Lessons learned, many times the hard way, are still lessons learned. First, let me emphatically say that God is so good. I cannot boast or brag more than to give credit to Him for all that he allows and prevents. Thank you, Lord…
A few of years ago, I had a very poignant prayer: “God teach me to love like you.” At the time, my intention and desire was noble, but I can be honest and say I had no idea for what I was asking. But God, being the good God that he is, took my request and answered it (he is still answering and is not done).
Love… living it out, not just reading and learning about it anecdotally. Back during one of the periods of time when David and I were friends and not titled in a dating relationship, I wrote a couple of blog posts about love and sorrow. I wrote them because while I was learning to just love David for who he was and is as a person and appreciate where we were at that time, I still longed for more commitment. And at the time it really hit me that God must feel this way about us, except to a deeper extent. God longs for our love, for us to commune with him, and for us to worship him. While I don’t want to be worshiped, I want to be wanted like many people. In those moments I understood that sometimes love means giving your all without reciprocity. More importantly, without the expectation of reciprocity. This was one of those times for me.It was good. It was purposed. I grew… I think we both did.
Fast forward to today. David and I have known each other for quite some time an we have pursued a deeper commitment level as we have grown. But now, time and God have shifted and diverged us to the pursuit of other ventures to which only God knows the ending. As I was journaling and reflecting tonight, I had nothing but joy and thanksgiving in my heart. It was bittersweet because no one likes to be on this side of the fence. The sweetness of it is that God loves me so much that he can see beyond the present frustrations and hurt to some much bigger to which I have been called. I know that this moment of heart soreness is being used to glorify God and also to prepare me for what’s next.
Pain demands to be felt and we should not waste our pain. Yes – this is painful; I am feeling it and I am allowing it to be present. It won’t last. It never does because it can’t. Just like sore muscles from an intense workout eventually stop aching, so will this pain fade. There is healing. But while I am here, I am again learning the lesson of love, true love. I asked God why wasn’t I chosen in this instant, why didn’t I get picked for the team? I had already picked out all the gear and I had planned to be an asset. I tried out and I did my best, but it wasn’t enough so why? The truth is that again God was teaching me what it’s like to love like him.
Jesus left his seat on the throne beside God (which is himself – isn’t that neat?!) and became human so that he would know our plight. He advocated for us, healed us, fought for us, taught us…he loved us – and it was tangible, not just from heaven this time. In his love, and because of his love for reconciliation, he died for us. He suffered an unconscionable death that I can’t even begin to describe. It was for love. It was for us. And do you know there were people who witnessed the miracle first hand who still rejected him? To this day, knowing what we know, some of us still reject him. Sometimes people don’t choose to be on his team, and his is the winning team!
Think for a moment that you are preparing your home for guests. You hire a chef to cater a 5-course meal. You have a maid service come and make your home spic and span. You purchase lavish gifts for all who have been invited. You do this because you care about your friends and you want to treat them in the way that you see them. You want them to know just how much they are of value to you. Then, think of receiving phone calls an hour before the party is to begin, one after the other: “Hey sorry, I can’t make it I have other plans” or “Hey thanks, but no thanks! You are a bit far from me and I don’t want to travel right now” or even “No thanks, your party seems to fancy for me.” Seems a bit ridiculous, right? Who would pass that opportunity up?
When it comes to our spirituality, many of us do. Many of us choose other plans or think it’s not for us. I believe our immediate response would be to chide those people who are obviously crazy, but the truth is that the root of the rejection is brokenness. It’s hard to choose something that’s good when your heart is broken. We have to extend grace, just as God does…. as Jesus did as he was being tortured for hours before his death. Even in that moment when he could have spat on the people and ascended to heaven and been like “look at me now suckas!” No, he endured and he forgave.
In this rejection, there is forgiveness. In this offense, there is grace. Please don’t think that in this comparison that I think that I am just like Jesus or even on his level. I am only pointing out my experience to give a clearer picture of what the bible refers to as the shared suffering of Christ. As believers we are taught and we read (hopefully) that in identifying with God, we are also going to experience pain and suffering like he did because we are in fact Christ followers (Christians).
Read a little bit – the New Testament is a stark warning for us believers regarding this sharing and pain thing. Here are a few verses, out of several references:
1 Peter 4:12 -19
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation…(Read more)
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
2 Corinthians 1:5-6
For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer…
See? Our pain, Christ’s pain, it’s for his glory and for the sake of others. It’s part of that “love your neighbor as you do yourself” thing. We love others and it’s a sacrifice. Choosing to love others knowing that sacrifice is real is even more of a sacrifice to not have that love returned to you in the same way that you gave it to others because you pour out, but are not replenished by the receiving vessel. The awesome thing is that we have another vessel, Christ, who should and must be our source for this renewal and replenishment. We cannot expect another human being to meet this expectation because we will always be in famine. I am learning how to walk upright in this reality. It’s hard because we interact with humans on a daily basis and to remember that they are going to constantly fail us and disappoint us is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s the truth.
Anyway – I feel I have rambled enough. Am I ok? Yes. I can answer that with surety and know that I am also comforted. This situation didn’t result because of a lack of love, so not vilification is needed. It came from a deeper love to know when to say “when.” It came from wisdom of know when to let go and it’s amicable. Now, we can each move on to where ever God has called.
The dawn comes…