i know a way (so you know the way)
get on your skinny knees and pray (maybe not today)
you’ve got to see the dream through the windows
and the trees of your living room
— belle and sebastian, write about love
i periodically realize i have a long way to go in loving people. i realized this for the first time when i was 15 or 16, and it’s been a constant, repeated lesson during the past 10 years or so.
what is love? how does Jesus love? what are you doing? why are you doing that? how are you holding back?
this is how we know what love is: Jesus laid down His life for us. so we should also lay down our lives for one another.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
— 1 corinthians 13:4-8a, the message
hmm, let’s see: i want to give up on people sometimes; i’m jealous, selfish, self-centered; i get angry, i have a great memory for the good and the bad; i don’t always trust God. look at that — i’m human!
we’ve been going through galatians at church for the past few months and have seen over and over and over again that the mere workiness of works won’t get you anywhere with God. the gospel means He did it for us perfectly and completely, so, as j.d. greear says, “in Christ, there is nothing i can do that makes You love me more, and there’s nothing i have done that makes You love me less.” i quoted that more or less correctly.
so it’s not a matter of me pulling myself up by my bootstraps, gritting my teeth and forcing myself to love people. that’s dumb and it doesn’t work, anyway. believe me, i’ve tried. His love is what gives us the ability to love. “we love because He first loved us.”
know what happens when you ask God to help you be a more loving person? He sends you people to help you learn. and sometimes they are not your idea of the kind of person you wanted to “practice” on.
i read isaiah 53 this morning, and it says this about Jesus:
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
so Jesus wasn’t a noticeably gorgeous person, probably. maybe plain, nondescript, invisible, even, were it not for what He said, what He did and how He lived (and loved). and look how we treated Him.
He doesn’t necessarily send us pretty, put-together people to love. or maybe He does, but they’re so unlike us they drive us crazy. or a whole host of other factors — it’s not hard to find an unspoken excuse to bristle up, put the porcupine spines out and keep people who are different from us at a distance. loving people is hard, and not loving them is scarily easy.
so! okay, let’s say you’ve realized this now. you’ve asked God’s help to be a more loving person and you’ve seen you’re not nearly as loving as you thought or hoped you were. then maybe you pray again and ask Him to give you opportunities to serve the person He’s sent you, since it’s pretty obvious you’re not getting this “love” thing on your own.
know what? He does. He gives you a whole slew of opportunities. more opportunities than you wanted, actually.
God is so much bigger than us, and sees the entirety of the grand painting He’s making, while we stand with our noses two centimeters away from the canvas, being stared out of countenance by a single brushstroke. we can be such absurd little creatures sometimes and don’t even realize it because we’re so busy being self-important.
ask Him. even if you don’t really want what you’re asking for (be honest: do you want to learn how to die daily just for the fun of it?), but know you need it. and if it’s a good thing that would be for your greatest good, He’ll give it to you. maybe not the way you’d like. maybe not your ideal imagining of the situation. maybe in a way that shocks you, stretches you, and makes you realize uncomfortably all the cheap ways you judge and look down your nose at other people. He’ll show you Himself in those people. are you watching?
i’ve seen God in the sun
i’ve seen God in the street
God before bed and the promise of sleep
God in my dreams and the free ride of grace
i’ve seen God shining up from her reflection
— belle and sebastian, the ghost of rockschool