Challenge 45: Love Beyond the Flaw

A few weeks ago I was enraged. The night surprised me because I couldn’t remember the last time I had gotten like that. An interaction with a loved one had my eyes blinking out tears and squinting to see the situation clearly and trying to settle my shaking legs and just not sin. I was hurt, disappointed and made to feel bad about the person helping me after the person had agreed to help me. The conversation ended with the person hanging up on me and me proclaiming that “I am through.”

I thought I had a right to dismiss the person; to me, it didn’t matter that we were close or the person had helped me before or that I knew the person was Godly and always had my best interest at heart. In this moment, my moment of deep disappointment, hurt and shame, my remedy was to not deal with the person on a certain level—to stop doing for them in the way they seemed bothered to help me. I was tired of this person, more often than not, detailing how helping me would be problematic. Tired of this glaring flaw, I said I was through with helping this person. God Himself would have to sit on my lap and tell me to help.

And with my words—my attitude—my chastening began.

Soon after my conversation with the person and fits of rage, I heard the Lord say “give your cloak,” referencing the scriptural passage that gives several commands of how to deal with your enemies. Though this person by far could not be classified as my enemy, I sure felt like they were in that moment. I complained to my husband, but he, like the objective guy he is, didn’t join me in my rage. Instead, he tried to help me be biblical, telling me I still had to help the person “because it’s the right thing to do.” But I didn’t care about right things; I wanted the person to suffer like I was suffering. I wanted them to experience the pain, disappointment, anger and frustration from being treated like I did something wrong after all the “right” I had already done by helping this person out numerous times. I wanted to turn off my love supply, let the person experience a love famine, and maybe the hunger pangs would cause them to not just long for my love but show appreciation for my love. I was in a bad way. I didn’t read the cloak scripture immediately, but as soon as my husband said “because it’s the right thing to do,” I turned to the scripture to get a mega dose of love goodness.

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”—Luke 6:27-36 (ESV, emphasis mine)

I heard God that night but didn’t like what He was saying. So as I read the verses, I clucked my teeth, even talked badly about the passage because I have never liked it and really didn’t like it in that moment. It took two days, after praying for the person and for me, for me to receive God’s words. This is when I heard Him say “that is not the total sum of” who they are. “You can’t forget a person for one flaw.” Though I had heard what God was saying in the cliché “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water,” His words directly to me this night penetrated my heart and made me want to love the person in spite of their glaring flaw. Their flaw was blinding me from seeing all the wonderful aspects about the person and from seeing the love of Jesus in my life that we are commanded to give to others.

[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is what the scriptures in Luke are saying. Do good for people even when they do wrong. Jesus died on the cross to take away our sins while we were in the midst of our wrong. He didn’t say “I’m only going to die for them when they get themselves together.” If He did, He would never have taken on human form to be born to die for us. In order for us to love like Jesus, we must die to our fleshy desire for revenge and love others beyond their flaw. I believe I loved the person in the heat of the moment, not raising my voice, being sarcastic or bringing up irrelevant issues just to “win” the argument, but the words “I am through” took me out of love and into sin. I decided I couldn’t love beyond the flaw. Whenever we do that, and remain in that position, we declare Jesus’ sacrifice not worthy of adulation. But because He commands that we love others as He has loved us, we are duty bound to love sacrificially—beyond the flaw—and we will be the better for it (Luke 6:35). Jesus’ sacrifice and ours are praiseworthy.

Take a Risk Challenge: Do something kind for a person whose glaring flaw has made you stop helping them. Perhaps, because their flaw may place you in physical danger, you must love them from afar but do so in a tangible way (in addition to prayer), like sending a card. Performing a tangible act in spite of their flaw is indeed a radical act of love.

My One Thousand Gifts List

An impromptu visit from Andrina and seeing the boys love on her
Money to download the worship CD “Alone” by Clint Brown that I’ve wanted for months
An outline and some writing on my discipline column
Hearing Lysa TerKeurst on the radio tell her amazing story of adopting two teenage boys from Liberia
All the boys being their own person at London’s birthday party
Talking to my postal worker about the state of Christianity
Marlin at church with her girls
Flynn’s challenging sermon “What Report Do You Give?”
A quiet evening of writing
Technical difficulties with WordPress that allowed God to show me the perspective I should have about blogging (why He has me doing so)

Challenge 44: Be Silent like Jesus

Mouth taped

“…Yea, all [of you] be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time….” (1 Peter 5:5-6).

These verses are quite challenging when we’re trying to love others God’s way instead of our own, but they are definitive in the approach and explicit with the outcome of humility: 1) Be subject to each other; 2) Let humility guide you; and 3) Let God’s power help you walk in humility. if you do, God 1) won’t oppose you for being proud; 2) will exalt the humble in due time; and 3) will give grace to the humble.

