“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” Proverbs 25:21-22 ESV
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corth. 13:4-7 ESV
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers…Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth…Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 3:16, 18, 4:11-12 ESV
The past couple months I’ve been seeking the Lord about how to love loving those around me. Not just children who test my patience, but those people who seem to drop out of my life. Those people who I hurt. And those people who hurt me. Those last people are the hardest.
While I’ve been diving into the bible more about how God calls us to love those around us, I also have been looking at how God himself loves us. When I look at my life through his eyes, there is no reason for him to love me. I’m a sinner. I put Christ on the cross because of those sins. And yet, it was because of love that he bore my sin. He took that, and through his blood and death and resurrection, I gained a hope and life forever. I gained a Friend, Father and God who will love me for eternity.
Then I twist it and look at how I love those around me. I get upset and angry. I can be selfish and self centered. Impatience and unkindness flow through my words and actions. And if one could hear my thoughts, you’d see how off the charts they would be in regards to unlovely.
But I try not to focus on my mess ups. I’m flawed and make mistakes like my next door neighbors. But I’ve been trying to focus on how to love loving people. And it’s not easy. I’ve only been processing this idea of love just for a little while, so it’s all still new. Not just loving people. That’s kind of natural. It’s the learning to love loving. Not just because I have to. But because I want to.
Example? I hit a valley awhile ago, a hard spot that left me feeling depressed, upset and unsure. And angry. Bitter. Resentful. And that’s what spurred this thought, of loving to love. To love despite the hurt I was facing. And I was so torn. I hated to think that God would actually want me to still love through this rock and tight spot. I didn’t have answers or knew what I was suppose to do.
But while I was praying about my options, I told the Lord that I would not build a wall. If I built a wall against loving, especially those ‘enemy’s’ that hurt me, I would become a bitter, angry person and that would destroy me. I would become someone I would never want to be. But on the other hand, I told God I couldn’t handle being hurt. My heart is tender and soft. I cried because I didn’t know what way to turn.
That next Sunday I was so blessed by the church service. The Spirit has been speaking to me in so many ways through Pastor Red at the church I go to. This week though, another man, Josh, asked if he could share something God had placed on his heart, so Pastor handed a mic to him and stepped off the stage.
Josh took us to 2 Corth. 4:8-18. He refreshed our memories, that Paul had been through shipwrecks, nakedness, he was beat and stoned. Yet he never gave up on hope. And he never gave up on loving those around him. Satan applies pressure to Christians, but the Spirit inside of us says “Keep going. You’re gonna make it, keep going. Keep loving.”
Then Josh said something that made me pause. He said, “We need to love like we’ve never been hurt.” And I lost all track of what he was saying and began asking God how anyone could love like they’ve never been hurt. I didn’t understand how to do that, because I only saw these two directions of either putting up walls to stop pain from getting in, or keeping it internal and slowly losing myself.
At the end of the service, Pastor Red got up and shared an analogy. He said that things don’t always go right in life. A child might have a balloon or lollipop. And accidentally they let go of the balloon or the lollipop drops from their hands. Now to an adult, that’s not a big deal. It’s just candy. It’s just a plastic bag with air. We want to tell the kid to get over it and keep living. Most likely, three months from now, maybe even sooner, that child will not even remember that balloon they lost.
But that is exactly how some people (me) look at their problems. I suffer a loss, or have pain in life and I get upset. It makes me want to shut down, shut out and shut up. I want to cross my arms and pout or cry or whine. I had such a good thing taken or lost from me and it’s not fair. But then God is looking down and saying in that voice that sounds so much like my own, “Heidi, you are being so silly. It’s not that big of a deal and you need to stop focusing on the lost balloon. You can still live life and love despite being hurt. Moving on will be worth it. Loving to love despite XYZ will be worth it. I make it worth it. No walls, no distance or hardening. You can love loving people. And you can love them well.”
Well long story short, I’m still trying to figure this loving thing out. I sometimes feel like I made fifteen steps forward to scoot back ten. I mentally work myself up over the fallen lollipop that I begin to lay down bricks. Then I realize what I’m doing and I have to begin to tear them down again. I begin to distance myself and pull back and fear grips my heart that I’m going to be hurt. Then I realize that I’m overreacting and have to stop running backwards.
For me, loving to love makes me my joyful. It’s makes me free of the walls, bitterness and hurt. I’m not saying I’m free from suffering, but I don’t need to allow it to build up or allow myself to build around it. Loving love makes me want to dance. It makes me want to spin around, giggle and continue loving in life. And it’s not easy, but it’s a process, a daily step by step.
I don’t know if any of this made sense. But I guess as encouragement out there, if a little country girl can learn to love in a big scary world, no matter where you are, who you are or what you’ve done, you can learn it to love deeply and well. Yes, people need to put up walls or need to avoid that bad company. Boundaries are healthy and good. But don’t withhold love that God has poured over you to share with others. If you’ve got love to share, do it with open hands and willing heart. You’ll probably lose a balloon or drop the lollipop a couple times. But don’t get upset. Don’t let it stop you from loving those around you. Dance, spin and giggle. Heap those coals on the enemy’s head. Love beyond reason. Christ is love and if He is in us, we can learn the way He loves.
Love because you want to love love.