Love Suffers Most…

…Gives most,

Risks most,

Dies most often.

And yet it remains undefeated. For love is eternal. And love is of God.

~

I feel like God has been teaching me a lot lately. About death, about love. He has been taking me through a season of dying to self by showing me how puffed up and foolish I had become. Faced with the truth of His Word I couldn’t escape my desperate need for change. My need for Him. Sometimes we get taught all these things and we think we have all the answers, and then we come back to the simplicity and hard hitting reality of who Jesus was and what He taught us and we realise we’ve got it all wrong.

A little while back, as God led me from the past season into this new one, He gave me the passage of 1 Corinthians 13 as my ‘mandate’, if you like, for the days to come.

‘If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it, but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless.’  1 Corinthians 13:1-10

But, to be honest, I had no idea how hard it was gonna be. I thought I was just gonna waltz in, love everyone and away we go.

Or something like that.

Turns out I was suddenly plunged into an environment where I was confronted with my own selfish pride, my boasting and impatience; my inability to show kindness, my holding on to past faults.

I was gonna have to die to my self.

But then, should I finally even learn how to love, it doesn’t get much easier. Because love is not always reciprocated. Sometimes it simply cannot be. Other times you will even see the face of your accuser in the eyes of the one you have chosen to love, and that is hard.

Love is a selfless thing. When it is treated with cruelty, it remains kind; though it could count a million things to its name, it refuses to boast or even become proud. Though it be shot down a thousand times, it always perseveres. Love just loves and loves and keeps on loving.

Wow.

And yet,

It is surely better to suffer for love – with an open, bleeding heart –  than to suffer with gritted teeth and a heart riddled with pride.

‘For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave.’ Song of Solomon 8:6

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These Old Chains

I find myself in a strange place today.

My heart is so flighty I hardly know what I want. I have become so accustomed to one way of living that now it comes to breaking out of the old and learning to live in the new, I find myself somewhat attached to the chains that are weighing me down. Freedom is a concept so many of us aspire to and yet when it actually comes to being offered it, we tend to stick with what we know.

Thank you very much.

With Christmas just around the corner, I find myself challenged in my ways of thinking and behaving. Half of me loves to love and the other half of me is too afraid to acknowledge that I am just acting out of a sense of obligation. Funny how we make up these rituals for ourselves, tie ourselves to them and then feel caught up in them whether we like it or not.

And it’s not just with Christmas either. Every day I have realised that my life is defined by my own set of rules, habits, limitations, structures… and the thought of handing all of that over to let Jesus be Lord of each moment is, well, downright scary.

Independence is not such a beautiful thing after all. It gets right in the way of love.

Well, the obligation side of me won out to a certain degree this year. But I have a feeling, maybe a hoping, that it might be for the last time.

“Owe nothing to anyone – except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbour, you will fulfil the requirements of God’s law.” Romans 13:8

Let love live.

Pink

I went for a run today.

Well, jog.

Interlaced with copious amounts of walking…

Not that I could boast if it had been a full on run, or even marathon for that matter. It’s only by the grace of God that I’m out there at all.

So let me boast in that.

I used to have asthma as a kid. It got so bad at one point that I had to go on steroids. Six little pink steroids, twice a day for two weeks. Even aside from that, asthma became an excuse to get out of those hideous PE lessons that we all had to endure in our teenage years, when our bodies are all a bit funny looking and our self-esteem plummets with the slightest look of judgment. So I never built up much strength or stamina.

And then my self-esteem really was rock bottom for quite a considerable amount of time.

I would look in the mirror and hate myself. I would find every flaw, every little detail that didn’t measure up to the magazine images that we so perfectly flawless and I would consider that something had gone terribly wrong. Everyone was more beautiful than me. And internally I was even worse.

The Bible became my mirror, showing up every place I fell short and so justifying my self-hatred. I lost my words, utterly unable to speak to people I didn’t know and hardly able to express myself with those I loved. I had nothing to give. There had to be something wrong with me, but no one would tell me what it was.

