As a result of preparing for and teaching our weekly Bible Study, I find my heart heavy this afternoon. Our current series of lessons is on love. What a great subject. Last week we talked about how God loves us completely and for always. We can’t make him love us more or less. His love will always persevere.
This week we moved on to our response to that love. He loves us first. As a response we love others. This great quote from Brennan Manning was in the material for the class.
“I could more easily contain Niagara Falls in a tea cup than I could comprehend the wild, uncontainable love of God.” —Brennan Manning
We really are incapable of understanding the height, depth and width of that love and all that it implies. If we were, our lives would be different in every way. I think our minds would be completely blown by the sheer power of that love much like a little tea cup trying to capture the Niagara Falls. The inevitable outcome would be the teacup gets shoved out of the way or it would be filled up and over flowed.
What I see happening in my life is this relentless cycle of experiencing God’s love and then a season, usually a short one, of living in a way where I intentionally pursue opportunities to love others. Then something happens. I guess I just don’t persevere. Just another ‘project’ I don’t finish. I suppose I get less awed by God’s love or more convinced of my unlovliness. Either way, I find myself empty or broken and I drift away or I become focused on all of my needs, wants and hurts that I forget that I was trying to love other people.
Abiding in the knowledge of God’s love and living a life that reflects it is about as natural to me as simultaneously patting my head and rubbing my stomach.
Thankfully, God is faithful. He always reminds me. He keeps tapping on my shoulder to remind me he’s there until I actually look up to see him. I suppose that’s the the key. . . keeping the focus on him. Never me. Not on “my” accomplishment of loving ‘the unlovable’, as if I could ever do that apart from God who IS love in the first place. Certainly, not on my burdens or fears. Not even on my blessings. If I really want to live in response to God’s love, I need to keep my attention on Him. I’m still trying to discover the ‘how’ part of that answer.
I was reminded this morning that before you can love others, you have to see them. I was convicted to remind the girls in my Bible Study class that there are students in our youth group and at their schools that they don’t even notice. Students that God has intentionally placed in their path because He is hoping they will reach out to them. (Of course, as I’m saying this I’m trying not to remember being that kid walking through school and feeling invisible.) These are in no way mean girls! Far from it. They are just caught up in their own world, their friends and all the middle school drama an 8th grade girl can handle! Middle School is hard stuff after all. But God calls us to love others in the midst of that. They have to choose to look out from their circle to see those opportunities to share love with kids who might feel unlovable for any number of reasons (probably the sames ones that still make each of us feel unlovable and invisible occasionally).
As I was reminding them, I knew I was looking in the mirror. I need to look up and to look out myself. Like them, I am probably strategically placed in someones path because God wants to use me to show them how much He loves them.
Am I watching for that opportunity? Usually not. How many opportunities have I missed? How many times has God used someone or something else to show His love because I wasn’t thinking of anything but myself?
“God, thank you for your Amazing Love! Thank you for your faithfulness to continue to remind me of it. Forgive my wandering heart and help me to love others better tomorrow than I did today. For your glory! Amen”
Here are a few scriptures and a couple hymns that have been bouncing around my heart today as I was processing this. . . thought I’d share.
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:7-11
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (lyrics, Isaac Watts)
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (lyrics, Robert Robinson)
Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of God’s unchanging love.
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.