When my fear is confronted by grace…

Love GOD first More at http://ibibleverses.christianpost.com/:

Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will. James Stephens


Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me— Psalm 49:5

The righteous will see and fear;

    they will laugh at you, saying,“Here now is the man

    who did not make God his stronghold

but trusted in his great wealth

    and grew strong by destroying others!” – Psalm 52 6-7

 

I just can’t get this whole idea of fear out of my head lately. With the revived debate regarding refugees that has infiltrated life once again the topic is ever more on my mind.

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

My latest literary obsession, C.S. Lewis once said “You cannot know, only believe – or not.”

What truth!

And yet, there is fear again…surrounding the borders of my heart and mind, laying it siege and slowly, slowly choking the life out of me. Sucking the hope from my limbs, and the love from my heart.

I’ve been horrified following this debate amongst people I know…amongst Christians and family members that I know specifically. Their words, generally typed in absurd amounts of capital letters (when did shouting become a thing in the written English language?) just sound so desperately fearful. Jihad this and jihad that and Muslim this and Muslim that…and in the blink of an eye people are lost amongst the labels that others have chosen for them

Yet, I am no different. When I wake up every morning I have to will myself out of bed and out the door and in to work on what I so often refer to as “the trenches”. And every day I am met with the thought that I don’t make enough money, and I won’t be able to pay my bills, and what if I crash on my way to work, or I forget a student in the bathroom, or this or that or the other thing.

And when it comes to refugees, I am afraid too. When I first think of  refugees, I think – holy crap, they want to kill us. There is no way we let them live, never mind come here! what if they murder me in my sleep? What if they murder my children? Take me job? Inflate the economy? The list goes on and on.

Yes, my mind is also filled with fear, just like you, who so viciously argue against allowing refugees from here, there, or everywhere in to our great country.

But that is where the similarity ends.

Yes, my mind is filled with fear. I see the danger. I see the potential for harm.

And I don’t care.

I don’t care because that is what God has called me…no, not just me. That is what God has called any person who has been saved by grace to do.

There is no way to sugar-coat this foundational truth.

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God. Ecclesiastes 5:7. This is who I fear. I fear that if I allow my human instincts to overwhelm my heart, I will not be living in the fear of the Lord but will be living in the fear of man. And that same fear for Him who created me and you  (and Muslims by the way) calls me to love others. To love very.single.human.being. Even if I don’t want to. Even if it’s card. Even if it’s scary. Even if it means I could die in the process.

So yes, I fear. But I know my life is so much more than sitting in my comfortable little home…so I swallow that fear and carry on.

But so much more than that, I try to understand. So much of the hatred and fear that I see my fellow Christians and family members is simply a lack of understanding. A limited worldview, and a failure to educate themselves.

Marie Curie said ““Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” Which is really so perfect for the point that I am trying now to make.

Don’t just belief the things that your father, or sister, or pastor, or favorite conservative radio host, or politician tell you to believe. Really take the time to educate yourself about the facts of other people groups.

Again, here I think that it is fear that holds people back. Fear of the unknown. Fear of challenges themselves and having to change their beliefs and views. Because after all, the familiar is comfortable. I am so thankful for my very public-college education that required me to take two courses on culture and religion. I studied the history and culture of Africa for one semester (which is a rant for another day), and one semester studying Asia and The Middle East.

This was the best thing that I have ever done in my life when it comes to learning about others.

It confronted so many of the stereotypes that I unknowingly held for these people groups ( I refuse to label them). It combated so many of the groundless fears that my mind used to create prejudice and hate. And it opened my eyes and enabled me to see that these people too are just caught in the struggles and trials of everyday life, born into a system that tries to define them. Lost in the rush of this world, yet longing for so much more than their inherited religion can offer them.

