I’m not so good at loving people.
I do a great job of loving my people. I love my children with a fierce mother-love I didn’t know I was capable of before they were each placed in my arms. I love my husband with a faithful, steady love borne from 18+ years together. He gets me in all my quirkiness. And I get him.
I love my parents, my brother, my extended family and my in-laws with the loyal love of a bloodline. Family sticks together. I love my friends and would drop everything to go and help them. They’re my sisters, my tribe, and they are always a soft landing place for me when I need it.
These are my people.
They’re not always easy to love, mind you. It seems like the people we love the most also posses the greatest power to wound us. And loving … well, it actually looks like incredibly hard work when you look at it in action. Loving my people seems to come more naturally and feels “right.”
But that isn’t where my love should end — inside this circle of my people. And I’m not writing off my responsibility to love outside the bounds of my people. I just know I’m happy and content to stay in my bubble and not venture outside of it very often. Because the world is full of crazy nut jobs, and I’d really rather not have to know their faces and, therefore, be responsible to love them. When I see their faces, the knowledge I am called to show the love of Jesus to all of them, crazy nut jobs included, becomes a reality rather than a theory.
The Bible is held together by an overarching theme of God’s love for His people, and we refer to it often as His love letter to us. Our greatest, most all-encompassing, yet simplified explanation of God is this: God is Love. Our Great Commission is founded on that same love being proclaimed to the nations. The greatest commandment is to love God with all of our hearts and souls and minds because when we truly do that, every other commandment becomes a moot point.
This month at Middle Places we’ll be looking at love.
Not the mushy stuff of chick flicks. I’m talking about the gritty day-to-day love with dirty hands and bent knees. Because love in action rarely looks like hearts and glitter and swoony kisses. Love in action is crazy tough, incredibly sacrificial, and persistent in the face of overwhelming odds.
The biblical definition of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. For centuries, it’s been read over and over in marriage ceremonies. It talks about how no matter how noble and magnanimous we are, if our underlying motivation isn’t love, it’s all worth nothing to us.
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 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. (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, NLT)
I would propose this kind of love is not truly possible for us while we’re here on this earth. Sure, we all aspire to it. I would love the words “She loved well” to be the epitaph on my headstone one day.
We can do all of those things with love some of the time. Sometimes I am very humble with those I love, putting their needs above my own because I love them. But sometimes I’m not. I do those same things out of a sense of duty and despise every moment of it.
Sometimes I have the patience of Job, just don’t drive 35 mph in a 45 mph speed zone. You are dead to me if you do this.
We crave the opportunity to receive this kind of love … perfect love. We’re built with the need to be both absolutely known and absolutely loved. And there is only One in the entire universe equipped to give us this kind of love — God. We often look for it in other places and from other people, but they will never measure up, just as we will never measure up for them.
Here is what I know to be true about God’s love: when we spend time exploring the bounds of that love, trying to comprehend that love and learning more and more about Him, we can’t help but begin to pour that love out on those around us. Suddenly the Great Commission ceases to be a challenge or our “Christian duty” and becomes an incredibly perfect invitation we can’t wait to carry out.
When we find ourselves resting in the knowledge we ourselves are perfectly and completely known and loved by God, we can’t wait to share that love with others. It no longer matters if they are “our people” or not. We suddenly begin to find ourselves with the propensity to love even the people who drive 35 in a 45. Or the ones who smell funny all the time. Or the ones who manage to always grate on us by simply walking into a room. And don’t you pretend you don’t have one. We all do, sister.
Our greatest privilege is to be able to show the love of God to someone, not just when it is beautiful and sweet, but when it is hard and messy and inconvenient. Our greatest joy is to be loved by God.
To love and be loved in return – that’s where we long to be … in the middle of love.