Sunday, February 10, 2013

To Love Another Person...

I was talking to a friend of mine tonight about my trouble experiencing the love of God in my life. You may find this ironic given the fact that "love" is the most used tag of all my blogs. Nevertheless, it is a problem I have had all my life. I know God loves me. I know his love for me is unconditional, without limit, overwhelming, and absolutely insane. But to experience this in my life? To have it put a stamp on my nature? To have it transform my inner being, my feelings, my daily life? I told my friend that it is almost like I have within me two consciences: my thought-life, and my inner-being. I can control my thought-life. I can decide what I think, what I'm going to believe, what I am going to know. But it seems like I cannot control what my inner-being feels. I know God loves me, yet I still find myself looking at the number of page views on my blogs, searching for affirmation. I know he loves me, but I still yell, "Why do you hate me?!" when something bad happens (though, it is always followed by an immediate correction--my emotions may not have good theology, but my brain knows how to straighten them out). I know God loves me, but I am still insecure in several ways.

My friend proposed that I might be having trouble receiving love from others. Love from others, he says, is a way to experience love from God. I really don't think that that is the problem. I know my fiancee loves me unconditionally. I know my friends and family love me unconditionally; and I experience their love in my inner-being. But for whatever reason, I cannot connect that to the love of God.

So what is my problem?
Before answering this, I should give a little bit of back story.

For a while, there has been some tension between a friend and I. We had been on awkward, no speaking terms for a while. That is, before tonight. In my small group on Monday, the Spirit was really moving us toward the topic of forgiveness, and it was revealed to me that God's love isn't awkward around anyone. God doesn't not speak to people. He never feels awkward when there's that elephant in the room. I was really convicted that night, so when I saw this person tonight, I made a point to go out of my comfort zone and practice Christ-like love. This was after having the conversation with my friend about not being able to experience God's love.
Now that you have the back story, I can tell you how I came to understand what my problem has been.

I thought about what this person said to me, how it hurt me, and how frustrated I have been. It's always hard to forgive because there's always the, "But, this, and this..." But I have been listening to a Jason Upton song in which he encourages the audience to sing "I choose to forgive!" So I chose to forgive, and tonight, I chose to love. I didn't have any reason to, and, in my mind, this person didn't deserve it. But I chose not to care. I chose to forgive and forget; I chose to love.
When I made that choice, for a second I felt the love of the Father come over me. In that brief moment, something inside me understood the love of God. I had been in a horrible mood all day, but for the rest of the night, I felt so overwhelmingly blessed and joyful. I often went and hugged my fiancee simply because I needed to rest from all the overwhelming knowledge of how blessed I am. And I realized what my problem has been:

I don't have a problem receiving love from others, but I do have a problem choosing to love people for no reason at all. My love for people is usually conditional. It is sparked by something in particular, and is almost never developed without a specific reason.

Jesus said that if you don't forgive others, you will not be forgiven. What I think he means is that without forgiving others we can't ourselves experience forgiveness from God. I think it is the same with his love. If we don't choose to love others unconditionally, we will not experience the unconditional love of the Father. As the song in Les Miserables says, "to love another person is to see the face of God."

I've been reading Henri Nouwen's book The Return of the Prodigal Son. In it, he talks about his journey from being the prodigal son returning home, to becoming the father welcoming others home. I've been thinking, "Gosh, would I like to know the experience of being the prodigal son!" I realized tonight that I need to become the father running to the son with the most unreasonable love, the love that rises above awkward situations. I know God the Father loves me. I know I've been the prodigal son and have returned home. In order for me--for it will not be the same for everyone, this may be the answer for me and not at all the answer for someone who loves others naturally but has a problem receiving love--to experience  that home-coming, that welcoming love, I have to give it to others.

I learned tonight that as long as I don't choose to love people without reason, I will never experience the unreasonable, unconditional love of God.

I choose to love you.

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