So now, when I fear, I remember all I have learned. And then I put myself in the shoes of those refugees. I fight back against the fear-led desire to dehumanize them…and slowly their blurred faces come clearly into view. I imagine them taking up residence is some temporary housing next to my quiet little house, on a scenic little cul-de-sac in small town New England. There they are, heads wrapped in their traditional dress, skin much darker than mine, words so different than mine…living there next to me with their children who bear the physical scars of their life experiences and the mental burden of all that they have seen. Cooking their food, same as I do…cleaning their emergency tent, same as I clean my home, sleeping as I do, waking as I do, breathing as I do…holding their precious little babes same as I do. And they are afraid.

I imagine myself at first being afraid and wary…probably locking all of my doors and windows and making my children sleep in my bedroom with me…after all you just never know. The next day I’d make my husband conceal all of the hand-guns that we own and we would bring them cinnamon rolls or some other traditional American “welcome to the neighborhood” greeting – cuz that’s what my mother taught me to do when you have new neighbors. Of course, we probably wouldn’t understand each other, but in my experience with English Language Learners, sometimes a smile and a kind gesture is all you need. And besides, love has no words.

And slowly life continues, little by little every day, learning to trust, continuing in love. And while this little dream of mine will never likely be realized, and could likely also include my house blowing up in the middle of the night, well, somehow it doesn’t make a difference.

Because I’d rather confront my fears and live in love than remain in my safe little comfort zone.

Not just because I want to be a super-cool person, not because it is easy to do so. But because when I received grace through the death of Jesus on the cross, that’s what He called me to do.

And now, when I think of the complacency of so many Christians that I know and am surrounded by and their scathing remarks regarding the current plight of so many individuals throughout the world it literally makes my blood boil. My heart stops for a moment because the rage inside of me is just too much to handle.

But then another feeling emerges, and I honestly feel so bad for these friends and family members who possess such a limited worldview and who cannot even realize that their lives and attitudes are ruled by fear of man instead of fear of God. Whose attitudes towards their fellow man are wholly void of love and understanding. And my heart breaks for them, that they are so engrossed by fear and so immature in their spiritual walk that they fail to realize the perspective of another.

And I beg God to challenge my faith. So that I never arrive at that place of complacency. Whatever I do, whether I live or die…all the while knowing that in death me, my husband, and my sweet little babes will have achieved the final victory. And though death may separate us for a moment, eternity awaits us. And the words “well done, my good and faithful servant” are worth more than any comfort here on this earth.

And so Kreade and Ellie, I pray that God challenges your faith. I pray that you do not remain complacent in your faith, but challenge yourselves and always seek to gain an understanding of the world and the people around you. I pray that above all, you do not fear man, but fear God instead, and allow this fear to cause you to love all those around you…just as God loves you – without regard for self, wholly and passionately, not matter the cost.

 

 

“What do you fear, lady?” Aragorn asked.

“A cage,” Éowyn said. “To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

 

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When Middle Earth Becomes Reality…

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Fear does not have to make you cruel or cowardly, fear can make you kind. -Doctor Who

“To fear is to have more faith in your antagonist than in Christ.”
D.L. Moody, The Overcoming Life

Lately, I feel that my dreams have finally come true. And in a way of sorts, they have. Here I live, in my comfortable heated home, in a beautiful part of the countryside, with the ability to sit by my fire and smoke my pipe, and if it weren’t for the fact that I lack hair growing between the toes of my nonexistent tough-skinned feet, my life could nearly pass for the complacent, comfortable, unadventurous life of a Hobbit.

Middle Earth at last.

“I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

I am afraid that that basically sums up so many of us out there. So many of us Christians. Paralyzed by fear. Swallowed up with doubt. Empty as a clanging-gong or cymbal. Wholly without love or care. Or eyes that see and feel.

We are so privileged to live without fear of death or rape or hunger or pain. But of course, many will argue that we have many things to fear. And yes, we do. There is always the possibility of a horrible car crash, that vaccines will kill us, that non-organic food will cause our sudden demise. But really. We are so privileged, to be burdened by fear that in the perspective of the larger world, seem so trivial and mundane.