We are prone not to help one another out of humility and allowing the power of GOD to help us do so. We can be guilty of helping each other out of pride, constantly reminding others, like I said in the last post, of our great sacrifice to help them. When we do this, we are not operating in God’s strength but out of our own supply and our supply can cause hurt feelings, resentment and even shame. Jesus is our greatest model of humility, and when we look at His life, we find an incredible amount of self-denial for the TOTAL good of others. I say TOTAL good because if he had just died on the cross for our sins, we still would have a way to eternal life. But what good would it have been to us if God constantly reminded us about this great sacrifice that He was making on our behalf?

What if Jesus told all the Jews who demanded His crucifixion and mocked, spat on, beat and ultimately crucified Him, “Do you know who I am? I am God, who left my home in glory, to come down to earth to take on flesh to experience all your human experiences, good and bad. Where I come from is perfect but I gave that up for you. I came to die on the cross so you wouldn’t have to continue to live miserable lives. I’m going to die for you because that’s the only way you will be saved, but it is really hard for me to have to suffer for you.”?

Of course Jesus would NEVER have said that but He would not have been prideful in saying any of it. See, biblical humility means recognizing your pitiful state and your inadequacy and that you need God to help you. That definition could never fit Jesus because He is God. But what if He, in His humanity, had reminded us of the magnitude of His sacrifice? Would His lack of humility in loving us make us feel special? Would we want to show Jesus gratitude for His sacrifice? I don’t think so. I think we would give obeisance to God only out of fear and not loving reverence for a God who loved us so much that “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8) and never said a word in defense of His innocence (Luke 23:9).

Likewise, I believe our lack of humility in love not only makes people feel bad and not want to show us gratitude but it also makes them less inclined to show us love. So we must remember to walk in humility in relation to our enemies and friends, when we are just showing common courtesies AND when we have to love them intentionally in a huge way. If you don’t, you both may miss the blessing God intends to give to you and them. I am experiencing this mutual blessing. Recently my family extended a huge offer to friends and they accepted it. We were all prayerful about the offer because we knew that we would each have to make major adjustments to our lives that could cause major inconveniences and ultimately negatively impact our relationship. I praise God that we followed God’s leading and have trusted Him for the outcome. Not only were we able to bless our friends but I am experiencing so much joy as we have shown biblical love by having “all things common” (Acts 2:44).

As we seek to love with humility, let’s remember that Jesus, who didn’t have to be humble, did so and walked in subjection to God the Father. And Jesus, as the song writer said, “never said a mumbling word” in His defense. We have the power, because of the Holy Spirit within us, to be silent like Jesus so we can bless others for their TOTAL good.

Take a Risk Challenge: Pray that God will keep a watch over your mouth to prevent you from telling those you are helping just how much you are sacrificing to love them (Psalm 141:3). If you do, you might just receive, as I did with my friends, an unexpected blessing.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Flynn voluntarily cooking
Not cooking a full meal in four days
A midday rendezvous
Clothes shopping with the family and getting a lot for a little
Justus clinging to me on the porch while Nate played in the sprinkler
Not having to cook a full meal in six days
Flynn saying he enjoyed our family outing to the clothing store, a place he usually dreads going to with the entire family
A surprisingly content-rich blog post regarding organic products
Words of advice for Tabitha when I knew I didn’t have any
Flynn taking the boys to get haircuts and shopping, giving me much needed alone time

Challenge 43: Love with Humility

About two months ago I taught a workshop on prayer in the sanctuary of a church and I felt the Lord telling me to sit down for the presentation. I sat the entire time. Last week I taught a workshop on prayer in a conference center and I felt the Lord telling me to take off my shoes. I had bare feet the entire time. As I have been thinking about the similarities of these two incidents—workshops on prayer and positions of humility—I was only making the connection between the type of teaching I was doing with the position that I had been commanded to be in. I simply thought God was trying to communicate that teaching on prayer required that I demonstrated the humility necessary when praying. While I still believe this is true, I began to get a bigger meaning of those two acts when thinking of my service for the past two years to my mother.

Recently, in addition to the errands, phone calls and bill payments, she asked me to cut her toenails and scrub her heels. In essence, she wanted me to give her a pedicure. My mother has NEVER been prone to get pedicures and probably has had less than 10 in her entire 71 years. She would cut her toenails, but never thought much of the importance of grooming her feet beyond that. You may remember me writing about how the Lord spared my mom’s life several times after extreme health issues. After a long hospital stay and rehabilitation work, she is alive and physically stable, but her body is weak. Because of her feeble condition she can’t reach to cut her nails or otherwise really groom her feet. So when she asked me to do so I KNEW she was really in need. I got my tools and headed to her place.

