For one of my school courses, I’m reading a book titled “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas. My professor and his wife (who teach the class together) have mentored hundreds of couples and hosted countless marriage retreats across the globe. In all of this, they say that this book is the best book relating to spirituality and the role of God in the Christian marriage. From what I’ve read so far (3 chapters [–lol, I’m on page 41 out of 268 and I have to finish it by next week]) it is sincerely a wonderful book…
But, as you may have guessed, there’s a problem (hence the blog post *insert emoji with its tongue sticking out*)
As I’m reading about self-sacrifice and fighting to choose love, I am being convicted. I was reading this specific passage on page 41,
“This is in response to Jesus’ call that when we hold a banquet, we shouldn’t invite our friends because they might invite us back and thus repay us for our hospitality. Instead, Jesus said, invite the lame, the paralyzed, the poor, the blind– those who can’t pay you back (see Luke 14).”
And I caught myself thinking, “Yeah! That’s right! Man, I want to love more uncomfortably. I feel like I’ve been loving on the people that are easiest for me to love lately, but who am I loving that can’t or, better yet, won’t pay me back?”
Oh no! ABORT. ABORT. ABORT.
I know God well enough to know that if you seek opportunities to love people more, you best believe he will give them to you and to be quite honest, I don’t know if I really want them. I know that I should want to want to pick up my cross daily for the sake of others but if we’re being real here, I’m going to admit the truth which is that I don’t.
I like the idea of breaking my back to love someone else. That sounds extremely heroic. But I also know if that were to play out in reality, it wouldn’t feel so heroic. Because let’s be realistic here– loving people is hard work! I don’t just mean smiling at the people you pass by or getting your friend a thoughtful birthday present. I don’t even mean putting up with crazy family members or going out of your way for people on a daily basis. Though those are very loving things to do and I deem them to be highly important, as I was reading I recognized a desire in me to love people in a very different way.
The type of love that I dreamed about in that instant was a love in which I wasn’t looking out for my own needs at all. And I don’t mean love in the sense of simply having good will or feelings toward someone. I mean love that would do things for them; do all things for them. It was the kind of love that listens to the concerns of people that I’d honestly wish to never see again. In this life, I loved people no matter the terrible names they called me or the insanely decieved opinions they had about the world. I loved people who literally hated me and wanted nothing good for me. This love would war for them in hours of prayer that they would never know about. This love would link arms with the most disgusting smells and ugly souls. This kind of love might leave me in tears, crying out to God on a regular basis as I fear I cannot bear the weight of things that are so hard for me. I would spend my days exercising in love’s gym, fighting the whole time as I mentally prepare for the sickening soreness I know I’ll I have to face the very next day.
I slightly despise myself for thinking these thoughts. On one hand, I want to love more and I want to love better because I feel called to love more and love better–
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. …”
^Side note: I remember my mom explaining this verse to me when I was younger, saying, “If someone steals your pencil, you should be like, ‘Here, take my highlighters too!'” Baha.
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”
On the other hand, I’m just straight up selfish ya’ll. I don’t want to love more or better or, well, at all! When it comes down to it, I like the idea of doing what I want to do with “my” time, “my” money, and “my” life. Most of the time that means working toward my goals and not going out of my way to interact with people that make me angry.
“One one level, it’s easy to love God, because God doesn’t smell. God doesn’t have bad breath. God doesn’t reward kindness with evil. God doesn’t make berating comments. Loving God is easy, in this sense. But Jesus really let us have it when he attached our love for God with our love for other people.”
And just like that I am once more convicted as I see this heart in the mirror and am reminded that I have committed my life to him. If I am his, then I do not own anything and therefore live in submission to his ways.
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self,which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
If I am living for him and all I have belongs to him, why should I be trying to go my way for my goals? Should I not be going his way for his goals? And do his goals not include making his love known to everyone?
Unfortunately, as God so graciously allows me to confront this selfishness face to face, I cannot deny that I know what I must do. So I ask God that he would teach me to love to the point where it hurts and I won’t give up. I ask that I would love more and better and that he would be my rock and comfort when it gets hard, because it will get hard. I’m very afraid that I will get hurt because my experience is that people have nasty creative ways to hurt each other, but I find consolation in the fact that he has walked every road before me and will be what I need when I need it. He will be my way when I feel like I can’t find it.
Fortunately, as everything tends to be with God, I know that there is hope in this kind of love. He is a God of joy and I know with every fiber of my being that, even though I don’t necessarily see how, loving through pain like that must come with unprecedented joy that I have yet to percieve– joy that will be worth the journey. I may ask him to “teach me to love” begrudgingly, but also with faith and hope, knowing that he will change my heart to make me more like him in the process of loving in the midst difficulty.
Though the book I’m reading that led me to this conclusion is about marriage, this love that I’m talking about is in relation to anyone and everyone. There is a world full of people out there that need to be loved and a world full of people expecting someone else to be the one to do the loving.
To that, I ask: If not you, who? If not now, when?
Live, Learn, Love, & Leave a Legacy,