People are dying out there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

And no one seems to care.

I literally don’t get it.

How have our Western Christian hearts become so callous? Truly it blows my mind.

We have forgotten to feel. We have allowed our hearts to become stone, and fallen prey to the Devil’s lie that it could never happen to us…and that it shouldn’t.

As if we are simply too good to ever experience the horror of what so many others live day in and day out.

I get it. We have issues of our own. We have homeless people, and veterans who probably deserve more. Our education system is hugely flawed. Our politicians largely selfish. Our food system may or may not be healthy. The Mexicans keep crossing the border. We have too many taxes, not enough money, we work too much, sleep too little, we never have enough time. We have problems of our own.

We are Hobbits.

Plain folk, who have no use for adventures. Who care not one bit for those who live elsewhere. With our heads in the sand, and our hearts guarded by stone. We care not and do nothing.

But still, we fear.

It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.

And the ache in my heart has been fully reawakened by the recent issue surrounding refugees from Syria that has become such a hot topic lately.

My first reaction to my fellow Christians is completely less than wholesome – they’re f***ing refugees for Gods sake!

Refugee noun someone who has been forced to leave a country because of war or for religious or political reasons; :  one that flees; especially :  a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution

And I don’t care if our of the 1000 of them are hurting women and children and one belongs to that infamous terrorist group who I won’t give the satisfaction of naming.

We can’t just ignore what is happening in the rest of the world.

With every chance we have to help, and every choice we make to do nothing, we only allow our hearts to be overtaken by stone.

In this highly political issue, I don’t pretend to know what the answer is. I am not saying that we allow them into our homes. Although I am not saying that we should not.

I only urge my fellow Christians to look at these people as Jesus would. To see the hurt and the pain, to acknowledge the sin and the shame, but ultimately to love and treat with care and respect.

Whatever that means for us.

“Bilbo saw that the moment had come when he must do something.” 

I urge you to prayerfully consider what it is that God would have us to do. Because I cannot believe for one second that He simply wants us to turn our eyes, blind to the reality that could have been ours.

 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The fact is staring us in the face. And something has to be done.

And in my heart, I feel that the end is nearing.

As a child, the thought of the world ending or the though of dying was just too much for me. I have lived under the oppression of anxiety of these things for so long.

But it is amazing how God gives you what you need.

In one of my psychology classes I learned that normal development prepares you for death. And that the majority of people are truly ready to die when the time comes. I was very comforted by this. Death has scared me since I was young. And it is comforting to know that God has designed us to die, and die well.

I never thought that at 27 I would be alright with the thought that the end times are more than likely here.

A year or so ago, my pastor showed a video of a woman and her family who were being persecuted in some country somewhere. The family had the chance to leave the country, but chose to stay and share His love with whoever they could. The video told of the woman giving her life, literally, to the hands of the Lord. Then her husband, then her children. Through prayer, they committed themselves. And decided that if they were to die, their last words would speak of forgiveness to their killers.

I really struggled with this.

I made myself imagine being in this situation.

And it was hell.

But it is amazing how God’s word speaks.

So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. ~ Hebrews 13:6

This is the meaning of Azrielle’s name. Her name literally means the Lord is my helper. And this is her verse.

I always wanted my children to have names full of meaning…and sometimes I wonder if there is so much more awaiting them because of it.

And now I have peace. Because this woman- I wish I knew her name, and the rest of her story – has helped me to know with every part of my heart that no matter what is going on around me, no matter how He chooses to use my life and the life of those I love, He will be enough. He will give me what I need.

And I refuse to live in fear. 

And I will see people.

And I will do whatever it takes to allow my life to be the difference, to exude the love, and tell the story that gives Life to all.

Whatever it takes.

And so Kreade and Ellie…

“Things are drawing towards the end now, unless I am mistaken. There is an unpleasant time just in front of you; but keep your heart up!”