Depression set in, and with it, some extremely unhealthy eating habits. Looking back now I would say I was borderline bulimic, although I never would have admitted it to myself then. And the thought of exercise was an absolute joke. Do you know how ridiculous I look when I work out? How pink my face goes? And my legs? How clumsy and unattractive I am, how pathetic my attempts? No chance.

I would try to brainwash myself into being better – indulging myself in images of ‘perfect’ people to convince myself to diet, to tone up, to change. It didn’t work.

So what happened? Here I am, sat with my post-run cup of tea and ready to crack on with my day.

That’s not normal.

~

‘You are beautiful my darling, beautiful beyond words. Your eyes are like doves behind your veil… You have captured my heart, my treasure, my bride. You hold it hostage with one glance of your eyes, with a single jewel of your necklace. Your love delights me, my treasure, my bride… You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride, a secluded spring, a hidden fountain. Your thighs shelter a paradise of pomegranates with rare spices – henna with nard, nard and saffron, fragrant calamus and cinnamon, with all the trees of frankincense, myrrh, and aloes, and every other lovely spice. You are a garden fountain, a well of fresh water streaming down from Lebanon’s mountains.’ Song of Songs 4:1, 9-10 & 12-15

~

I met with the Lover of my soul.

I began to believe that it really was just by faith that we are saved. That it is by faith that we are made righteous and that because we are born into new life through Him, we become His masterpiece, His beloved children.

I began to love Him, by faith, and desire to give everything I had to find Him and love Him more. I began to tune in to His voice in place of other voices and let Him redefine my thoughts, my emotions, my heart.

I heard Him tell me I was beautiful and I began to believe it. I heard Him tell me I was His temple, His precious instrument and that He cared for me. And I heard Him tell me that by His love, I was made perfect.

Yes that’s right, perfect.

~

‘For by that one offering, He forever made perfect those who are being made holy.’ Hebrews 10:14

~

I cannot tell you how much joy that fills me with. To think that God, perfect love Himself, writer of all the things in the Bible that I used to torture myself with, considers me perfect simply because I believe in the perfect One and have chosen to be with Him. That’s an incredible thing.

I am His baby, His beloved one.

Slowly but surely, this love has been working inside of me and changing me from the inside out. The heavy weight of depression has been lifted and the beauty and joy of life has been restored. I have learned to see myself more in line with how God sees me and start to live out of that rather than out of the lies and accusation.

It is a continual process of being made like Him but His love has been my delight, giving me peace and freedom like I have never known before. I have been released to be the person I was made to be – the one that was made in His image – to shine with His light and His love.

Oh and the asthma? Yea He healed that too.

So I bought myself some running shoes. Very, very pink running shoes. And then a dear friend of mine, who had no idea what I had done told me that he felt God was saying that I am a runner – and that He’s highlighting it in bright pink!

Because it doesn’t matter what people think of me. Or even what my own false thoughts persist on telling me… I am His beloved one.

And learning to walk in that, now I can start to run.

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Beautiful Repentance

‘Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.’ Romans 12:2

As people, we continually have the opportunity to change and be changed. We are so easily affected and moved by circumstances, things that happen to us, things we see and are taught. In fact, all that we are today is really a product of all that has come before and influenced us up until now.

The message of repentance which is embroidered throughout the Bible is often misinterpreted and so rejected by many people. But true repentance is really beautiful. Repentance is a choice that is continually open to us, a doorway that always leads to greater freedom within the perfect will of God. It is that moment of changing the way you think about something – be it a person, an attitude or habit you have, even a situation – and letting God replace that with His thoughts, so that the old is taken away and the new becomes your reality.

We have this beautiful promise of life that allows every part to become pure and pleasing and wonderful. The apostle Paul puts it this way:

‘Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure.’ Titus 1:15

and

‘There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.’ Romans 8:1-2

You see, everything is beautiful when it is lived in submission to Jesus. Everything is honourable and pleasing to Him as we learn to walk in that state of repentance, or re-thinking, which leads to transformation.

As we fall more in love with Him and allow ourselves to be ever available for him, we will be utterly changed from one degree of glory to the next. Step by step, moment by moment, yes by yes.

