There are some verses in the Bible that I hear and they roll off my back like water. Not because they are not wonderful and useful, but because let’s face it, there are some verses or passages that are used more than others. So I hear these verses, enjoy their familiarity, and let them slide by me. But some days, like today, these verses and life intersect like a drop of surprising rain on drought filled land.
In my listening time with God today I was led in a direction that brought me to a new understanding. It was a culmination of circumstances of my day where I did and did not shine, the need for re-orienting, and a reading that led me to Scripture and a new understanding.
It started with a straw that snapped the camel, my own poor reaction, and realizing that though these things do happen, my patience and maturity are developing and growing. I’m not where I was, internally in my thoughts and externally in my behaviours. I’m loving more, doing better, and seeing changes in myself that please me, despite the minor setbacks that remind me that I’m not quite there yet in my journey to be more like Christ. This knowledge gives me the courage to apologize, the ability to forgive myself and others and more freedom from guilt as I see myself moving forward instead of treading water or backsliding.
When the camel snaps I am reminded of how much I need these times with God, these moments of listening, confession, petition, grumbling, listening, absorbing, and allowing myself to be changed through God’s direction. And there are times when I am taught in new ways. Taught something that changes my views and helps me move forward into the next stage of development.
Today the thought was about Love, difficult to handle when not feeling very loving, but helpful to get me back to the place where I am reminded what Love is. It started with St. John of the Cross, again.
“When our hearts are free from liking and judging people merely according to their natural gifts we are not held captive by external and changing charms. We are instead free to love people as they really are, and we can penetrate more easily to the core of their personality, their true goodness.
When we love in this way our love is selfless and pleasing to God.
The more this kind of love grows the more our love of God grows with it; and the deeper our love for him the more we shall love our neighbour for the principle of both is the same.”
It’s so easy to love people when they are behaving how we like and in ways of which we approve. It’s easy to love them when they are charming, accommodating, helpful, funny, gifted. But what about when they’re not? That’s when the real test of our love comes in. Because, of our loving them is based on their behavior, then that takes the onus off of us, doesn’t it? If our love is allowed to be fickle, then this love is not as God wants us to emulate. His love is not like that. His love, thankfully, is not based on our actions.
1 Corinthians 13 “the Love chapter” is so familiar to many that we rattle it off without even thinking about it.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (verses 4-5)
This kind of love flies in the face of the brokenness of other people. They will do things that make us impatient, envious, competitive, on our high horse. And our reactions will cause us to try to protect ourselves or lash out. Because we do get angry and these slights build up over time.
But this is not the kind of love God has for us. These are not things to rattle off and think “oh, how nice”. These attributes of love tell more about the person doing the loving than being loved. It shows a mature love. A love that forgives. A love that does not seek to take but to give. A love that does not keep score and grasp at winning.
As I re-read this passage I became aware that this is a sacrificial love, not in a martyrdom sort of way, but the type of love that shows that I must be changed. I must mature and sacrifice of myself in order to love others like this. Because that is what God did for me. And I believe there is peace in this kind of love because it comes from God dwelling within and not from things external.