In this world full of so many things – decisions and choices, hatred and persecution, right and wrong and everything in between…never loose heart.

Because if it is the end, we have a job to do.

We must be the faithful church. The ones who persevere. The ones who overcome. The ones who keep His word.

We must be great and do great as we allow ourselves to be filled with His love.

And never loose heart.

“Where there’s life there’s hope.”

Do not allow your hearts to become stone. Even if we are called to lay down our lives for the brethren.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.”

And when that day comes, I will see you when all things are made new.

“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” John 3:17

 

 

…We Do Not Lose Heart

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

– Edmund Burke

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
― Abraham Lincoln

A while ago I had the harrowing experience of attempting to debate justice and mercy. I hate debates. My blood rushes to my head, and I get sort of dizzy and I have a very difficult time collecting my thoughts and expressing my argument. This is made even worse by the fact that I take a very, very, very long time forming my opinions and thoughts on matters of life and this world; they sort of become a part of who I am. They form me and define me, and I feel so attacked and condemned when I don’t see eye to eye with someone. Then I get really angry and I just want to bash the offenders head against something and hope that I knock my view point into them.

But I am realistic. And I know that not everyone will feel the way I do. Though I wish they did sometimes.

I haven’t been able to get the conversation out of my head. It has bothered me so much so as to keep me up at night. I fear that we forget that we are all people. All imperfect people who are just trying to find our way in this world. And sometimes our faith causes us to feel better-than-you, and we use it as a reason for passing judgment.

And yet judgment has already been passed. And we too were found guilty.

I understand the need for justice. I’m a soon-to-be psychologist and I’ve read the research that tells us swift consequences are most effective, for children and adults alike.

But in issuing justice and the consequences thereof I just hope that we see people. That we really see them. That we really try to understand.

Maybe it’s just psychologist heart…the one that breaks when you learn that not everyone can fit into the mold that society has created. The one that aches for people when you see the evidence of how stressors in early childhood, experiences throughout the lifespan, and how poor choices from the important people in their life causes them to be different. And some of it, though so many Christians would like to deny it, some of it is biological too. It’s who they were made to be. Genetically inherited traits that put them at risk for so many of the things that fall outside of societies perfect box. Because when you were abused as a child, when your mother was never around, when your father did drugs, or you have a family history of mental illness (don’t try to tell me it’s just a lack of faith) your brain develops differently. DIFFERENTLY. They are not the same. And though it does not excuse their behavior, I wish that it would help people understand.

You are lucky.

That curfew your parents had for you…that’s nothing.

Remind them tobe subject to rulers and authorities. To obey. To be ready for every good work, to speak evil to no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior toward men appeared. not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. Titus 3:1-6

So is the justice we issue and the judgement we pass too harsh? I’m not here to debate that. I’m here to encourage you to use your authority and position which allows your to issue justice and pass judgement to see people. While you do what you feel is necessary, please, take a second and just consider who the person is and why they are the person that they are. Maybe they deserve a second chance. Maybe they deserve some extra support. Maybe they don’t. But they at least deserve to be seen, to be loved, and for goodness sake they deserve our prayers. We can’t just issue justice and pass them by.

We could have been them. In a different world. In a parallel dimension. In a new version of reality. Wherever and whenever, it could have been us.

I really don’t have all the answers about justice and mercy. I wish I did. But perhaps God does not intend for us to  know all things.

I do know though that God wants us to be like Him. And we were once foolish and disobedient, and yet God extended His mercy to us. So shouldn’t we extend mercy to others? To that parent of your student that blew off their parent teacher conference? To that kid in your class that got caught for using heroine. To that addict who backed into your car in the parking lot. And even to the drunk driver who hits and kills your loved one.

Idon’t think that extending love and mercy in any of these situations is easy. But I do think that God does call us to extend it. After all…who are we? Sinners just the same. In need of God’s love and mercy and forgiveness too. Only we know it, and they don’t. How much more so do our actions speak than our words?

