At the beginning of the year, I wrote a blog post sharing about a “word” that I had picked that represented an area I was asking God to grow me in. I also shared a bit about my experience from the two previous years (with words “patience” in 2016 and “faith” in 2017) and warned you that asking God to give you more patience, faith, or love will not be a magical snap of heavenly fingers but a constant and often painful moulding of your spirit. Sounds fun!
The other thing I warned you about is that God just does not like to work within the boxes we put Him in and is very creative in how He teaches us. I’ve realized that the things I think I know are not things I actually know, and that things I think I need to learn are not the things He wants to teach. And that brings us to this blog post today.
My word for 2018 was “love”. I know that my personal natural tendency is to be judgemental, prejudice, and uncompassionate. I also know that this is not the type of person that Jesus was, and that I want to be more like Jesus. So choosing love was a conscious choice for me, asking God to show me how to love other people better. I thought this was kind of a noble choice; after all, isn’t love the greatest of all the commandments so if I master that one I’m basically a gold-star Christian (hair flip). However, I had also just been humbled by the “patience” and “faith” building process, so I figured God would have something up His sleeve for this one too. I wrote, “Right now I’m mostly thinking that I just want to do a better job of loving God, loving my husband, loving my friends/family, loving my (literal and figurative) neighbours, and self-love. But you just KNOW that God wants to do more than I could guess or imagine with this one too, and that a year from now I will be telling you about the crazy God-thing that truly had me struggling to love and forever changed the way I viewed love.”
We’re only halfway through the year so I’m sure there’s more for me to learn about love, but here’s what I’ve got so far. God has not been teaching me how to love other people better. God has been showing me how much He loves me.
This is blowing my mind. Growing up in the church, the phrase “Jesus loves me” is one of those phrases that is so common that it easily loses meaning (tell me I’m not the only one). “God loves you” is tossed around as simply as “have a good day”, and although I know the message of the cross and salvation, if I’m being very honest I don’t know if I’ve ever felt like God loved me in a tangible way. But since choosing love as my word of the year, it’s like God has created opportunity after opportunity to just wrap me up in a big heavenly bear hug and it is forever changing the way I view love and challenging me in how I love others.
God does want me (and you) to love others, and love is the greatest commandment. In Matthew (in the Bible), Jesus says that loving God and loving others are the first and second most important things to do that influence everything else. But He also says, that when loving one another, we are to do it in the same way that He has loved us (John 13:34). How can we begin to love others well if we don’t first know how well God has loved us?
I have a sneaking suspicion that if I even come close to grasping how much God loves me, I won’t have to try to learn how to love other people better. Out of the overflow of gratefulness, awe, humbleness, and amazement of God’s love for me, there won’t be any room left for resentment, judgement, insecurities, or prejudice towards others. And I’d bet He planned it that way.