There have been a tremendous amount of things on my mind this week. I once had a family member whom I love dearly proceed to tell me that I was in my "prime" in regards to physique and whatever else entails attracting the "perfect" mate. So naturally, as much as conversations regarding my singleness come up in various circles, and as much as I'd like to avoid thinking about it, my singleness is unavoidably in the back of my mind. It's an innate part of every human being to want to feel loved, and I am not sure if it's media propaganda or childhood fairy tails that has hoodwinked so many people (including me) into believing that experiencing love and having arrived at full completion in life, (especially as a woman) is to have an epic "Pride & Prejudice", "Jane and Tarzan", "Cinderella" kind of love experience. However, the sad reality about every single fairy tail is...those are just stories. Life doesn't necessarily work that way. Living life waiting to be rescued and understood is probably one of the worst things a person could do, but then how exactly does one experience love when you in fact don't have that tangible, hold you at night , kiss your forehead, laugh at your corkiness kind of love?
All YOU Need is L-O-V-E.
The Beatles said it well and set a precedence of expectation of societal love when the words, "All you need is love" rolled off their tongues in 1967, and I do believe that it is very true, especially in the context of religion, more specifically Christianity. We see it plain as day in (1 John 4:16 ESV) where it reads, "So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him". So naturally the simplest answer would be that in order to know true love and to feel loved, you must develop and pursue a relationship with God. This is not the only answer on how to better receive love, I believe you must also understand that abiding in love also constitutes that you show and give it to others. Love is something everyone in society wants and needs. One's expression of fulfilling that desire may not always be the best, however, from the murderer to the infant, we all need it, want it, even in the sense of simply being understood, and as followers of Christ we are mandated to abide in it with no partiality or with respect of persons
In my life the very thing that has kept me from straight up cursing or retaliating on some folks (you all know you've been there) is my realization of God's love for me, and the reality that people come from situations that make them who they are, even if it hurts me as a result. Trust me, I've had plenty of moments where I feared lightening coming down from the heavens and striking me dead, but that never happened. Of course there were times where I would've felt it warranted, but I think if Jesus were to be that kind of deity it would give so many of us an excuse to treat others poorly. However, it requires supernatural help to even desire to love people without relent. Because think about it for a minute, if your only example of how to love and be loved was from the people around you, then how might you learn to show love to others? For some people it would inspire them to love better, for others it may inspire them to love equally as terrible, or if you're me it might confuse the heck out of you and you really have no idea what to do, how to love, and it has become a bit uncomfortable that you've developed the great walls of China around your heart, loving people but not at all allowing people to often love you. That fear of love is real and love is risky, but I've been learning that it's a risk you have to willingly and often forcefully take, both in giving and receiving it, and in developing deeper intimacy with God.
If you believe in God, I think this is just another important reason why grace and acceptance is so important. Love is something I feel our nation and many parts of our world is lacking. Everyone, everywhere is in search of acceptance, in search of "freedom", liberties, equal rights, and I often imagine a supernatural battle going on where man's desire for connection is being fought for and sought to be occupied by tangible things that do not matter or last in building people up in the likeness of Christ. If you have never experienced authentic agape love in your lifetime, albeit your upbringing, it might be extremely difficult to understand and feel loved by someone you can't "see" and be open minded to believing in a faith that requires faith in what seems like a fairy tale. So naturally you chase the tangible, I often chase the tangible, it offers a sense of control and assurance.
However, for those of us who actually want the world to be a better place, we must live by a higher standard. We cannot choose to live outside of the confines of love. We must ask ourselves everyday, "Have I actually loved on someone today in a tangible and understandable way? As a leader, as a follower of Jesus Christ, as a living, breathing, and tangible example on Earth of God's saving power." Lately, I've started asking myself that question. Have I loved someone, not in ways that make me feel comfortable but in such a way that they experience and know love to be true for them. It might be that touch on the shoulder (not in a creepy way), that hug, that affirming word, some baked cookies, a smile. It might be something that is just so uncomfortable for me but something someone else needs. Maybe in some crazy world, my expectations that if people actually got the love that they needed, they would actually not look for it elsewhere, is truth. Maybe churches need to start teaching people how to love others before they teach people how to sign their checkbooks, because...
Love is sacrificial,
and I am beginning to wrap my head around the idea that if Jesus said greater things that HE did, we WILL do (John 14:12), that automatically insinuates a greater requirement and mandate from above for us to live our lives sacrificially, and to do that in love and with love in such a way that it is impactful to those around us, not just living simply for ourselves and loving simply how we best receive it. This is hard to do because a lot of people suck and suck the living life out of us, but if God can love us in all our imperfections and straight up ugliness, we have to learn to love others in all their ugliness also.
To all my single people out there, you don't need a partner to give you the love that you deserve. To all humanity, God can give you all that you need and that love you have been desiring is all around you if you so choose to recognize it around you. At the same time, I believe that the body of Christ needs to begin to look at how they can offer love and support to those in need effectively. From the adolescent in Sunday school to the single, divorced, widowed or married couple, churched or unchurched. Jesus never approached a single person in the bible the same way. He knew their needs and He approached accordingly. If Jesus operated from a place of structure and comfort, rather than a place of love and discomfort (He was not a man of the times) how different the stories of the bible would be. In fact, just take out the words of God in red in the Gospels and what you're left with is the words of the Pharisees, the devil, the haters, judgers, and there you have it, the state of present day Christianity and the stories and beliefs of a lot of present day Christians.
We have to learn to love others in ways that actually matter to the populations in which we serve. Feeding a dog cat food when it's a dog will serve it no purpose or offer the animal any nutritional value. In fact, knowing without any doubt that the dog food offers the dog everything it needs gives the owner confidence to keep feeding the dog, dog food. This is not a summon to compromise God's word in order to fit an acceptable box within the sins or likes of humanity. Rather, it is a call for the church (the people) to believe so strongly in the power of the word, that they truly believe there is something in there that can feed everyone. We try so hard to be relational and relevant that we forget that God's goal was never to be relevant as much as it was to simply be relational. In relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal the gospel in applicable ways that changes the hearts and minds of people with love and in love, we simply create an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit can show up, impact and change lives. However we must not forget the most important step in all of this, abiding IN the love of Jesus Christ. So if we are the church, we the people, not the building, maybe our focus needs to be on God working in us, fixing us up, and us simply loving others as a form of thanks as to how he continued to love us when we were and still are jacked up.
LOVE DOES NOT FAIL! So LOVE, LOVE, LOVE without bounds. Love from afar if you must, but let your words and actions be from a place of agape. Go outside of your comfortability to show all people Christ's love. This is the kind of love that will impact the world, that will change lives, that will surpass age. That is tangible, visible, and do able love. Crazy, stupid love, and at the end of the day, all you need is that kind of love to make a lasting impact for Jesus.