But even I with all my heart is not so great at practicing what I preach. Though I feel I do a fairly good job at work extending mercy and trying to love, I know there is more that I can do.

Lately I have come to appreciate the people in this world that I see loving as He does and extending mercy and a second chance like God gave to us.

It’s really quite beautiful. And if you know what I know about people, the way experience causes them to develop, and you see the reasons for who they are…it can almost bring tears to  your eyes. It’s inspirational. And I wish I had the confidence to just take a chance with people.

My father-in-law does a pretty good job with this, I think. It might be the family joke that he hires anyone who is a felon, addict, thief or generally non-typical member of society;I personally think that it is awesome. I think that it is love and mercy in action. And it is God working through him.

I think that he sees people. And their potential to know the love of the father. He gives them a chance. And sometimes it doesn’t work out for him. But I guess you never know the seeds you have planted. And then sometimes it does. My father in law once hired a mechanic to work for him, and there was a whole history of those bad things that don’t fit into societies box. But hired he was nonetheless. I remember this mechanic, I don’t recall ever seeing him smile. But my father in law gave this guy a second chance, and the short version of the story is that the mechanic now knows the love of Christ. He knows the mercy and forgiveness. He has a hope and a future. We saw him when we went for ice cream with my in-laws a few weeks ago. It was the first time I ever remember seeing the guy smile. He told me that by the love and grace of God he was still able to keep his long hair.

Wow. Just wow.

I wish I could be half as awesome.

When we were camping my father in law told me about picking up a hitchhiker who disclosed to him he had just been at some sort of drug festival. Really, the man is just a magnet for these non-conformers. He gave the guy a ride and shared the gospel message with him.

I wish I was half as bold.

But really, it is inspiring and encouraging to see that there are Christians in this world who see people. Who see beneath the exterior of the-world-can’t-touch-me to the hurting soul in need of a Savior. And I just wish that more people would allow themselves to be half as used as my father in law allows himself to be.

Because people are worth it.

Ellie and Kreade, I’m so glad that you get to have a real life example of what it means and looks like to extend mercy and love to those who we might think deserve it least. Remember that not everyone is the same, we are all unique and have unique experiences that form us. Sometimes, people just need a bit more prayer and support. I pray that you will be as bold as your Pa, as as full of love and second chances. Don’t lose heart my children. Allow Him to work through you, and you will see miracles. Because you were worth His son giving His life on the cross. We all were. Let your ministry be seeing people, as He has seen us.

Therefore since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 2 Corinthians 4:1

Remembering Reality

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot

In the recent past, our Pastor has been including stories of the past and present persecuted church. If I’m being honest, I really have not enjoyed these parts of the sermon. I don’t know about your imagination, but when I hear these stories I pretty much insert myself as the “main character” and everyone important in my life into the “supporting roles.” This is all well-and-good when the tale has some sort of fairy-tale ending. But when the content includes the persecution of Christians, my stomach isn’t on quite-so-friendly terms with the story. And as a mother, when the stories include children it’s really almost too much…

But sometimes reality is too much. Nonetheless, it remains the same.

And I haven’t been able to get them out of my head.

I don’t generally watch the news. Well, I really NEVER watch the news. It’s much too depressing and negative for my taste. But now-a-days the news is not just on TV where it is easily turned off. It’s much harder to avoid the news stories that your friends share all over Facebook. And seriously, they have been all over Facebook. The horror is everywhere. The heartbreak is slammed into your face. The truth does not allow you to run and hide.

But we try. And it is so easy to lose ourselves in our comfortable little worlds.

