.
Speaking forgiveness and offering forgiveness is one of the greatest acts of love we can demonstrate. Forgiveness sets us free to love. We have been forgiven, therefore we can forgive. Sometimes the starting point for growing in love, is choosing to forgive the other person.
Because I have been forgiven…
3. Step out, not away
When I face situations in which I want to avoid a person, I think about simple ways to step towards them. One of the things I need to ask myself is, “How can I step towards this person, not away, or avoid them?” If I don’t, it brews bitterness– which hurts me (and possibly others) in the long run. So I might choose to hug the person as I move towards them (Like with the person I talked about in the last post). Maybe I will ask them how they are and attempt to connect with them on some topic. I will ask at that moment for Christ to show me how to love them. How can I be positive, listen and be present? This is one way I can step towards them and not away. I can’t say for sure things will be better, that they will change their ways or our relationship will ever change. I do know that God can produce good things though, if we step out in love. Let me share a story with you about the profit of love…
Love in Athens
Each year at Christmas, we drive to Canton, Texas, and along the way we pass through a town called, Athens, Texas. At this time of year we pass the City Hall with a nativity scene in front. We expect it to be there each time. One year, something seemed a little odd. There was one or two people sitting in chairs near the nativity, as if they were waiting for something to happen. I didn’t think much about it, but it did seem peculiar. Later, I found out bits and pieces to the story behind a dispute over the nativity scene in the small town of Athens. Someone complained about the nativity scene displayed on public property. Even though it had been a tradition for years, he felt it was time for it to go. This ignited a group of representatives from a far away state to complain about this nativity in the obscure town of Athens, hundreds of miles from them. In turn, about 5,000 people from East Texas came to protest the protest. This was happening the day we drove by. One man, who was an atheist, complained and soon there were people fighting on both sides of the nativity scene– “Peace of Earth, ” right? It was not completely resolved, but and the people of Athens were able to keep their nativity scene. The whole thing had many people in East Texas up in arms.
Later I found out more information about some of the people involved. Someone from a local church asked their pastor if there was something they could do for this atheist man, who had caused so many problems (He didn’t even live in Athens, but a few hundred miles away). He was out of work and was having major health issues. The people of Athens were able to take take care of his medical bills, so he could have the surgery he needed. They provided for many of his and his wife’s needs. The man (who was certainly undeserving), was served by the very people he was against. I don’t know all the details, but through their kindness and goodness this man’s heart was softened. He was amazed that the people who should have been angry at him were helping him. Soon, he became a a follower of Christ.
When we experience love, it changes us. Love softens hearts. It comes down to this: because I have been loved, I too can love. Three simple, but not easy, things to grow our love: holding on to the Father’s hand, speaking forgiveness, and stepping out and not away. As I hold on to His hand, I learn to love with the love I have been loved with. Learning to speak forgiveness grows love. Stepping out, can soften the hardest of hearts– including our own. Maybe as we love, it might not only change another, but it is actually changing us. As He has loved us, so we are to love one another.
Overflow: allowing God’s ways to touch our lives and then our lives to pour out to others
How are you going to connect with God over the summer? What does it look like to hold His hand?
What do you need to forgive?
What steps do you need to take?