Talk to Me

Well, I’m certainly seeing the value of communication at the moment. Not that I’ve been very good at it. It can be hard to communicate feelings without a logical explanation behind them. I suppose, as equally as a rational argument with no feeling can be as hard to communicate when other people’s hearts are involved.

Relationships take a lot of work. I don’t know whether they take more work starting from scratch or after they’ve been broken and need the trust restored, but I am convinced there are no shortcuts either way.

Communication seems to be such a key to deepening relationship. Truth is, we simply don’t ‘get’ each other straight away. Some things, even after they’re explained, aren’t going to make sense to another person, but the beauty and vulnerability of talking them through anyway is that only then can you offer the chance of a love and acceptance that goes beyond reason or understanding.

I really think that if we all learned to dialogue a lot better, especially when it’s hardest to, that we’d prevent so many heartaches, difficulties and just plain rebellion from the outset. We all so desperately need to know that we’re understood, or that, even if we’re not fully understood that we’re not wrong, not crazy, not alone. That it’s ok and it’s gonna be ok. We need to know we can trust those we allow closest to us. We need to be that trustworthy. And we need to be brave – to begin that conversation even if we don’t quite know how it’s gonna go or quite how to begin.

Love takes a split second of courage to say, ‘Ok, you know what, I’m gonna go for it’. It takes a deeply rooted heart that won’t fall apart if it goes wrong and it takes a simple choice to place value on another over yourself – not in self-degradation but in humility and honour.

Whatever the consequence, love is always worth the leap.

Worth It

He thought that we were worth it.

God, who sits above the circle of the earth, who created the laws of the universe and is outside of time itself. Maker of the skies and seas, giver of life, writer of destiny. He, this very God, considered it worth the cost to step from His throne and be born as a man, to bear the weight of the world, even dying on a cross, so that we might be saved. Because He loves us.

Oh how He loves us.

He suffered, He was abused. He endured starvation, persecution, mocking, accusation. He was betrayed, threatened, pressurised and beaten. He knew grief, He knew sorrow. He felt the pain of whips and of misunderstanding. He wore the robe of humility and a crown of thorns. He was murdered and abandoned. He died alone. He really knew it all.

Every moment was voluntary. He did it for us. He never once looked to Himself, He never once chose His own way. Instead, He made a way, through His own flesh and blood, for us all to enter into the same depths of love that made Him do it. To draw us to the Father, to wash us clean. To make us perfect as we stand before Him with faith in place of fear and righteous living as the crown we can lay at His feet. He is so worthy.

He is perfect love.

 

“All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love. We love because He loved us first.”

1 John 4:15-19

Prayer

Oh Jesus.

What a life we live in. Such peculiar but beautiful rhythms and flows. It’s all about you Jesus and you are all about Abba Father and you gave it all for us so we could be one in spirit, that all points to you and it’s just so beautiful. If only your Kingdom were fully here already! I’m tired of my flesh, my stubbornness, my pride and my selfish ways. I have so rejoiced in all you have given me and all you have done for me but now I face the reality that I am not ready for you, I am not anywhere near like you – in all your goodness, in all your kindness. I have so much to learn.

In your humanity you were not a warrior but a lover, even though your spirit was strong and mighty in power. You were so humble and gentle, so pure and loving. You suffered undeservedly in absolute silence and submission though at any point you could have chosen a way out. Wow Jesus.

How far I am from that love in who I am as a person. You have graciously allowed my spirit to grow and become strong but my mind and my heart and my soul and my strength are so treacherous. I’m so sorry for all my judgments God. I have no right to judge anyone because I have been shown undeserved love, grace, kindness and forgiveness. How could I show any less? I need to stop feeding myself unhealthily and start feeding myself with your Word so that I can give of the good which I receive and not of the poison I normally store inside.

Thank you Jesus for the Word which is the flesh and the Spirit which is the blood. I’m so sorry for neglecting your Word and relying on just spirit. I should have paid more attention and strengthened myself in you – not just intoxicated myself! You are more than just spirit in me, you also choose to show your humanity in me.

Perfect, blameless life.

The bride for which you will return is not just a spiritual, abstract being but also a flesh and blood being that has learned to live in submission to her Love. A people that is dressed and ready to go.

A pure heart.

Clean hands.