After you have done everything… stand.
Note: Today’s planned post was Deadly Lies, a continuation of previous Lent-related reflections about repentance and purification. Based on the Acts 5 account of two believers who tried to hide the truth from God and lost their lives, I hoped to encourage us to be completely honest with Him. In the last 24 hours, however, several off-line discussions with readers currently dealing with a variety of relationship issues remind me as we pass through this season of penitence, life goes on. While we seek God’s mercy and forgiveness, we must also remain grounded in His principles of love for one another.
Loving is hard work. The urge to love comes easily. It’s in us because God is in us and He is love. Yet love loses its urgency the moment we start loving. If love is to survive—let alone, succeed—we must fill urgency’s vacuum with the will to love. In other words, love ceases as a feeling we crave to become a fact we prove. Simple though this sounds, it’s not, because genuine love tasks us with great challenges: patience, forgiveness, understanding, self-sacrifice, discipline, and so on. Commitment between two people—as lovers, family, friends, or fellow believers—isn’t secure until each commits to love’s demands. Could we foresee what loving will require on a case-by-case basis, commitment to love would amount to an informed decision. But love must establish itself as a fact long before all other facts emerge and remain constant while we constantly change. Our relationships evolve as we evolve. Thankfully, most of the time their parallel growth stabilizes both. When they fall out of synch, however—when we grow quicker than the relationship or one another—we land on shaky ground. It’s here that love’s factual endurance serves its purpose.
All That Remains
Along with faith and hope, love abides, 1 Corinthians 13.13 tell us, singling out love as the greatest among the three. There will be times when unforeseen or unavoidable changes topple every expectation built into a relationship. In the tumult, we lose grip on faith and hope hides under debris. Our immediate impulse is salvaging as much as possible. The enormity of the job and shock of having treasured notions suddenly wrenched away overwhelm us. Our teetering world throws us off balance. Unsure what to do, we do all we can to little or no avail. We have two options. We can sink in despair, listening to confusion in our heads. Or we can hear God’s voice calling from Ephesians 6.13: “After you have done everything, stand.” Where can we stand? We’re surrounded with wreckage. How can we stand? Everything feels off kilter. What can we stand on? Nothing seems strong enough to support us. Then, surveying the damage again, we discover love is all that remains. It held fast through the crisis. It provides a foothold to stand securely. It restores our stability, our faith, and our hope.
Standing securely on love commits us to Christ’s principle of loving others as ourselves. It forces us to consider what’s happening from their side of the conflict and opens our understanding of external factors or influences beyond our control. Commitment to love is not a panacea for wounded relationships; it’s our key to acceptance. Sometimes differences in our growth and the relationship’s progress—or the other’s growth—run too deep to be reconciled. Closing the gap is a temporary fix at best. We accept this to prevent future harm to those we love and us. Sometimes we’re at fault. Love enables us to accept responsibility for our actions and correct future behavior. If fault lies with the other, love expects us to accept his/her shortcomings and forgive. Lastly, when we share fault for the relationship’s instability, which is most often the case, love drives us to accept our portion of the effort to rekindle the passion and recalibrate the balance that once existed between us.
1 John 4.7 reads, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” This applies across the board to everyone—life partners, family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellow believers, strangers, and enemies. We are our Father’s children and knowing how He loves, we love like Him. We’ve also learned from Him that offering all the love we have, as Jesus did in life and death, doesn’t guarantee it will be appreciated and returned by those we love. Still, we love unconditionally, from afar if need be, because love is what we do. In 1 Corinthians 15.58, Paul writes, “Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Loving is hard work. But it’s God’s work. We stand firmly, confident love’s foothold will secure and sustain us no matter how rocky our relationships get. Loving may leave us shaken at times. Yet if we stand on love, we’ll never be stirred.
After we do everything we can with our relationships, we stand firmly only love.
(Tomorrow: The Guilt Offering)
Postscript: Friends We Love
I want to mention two terrific people whom I’ve grown to love during time we’ve shared here and at their blogs. I’m adding them to the blog roll in hopes that those who don’t know them yet will drop by and make their acquaintance. They’re great friends to have.
If you click through the comments, you’ve probably already met Vikki. She’s been a regular here for quite some time and consistently brightened Straight-Friendly with her warmth, honesty, and inimitable—always hilarious—sense of humor. These virtues spill over from her blog, Knikked, which features “ramblings and observations from the frigid land of ‘the Big Wild Life!’” She means Alaska, but there’s not a cold spot to be found at Knikked.
Incoherent Babble is the work of Jake, a smart, witty, and sincere friend. He blogs mostly for people he already knows, yet his posts reveal a young person of integrity and joy. There’s always something enjoyable in what he says, and his soul-searching candor at times is simply amazing.