As I wrote chapter 19 in Heartbreakingly Beautiful back in 2011, Beth had been living in her real Home for five months. Judy Evans, the friend I mentioned earlier who also gave her glorious hair to Jesus as an offering, joined Beth in their eternal Home during this time. Like Beth, Judy was known for the beautiful overflow of love she displayed. Quite suddenly, this godly, gracious woman became weaker and then went to be with Jesus. She is very missed. I am thankful for Judy and her obedience to God to BE Loving to all and in all circumstances. I will treasure the precious ‘God moments’ we shared before she left us, and her promise to me to love my Beth for me, until the day I can join them.
Over these past weeks we have been spending time reflecting on the kind of expectations we place on God, others and ourselves. This week, God has challenged me that I am again putting unrealistic expectations on myself! I have to keep re-learning this lesson and rediscover over again how He wants me to love myself as He commanded. When you are in the middle of a trauma, or in the various stages of grief after traumatic loss, people wisely advise you to ‘love yourself’. The advice is usually very well meaning and includes suggestions of various temporary delights such as holidays, eating, outings, watching movies and the like. These things certainly can be innocent and enjoyable. They can be helpful in themselves when used properly. But these things also have the danger of taking the place of the essential thing that truly nurtures self-love as God intends. They can turn into ‘escapisms’ if we are not on guard – believe me, I know!
Biblical self-love is not a selfish, indulgent type of love but the kind of love that humbly recognizes the moments when you need to embrace rest and get some help for yourself. It is the kind of love that releases you into accepting realistic self-expectations. It is the kind of love that leads to life-giving choices and not self-destructive ones.
After some futile attempts to escape the pain, even by using ‘good things’, I am fully convinced that the very best way to love yourself well is to run into the open arms of Jesus. We do this by coming to Him in faith and dropping all our burdens in His lap. Step two of correct self-love is to align our hearts, minds and souls with His expectations for our lives. Both these suggested ways to truly love ourselves require time with Jesus – something precious that can be squandered away in self-indulgence if we are not careful.
The truth is, real love that encompasses love for God, others, and ourselves is just not possible without Jesus. He is the Source and ultimate expression of God’s love. All aspects of genuine love are intricately woven together in Him and cannot be separated.
We see this in I Corinthians 13, our ‘passage of the week’, where the Apostle Paul exhorts us to BE Loving and lists the attributes of real love. But how easily we can miss the meaning of this passage if we interpret the word ‘love’ merely from our own understanding. The original Greek word for love used in this biblical passage is the word agape. The definition is much richer and far stronger than our English language conveys. Agape love is God’s eternal, extravagant, merciful, just, unconditional, faithful, sacrificial love that is poured out constantly from His being – wow!
Not only that, but this agape love is ever flowing out to us and even into us if we are open to God. It is this flow of agape that then flows through us by God’s Spirit and enables us to truly love ourselves, and others, perfectly! I am so grateful that in order to BE Loving, as God commands, I don’t have to depend on my own fickle human love!
An exercise to build you up:
Friends, please take a good look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. This passage describes the loving attributes of Jesus and I deeply desire for this to be a descriptive list of my life too! God’s timing is always amazing as I write and share each week what He is teaching us. This week, our Rachael has been working on a school assignment for Christian Ed. Yes; the assignment is all about the famous love chapter in 1 Corinthians 13! Rachael’s task was to insert her name into the passage wherever the word love is written. It surprised me what I learned about myself when I popped my name into the start of each sentence! I hope this exercise will be enlightening and challenging to you as together we seek to BE Loving…
——– IS PATIENT AND KIND.
——–IS NOT JEALOUS OR BOASTFUL.
——–IS NOT PROUD OR RUDE.
——–DOES NOT DEMAND HIS/HER OWN WAY.
——–IS NOT IRRITABLE.
——–KEEPS NO RECORD OF BEING WRONGED.
——–DOES NOT REJOICE IN UNJUSTICE.
——–REJOICES WHENEVER TRUTH WINS OUT.
——–NEVER GIVES UP.
——–NEVER LOSES FAITH.
——–IS ALWAYS HOPEFUL.
——–ENDURES THROUGH ALL CIRCUMSTANCES.
Songs to encourage you:
There are multitudes of songs written by talented people about God’s love and our loving response to Him – so you have a lot to choose from this week!
I Love You Lord by Jordan Worner (Track Ten on your Heartbreakingly Beautiful CD)
It’s All About Love by Steven Curtis Chapman
When Love Comes Down by Kerrie Roberts
Your Love Never Fails by Bethel Music
Love Came Down by Brian Johnson