Living Like Love

Love is bold, daring, big. It speaks up, steps up, stands strong, extends a hand, gives a voice, humbly serves, and shows others the light.

Love isn’t confined to a particular job description or title, level of management, age, location, gender, language, race, or social construct. It’s the thing we all need, the thing we all crave, the thing that binds us all together. If we let it, love could be the beginning of racial reconciliation, political peace, family stability, crime resolution, and a brighter future for all of us.

Love does things. Right where it is. With whatever it has. Right now. It doesn’t wait. It doesn’t hold off, hoping someone else will step up. It takes the leap. It moves. In big gestures and small, it sheds a light in the darkness.

I’ve been inspired a great deal lately by Bob Goff’s book Love Does and Jen Hatmaker’s book For the Love. Both of these have led me to reconsider how I view others, challenge myself to see them the way God sees them, and treat them accordingly by truly loving them. I want my love to be evident to all. After all, that’s how followers of Christ are supposed to be distinguishable, right? If we don’t love, how are we any different from the world around us? How can we accomplish anything without love? We can’t. Nothing else matters if we don’t love well.

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. -1 Corinthians 13: 1-3

For authoring a blog called “Live like love,” I haven’t been doing such a great job of practicing what I’m preaching. I tend to go through life on autopilot, keeping my eyes on my own little world, walking the path of least resistance. But I’m being called and challenged to more. Regardless of where I am or what I’m doing with my life, I can love those around me. I can make a conscious effort to make love the driving force behind my actions.

I want to really live my life from a position of love, filtering all of life through that lens. Are my words loving? Are my thoughts loving– those about others and those about myself? Are my actions loving? Are my attitudes loving? Is my love evident to others? Am I growing in my love for God, the source of all love, the One who loves me more than I can ever fathom and gave me a great example of love to follow? Am I striving to demonstrate love both to those closest to me and those who are strangers or acquaintances, or do I only love those who love me in return?

These questions and the inspiration from the books I’ve been reading have motivated me to rethink how well I love those around me. They’ve opened my eyes to the dissonance between how I want to live and how I currently live on a day-to-day basis. In seeing that gap, I have found motivation to challenge myself to love better. And I hope that I will only continue to grow in that as I pursue the meaning of living like love.

Broken Vessels

I was going to write a post of my own today instead of a summary of someone else’s writing, I promise. But then I received an email with a post that resonated so strongly with my heart that all other thoughts moved to the back burner. This post encompasses so much of what I believe and want so desperately to live out. Let’s together strive to make our lives reflect our determination to serve as Christ served.

“The bottom line is that we are to be banner carriers of hope. The kind of hope that rises even out of the grave. The kind of hope we have in Jesus, who is still the answer to every broken thing. And we are still God’s chosen vessels to carry that banner of hope to a dark and broken world. Make no mistake. We are not heroes. We are vessels… and we are broken.” Sarah K. Gilmore

“But it is going to take more than awareness for us to make a difference. And God’s ‘Plan A’ to mobilize hope and healing in the earth has always been us. The Church.

The Church will change the world when we make a decision to be willing to have our lives interrupted on behalf of others, no matter the cost. It may cost us a life… and wouldn’t that be just like Jesus? Obedience to the point of death?

Oh, but friends — the life it will yield if we are willing to get our hands dirty. I can’t look at the life of Jesus and not believe wholeheartedly that this is what we’re to do if we want to be like Him. Enter into the mess. Like the Jesus who stooped low to the woman caught in adultery.

We can share our opinions all we want, but until we’re a people who actually walk alongside the broken population of our nation that face a mountain of impossibility in their every day lives, I honestly don’t believe our opinions carry much weight or authority.” Sarah K. Gilmore

“To what extent are we willing to humble ourselves and reach across the chasm of our society to the woman who lives in that reality of hopelessness? What kind of inconvenience are we actually willing to step into on behalf of someone else?

…I’m not sure what the answer is for you. To be honest, I’m not sure what it is for me either. …I know that He intends to continue to lead me into uncomfortable places of advocating for life in ways that will probably cost me something.

I can’t think of a better thing to live for, though. We are not on this earth to build our own kingdoms and dreams. We’re here to build His. And it’s going to cost us something to be a people who step into impossible situations, right alongside those living in such depravity, leaving our own places of comfort and ease to do so.

This is an exciting hour in our nation for the Church. I pray we enter into the hard places and gain ground in every place that He intends for us to. It’s going to take more than our voices though. It’s going to take our hands and feet, surrendered entirely to a heart that belongs to Him… which means there may not be much in it for us.

How will YOU respond?” -Sarah K. Gilmore, The Cost of Being an Advocate

One Step at a Time

I’m a planner. Ask my friends and family. I like to know where I’m going and what I’m doing. I like to have it all organized and planned out so that I can get as much done as possible. Knowing what plans I have or events are on the calendar helps me figure out what else I can get done.

But I’m learning that I don’t have to have it all planned out. When I have a really defined long-term plan, I get too far ahead of myself. I get too far ahead of God. I reach a point where I no longer need to rely on Him for provision.

Instead, I fool myself into thinking that I have everything worked out for a while, all my needs provided for. Things inevitably don’t go the way I planned, of course, often causing a whirlwind of futile attempts to set everything to rights by my own strength. But the things in my life, right or wrong, are beyond my control sometimes.