I got on my hands and knees, even laid on my side to get to parts of her feet that I couldn’t reach (because she couldn’t lift her leg to make her feet easily accessible). So as I laid and kneeled I soaked, scrubbed, cut, shaved, smoothed, dried, creamed and polished various parts of her feet. All the while, we talked and laughed, strengthening our bond. Four hours later, even with more work to do, she and I were pleased with the outcome; she was grateful and my heart felt good. And after those times of teaching on prayer, my heart felt good just like when I cared for my mom’s feet. The obvious connection to all these incidents is humility, which is the message of service, which is the message of love.

No matter the act of service—whether teaching in front of crowds or helping the weak, like the elderly or your own children—humility is required. Too often many of us may do an act of service and murmur and complain about what we are doing. We tell the person how we hope they are grateful for what we are doing, mention that we had to rearrange our schedule to help them, keep looking at our watch, huff, roll our eyes or something else like that. We constantly remind them of how great we are for helping them and how pitiful they should feel for having to have us help them. This is not loving service but is lording service which is not really love at all (Mark 10:42-45). The key to love is humility and humility shows in service to others.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:4-8).

Our Lord Jesus, God Himself, served us willingly and because of Him, our world is eternally better. Let us seek to make someone else’s world better by following Christ and loving others with humility. They will be grateful and your heart just may feel good.

Take a Risk Challenge: This week when you serve someone, commit to doing so without murmuring and complaining but with humility.

My One Thousand Gifts List

Listening to Selah in the early morning
Praying with Flynn, Joshua and Nate
A visit to Nana’s and helping her feel at ease using her alarm system
Carla forgiving me for forgetting to edit her blog post
An early evening family nap
Receiving an unexpected email from LaSonjia telling me of her admiration of me as a woman of God
A Spirit-filled and fulfilling conversation with a friend
Watching The Wiz with the boys
Lunch at Leo’s Coney Island with the family
Having a kind waitress

Challenge 42: Embrace Your Family

Like many young ambitious girls I knew early what I wanted my life to be like: I would be a professional writer or professor and travel within that line of work. Perhaps a husband would come; maybe there would be children, but what I really knew was that I would be a career woman, working outside of my home. After a short stint as a journalist and academician, I felt the Lord pulling my heart home. I loved my job as a speech instructor and didn’t believe I would leave the workforce after six years in the position, but God’s calling me was so clear. I followed God’s leading though my heart didn’t settle with my body. My heart finally caught up about a week ago when I was on a much needed getaway alone.

I was looking forward to my time away from the demands of motherhood, marriage and ministry. I told my three boys and husband that I really needed a break from all their testosterone energy; I could be alone with my estrogen whims and simply be okay in my own space. On my two-night bed and breakfast stay about a 45 minutes drive from my house (a gift from the women I spiritually mentor), I planned to ride my bike, shop, read and watch an independent film. As soon as I arrived, I settled in then immediately unloaded my bike, rode downtown and continued to engage in my plans. I reveled in my day as I got to stroll leisurely through the town, find some bargains and laugh through a quirky movie. When I got back to my room, I tried to read but no longer wanted to. I was satisfied with what I had done and was now ready to go home.

Where did that feeling come from? I was looking forward to my break. I was in much need of a break but on day one I was ready to go home and be with my family. My trip was already paid for and I had an appointment in the area in two days so going home was not an option. I talked to my husband, went to bed and the next day decided to take advantage of my time and watch some movies on Netflix. Unbeknown to me, each movie, though different genres and story lines, had the same basic meaning: no matter the differences, oddities and distances of family members, the love among them can be life sustaining. And this is the message for us all: Whether natural or spiritual relatives, we need the love of family. Whether high-octane or subdued, familial love can fuel our tanks and keep us going, even if we need to discover that, like I did, after a short break.

Take a Risk Challenge: Take a break from interacting with challenging loved ones, reflect on the value of their love and reengage them as God leads you, remembering God doesn’t desire us to avoid our relatives who need us (Isaiah 58:7).

One Thousand Gifts List

Justus being content in church service
Nate napping in the car for an hour
An enjoyable boat ride with good food, family and entertainment
The breeze coming off the water
Seeing and talking to Wanda Stubbs
The boys squealing in delight
Staying in my pajamas until 4:30 p.m.
A sweet daughter saying I’m a good mommy and appreciating some mothering I give that she didn’t get from her mother
Realizing that holidays aren’t the same with my extended family and coming to grips with that
Finding “Good Hair” on the Xfinity Play Now option