A reality that is so very different than the ones that so many other Christians find themselves in. I sit in my house, warm and cozy while someone out there (Christian or not) sees their breath in the frigid air of whatever place they call home. I drive my car wherever I need and want to go while someone out there (Christian or not) is forced to walk to where they NEED to go, and maybe without any shoes. I have access to immense varieties of food while other have little or none. I am able to nurse my baby while other mothers are so starved themselves that they are unable to produce what their infant needs. I complain about having so much laundry while others wash their one and only garment in a dirty river somewhere so far away. I can sit in my children’s playroom (and actually have a playroom) surrounded by toys and play with my children while mothers across the world fear that they will be unable to protect their children’s lives. The comparisons are unending.

And here we sit, debating whether vaccines are blessings or curses. Arguing whether organic or non-organic is better. Judging the new people at church because of their “past”. Engrossed in who is dating who in the celebrity world. Obsessed by the stats of our favorite sports team. Surrounded by the latest technology, a world of TV shows, running water, toilets that flush. Comfort after comfort after comfort. Privilege followed by privilege followed by privilege. Yet we debate and demean each other over issues that- when you really think about- it seem so trivial. The state of the public school system…medical care and practices…government and politicians…whether or not Taylor Swift is all she cracks herself up to be…the latest and greatest toys…we wear all the best clothes and are obsessed with providing the “best” for our children.

We have houses and cars – independence found in our own piece of the world. We have safety – laws that protect and a large body of people that work to enforce those laws. Yet we complain about getting pulled over. We have convenience – grocery stores, gas stations, shopping malls. Yet we are frustrated when the line is long, or the organic variety is limited, or they don’t have your size. We are surrounded by so much. So much of everything that so many do not have.

And we keep on trying to run and hide from the truth. From reality.

The reality that all of the issues that you spend time and energy contemplating and pursuing, all of the things you take for granted or don’t remember to appreciate make you feel like nothing compared to the world.

The world that is full of suffering. Persecution. Christians…women, men, children…being killed, tortured, raped…Christians who do not have permanent homes. Christians who do not have cars. Christians that do not have access to “good” food. Christians that don’t have even a bit of what we have. They’re dying. Dying for goodness sakes…while I sit here sipping my coffee and writing this very sentence. Infants ripped from their mothers…husbands torn from their wives. Children…babies…

And I can’t even handle this thought.

Why?

Why them? Why not me?

And what if I were in their shoes? What if?

I can still see the video that our Pastor showed at church a while ago. A woman in some Middle Eastern country telling her story…her prayer. Through her prayers she felt God asking her to give up herself, and then her husband, and finally her children. To come to terms with the reality that it may be His will that their lives be taken. And through her prayer and discussion with those family members she did this…she answered God back with a yes. Even when offered the chance to be brought to safety, her family chose to stay.

I can’t imagine trying to explain to my child that God’s purpose for our lives might be that they be taken. Or choosing to stay when I had a way out.

But maybe you can’t really know what you would do unless you had lived through the experience yourself. There are some decisions and choices that can only be made after experience has brought you to that point.

And we are so fortunate that we aren’t being brought to that point.

But some people are. And it really is just so hard to understand why. Yet faith directs our questions to Him Who Knows All Things. And though we tend to complicate life and the answers we demand from God, sometimes the answer is really quite simple.

“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them- those who are mistreated- since you yourselves are in the body also.” Hebrews 13:3

For reasons only He can understand, some are purposed for persecution while others are purposed to pray.

And while the voices of the testimonies of these suffering Christians, and the challenge that their faith offers to me, and the horrors that I can’t get out of my mind fill my thoughts I can’t help but think of words penned by J.R.R. Tolkien (please don’t tease me, I promise it really does apply).

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. 

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given us.” 

So as I hold my children tight, and enjoy the multitude of privileges around me I have decided that my time is meant to remember. To remember those who are mistreated. And to pray.

The Greatest of These

We love life, not because we are used to living but because we are used to loving.
Friedrich Nietzsche

The great tragedy of life is not that men perish, but that they cease to love.” 