In order to get me to open my eyes to the fragility of my plans, emptiness of my dreams, and selfishness of my heart, God allows me to encounter situations that challenge my self-sufficiency, reminding me that I can’t rely on my own plans and provision.

When our landlords told us they were moving ahead with the construction plans for the house this fall, my roommates and I were taken by surprise. The timeline had been shortened more than we had expected, and we were left with more questions than answers as we began to survey our options.

I kept telling myself we had plenty of time to find something, since we were planning on renting again, and postings didn’t go up too early in advance. I also knew from previous experience that it’s hard for me to be content with my current surroundings when I have a new place that I’m looking forward to. I get too far ahead of myself, dreaming about what I’m going to do with the new space, forgetting about the place and people currently around me. I wanted to steer clear of that this time, making sure I didn’t let the glittering allure of the next stage of life detract from my enjoyment of the place I was already in.

I knew God would provide a place, and as things seemed to move at a snail’s pace while the days flew by at warp speed, it was a comfort to know that we had a back-up plan of moving back in with our parents. But my sister and I recognized how inconvenient that arrangement would be for everyone involved. We trusted instead that we would come across the right place at the right time, even if it meant loosening our expectations and learning through trial and error, both of which we did by the time the search was over. But we knew we had to be faithful, trusting in His timing, knowing that He’s never late and seldom early. He provides for our needs for today, not all of our needs for every day all at once. He doles them out in smaller portions to keep our eyes trained on Him, to keep us close to Him. And, boy, did we have to stay close to Him during this experience, taking things just one step at a time.

My sister and I just signed a one-year lease for an apartment not too far from where we’ve been living. But I have absolutely no clue what life looks like beyond that. It’s a blank slate. No five-year plan for this planning-happy girl. That’s both exciting and frightening for my Type-A brain, but I’m trying to wrap my head around it. It’s an adventure. It’s my adventure. It could go in any number of directions from here. And that’s a beautiful thing.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Safe & Secure

We like to feel safe and secure in life. We like to think we know what’s coming, so we can be fully prepared for it, so nothing takes us by surprise and rocks our world too much. When faced with big decisions like whether to change careers or stick with our current job, we choose the “safer” path, the one that seems to present fewer risks, thinking we know exactly what this path looks like. Whether we’re returning to an old path that’s familiar to us, or choosing the one that is wide and well-worn by others, we feel like we are making the smart, responsible choice in bypassing the great risk of forging our own path.

But God has a way of throwing us curveballs regardless of which path we choose. No paths are quite what they seem at first. When we choose the one that appears smoothest and straightest, He brings unforeseen obstacles into our lives to force us to continue to turn to Him for help, showing us that He has more in store for us than a secure ride through life.

After graduating from college, I decided to live with my parents so I could save money. I thought if I worked hard enough to apply and interview for jobs, I would be able to land one quickly after graduation. This seemed like the next logical step for me; that’s how life worked, wasn’t it? You went to high school, then college, then you got a job in the “real world.” I found myself getting extremely frustrated, burned out, and angry as months passed without any glimpse of a job on the horizon.

It took a really long time, during which I graduated, moved home, worked as a temp at my mom’s office, and went without any work for a couple months, for me to see that if I had simply stopped forcing my will and my desire for a job RIGHT NOW, instead relaxing in the knowledge that God will provide in His timing, things would have gone much better. I may not have gotten a job any sooner than I did trying to make it all happen on my own, but I would have had peace during the time I spent waiting, instead of being filled to overflowing with bitterness and exhaustion.

When we think our lives are predictable, we subconsciously tell ourselves that we can do all of this on our own—we don’t need God to pick us up when we fall or guide us in the dark, dry seasons. We think we will be stretched and tested if we choose to move to a new city, start a new job, or sell everything we own to serve in missions full-time, but the truth is this: God uses all of our decisions to bring us back to Him. Big or small in our eyes, each of our life decisions have the capacity to bring us closer to Him or pull us away from Him. The outcome depends far more on whether we continue looking to Him or think we can do it ourselves, safeguarding our hearts instead of stepping out in faith.

Taking the familiar, safe path will inevitably lead us to average, normal lives, as we refuse to give God the room to do amazing things in and through us. We instead limit Him to only the things we think are possible. I don’t think any of us really plan on being average; we all want more than that for our lives. But we follow others’ footsteps on the easier trail, seeking the path of least resistance because we think it will ultimately lead to success and happiness. He wants us to be active participants in our lives, not just passive bystanders who let life happen to them. Creating the life you want takes intention, purpose, and boldness to make decisions without knowing for sure where they lead you, trusting that it will all work out for good. That path may not feel safe or secure, but it will be right.

I have learned that when it seems like I have figured everything out, lined all my ducks up in a row, I’m likely nearing a point in which I will need to cry out to God from my knees once again. We expect life to unfold in a linear fashion, each step followed by the next logical one in the progression. But life is far more complicated than that. When we expect things to be predictable and safe, we will certainly be disappointed. We need to accept and expect the fact that things happen in a seemingly unexpected manner.

Our experiences shape us. May we reject the route that looks to be the secure one, knowing we were meant to live for more than a safe, predictable life. Let us be bold enough to take the more challenging paths, keeping our head up all the way, asking God to equip us to handle whatever difficulties we may encounter, knowing there will also be abundant blessings along the way.