― W. Somerset Maugham

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 

― Anonymous, Holy Bible: King James Version

It’s what motivated Professor Snape. It drove Frodo Baggins. It caused Bella to become a vampire. And it was the ultimate reason for Jesus to go to the cross. Love.

 
There’s no doubt. I’m slightly obsessed with this theme. This driving force behind life itself. It seems to be a central theme in so many stories and books and movies. Love is what motivated Professor Snape to play the role of double agent – without his love motivated actions, Harry Potter just wouldn’t be the story that it is. Love is what gave Frodo Baggins the strength and the drive that he needed to destroy the One Ring – love for his family, the Shire, and his friends. Without the love driven actions of Frodo the Lord of the Rings would not be the literary classic that it is. Love caused Bella to enter the unknown of being a vampire – and from it we engage in the story and screenplay of adventurous vampire love. Without the love He held for everyone who has ever and will ever live Jesus might not have had reason to endure the cross. Love drives us. It’s woven in throughout our culture in books, movies, and songs.
 
Not only does love motivate, inspire, and drive out actions, it is also essential to live. As a psychology student I have studied the theme of love as applied to child development, adult development, social interactions; the list goes on. Love surrounds us. It permeates us. And the truth is, we need it. Natural studies have yielded heart-breaking information. Children who grow up in orphanages often experince failure to thrive. And why? Because they don’t establish love based attachment that is essential for normal and healthy development. Failure to thrive. Just think about that. A life so severely affected because there was no opportunity for loving attachments. We need love. And not just as a child. Studies od adolescent and adult development yield information that loving relationships are essential for continued normal and healthy development. We don’t ever stop needing to be loved.
 
And yet love is often something that we refuse to give.
 
We hold our love inside, telling ourselves that we don’t need to give it out. We keep it to ourselves, believing that it’s better that way. That other people don’t really need it. If we don’t give out our love we minimize the risk of getting hurt. We use it as a weapon; if I withdraw my love from you I can use it to hurt you, when you do things that hurt me, make me angry, or cause me pain. We use it to mainpulate, to control; and suddenly something that is so essential, so pure and beaultiful becomes a thing that is twisted and used.
 
If love is essential to life, why do we withold, use, and abuse it?
 
And when you are a Christian love is all the more essential. The greatest of these is love. Not only did love inspire Jesus to bear the cross, he commanded us to live in love. But Christians can be those who use, abuse, and withold love more than those who don’t. We forget just how important love really is; and how we are commanded to live in it. We who know the ultimate source of love tend to hold on to it, to keep it to ourselves, and to refuse to share it. We fail to remember that we need to live it, to walk in in, to speak and breathe and let it be the reason for everything that we do.
 
When I got my tattoo – infinite love – I did it as a constant reminder of just how much God loves me. This year I have realized that in addition to receiving the love of God, I need to act in the power of that infinite love. God put a million doors in the world for His love to walk through, one of those doors is you. I love this song. It reminds me that I am one of those doors. And even when people hurt me, the truth is, I’m still called to love them. And what can my love do but help? Sometimes I am so angry at my father for the choices that he has made. But still, I am called to love him. And so now the heart on my neck serves as a reminder not only that God loves me, but that I need to live out His love for those around me.
 
Perhaps we all could take a bit of inspiration from our cultural tales of love. While they may be only fiction their themes ring true. Let love motivate you. Let love drive you. Let love be the cause for everything that you do. And never forget that the ultimate sacrifice that love has made.
 
So, Ellie, as you grow up I hope that you enjoy the tales of love and life as much as I do. And more than enjoying them I hope that you realize just how important love really is. Not only is it fun to read about love inspired adventures, to watch a love story unfold in a movie, or to sing about, but love is essential for life. People need love. And not just those who make you happy or who you like – even the ones who let you down, or who seem to be “unlovable”…they might be those who need it most. Always remember that not only does God love you, He wants you to share that love with everyone around you. Don’t hold on to it, give it out, live in it, speak and act in it. Afterall…the greatest of these is love.