Category: Love


The Beautiful Is

“By far the most dangerous foe we have to fight is apathy – indifference from whatever cause, not from a lack of knowledge, but from carelessness, from absorption in other pursuits, from a contempt bred of self satisfaction.”
-William Osler
Am I apathetic? Am I prideful?
I’d like to say I’m not. But I am.
Pride is the inability to focus on what is, the I AM. Pride instead focuses on what we think is, who we are, and who we think we could be. If our focus is on ourselves, we will never be content, we are incapable of satisfying ourselves and our deep need for perfection. We should all be perfectionists: people pursuing the Perfect One relentlessly, not people trying to perfect themselves with their imperfect attempts. Will I let my desire for perfection drive me closer to the One who defines all else, or will I try to be greater than He is? Tell Him my plan and require Him to approve it?
Am I apathetic? I’d like to think I’m not. But am I apathetic about what is most important? Am I focusing on reality or only my perceived reality? Am I relentlessly living for the God who spoke the world into being, or am I trying to mean the world to others?
How can I so quickly forget? And why do I so frequently go after what I know will not be enough, while ignoring the One I know I need?

“Watch and pray, so that you do not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
-Matthew 26:41

I was encouraged multiple times today to lean again on God. On “just” God, and yet, EVERYTHING on God. Somewhere along the way, I’ve decided I’ve become self-sufficient, that I can somehow handle everything, or be responsible for everything. I think I must find my own strength. Be good enough. Be more. Reach perfection.

I cannot.

I will never find perfection in my own futile attempts to try. I must fly on the wings of the Perfect, take time every day, every hour, every thought, to cherish His perfection. To see Him for who HE IS, to be reminded of who he is and then by default, who I am.

“It is not simply that God has arbitrarily made us such that He is our only good. Rather God is the only good of all creatures… but that there ever could be any other good, is an atheistic dream… If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows – the only food that any possible universe ever can grow – then we must starve eternally.” (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pp. 41-42)

I am not perfect, but He loves me. He is perfecting me: not for my own satisfaction, but so that I will be more lovable and able to appreciate His perfection more. This inevitably leads to incomparable satisfaction, but it is not the end goal; I am not the focus. And knowing that, really knowing it, is so incredibly freeing.

Over break, I read C.S.Lewis’s book “The Problem of Pain.” I am reminded of a section from the third chapter of the work, titled “Divine Goodness.”

“When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some “disinterested”, because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of his love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the “lord of terrible aspect”, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, nor the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.

“The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the word “love”, and look on things as if man were the centre of them. Man is not the centre. God does not exist for the sake of man. Man does not exist for his own sake. “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the divine love may rest ‘well pleased.’ To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable. We cannot even wish, in our better moments, that He could reconcile Himself to our present impurities – no more than the beggar maid could wish that King Cophetua should be content with her rags and dirt…What we would here and now call our ‘happiness’ is not the end God chiefly has in view: but when we are such as He can love without impediment, we shall in fact be happy.

“I plainly foresee that the course of my argument may provoke a protest…it may be objected that a mere reversal of our own ethics is precisely what we have been asked to accept. The kind of love which I attribute to God, it may be said, is just the kind which in human beings we describe as ‘selfish’ or ‘possessive,’ and contrast unfavorably with another kind which seeks first the happiness of the beloved and not the contentment of the lover…

“The truth is that this antithesis between egoistic and altruistic love cannot be unambiguously applied to the love of God for His creatures. Clashes of interest, and therefore opportunities either of selfishness or unselfishness, occur only between beings inhabiting a common world: God can no more be in competition with a creature than Shakespeare can be in competition with Viola. When God becomes a Man and lives as a creature among His own creatures in Palestine, then indeed His life is one of supreme self-sacrifice and leads to Calvary…But God in His transcendence cannot easily be thought of in the same way. We call human love selfish when it satisfies its own needs at the expense of the object’s needs…None of these conditions is present in the relation of God to man. God has no needs. Human love, as Plato teaches us, is the child of Poverty – of a want or lack; it is caused by a real or supposed good in its beloved which the lover needs and desires. But God’s love, far from being caused by goodness in the object, causes all the goodness which the object has, loving it first into existence and then into real, though derivative, love-ability. God is Goodness. He can give good, but cannot need or get it. In that sense, all His love is, as it were, bottomlessly selfless by very definition; it has everything to give and nothing to receive.Hence, if God sometimes speaks as thought the Impassible could suffer passion and eternal fullness could be in want, and in want of those beings on whom it bestows all from their bare existence upwards, this can mean only, if it means anything intelligible by us, that God of mere miracle has made Himself able so to hunger and created in Himself that which we can satisfy. If He requires us, the requirement is His own choice.” (pp. 48 – 50)

God has granted me sight to see and appreciate the Beautiful, the Good, His Being. Will I continue to see through His eyes, be so in tune with His heart that my heart breaks for what breaks His, and rejoices for what gladdens His? Or will I instead be like Peter, James, and John when with Jesus in Gethsemane, they failed to realize his heart was sorrowful,even after spending years with him, and hearing him tell them that he was grieved and requested their prayers? Instead of praying, they slept. Will I choose sleep, my own good, over what He would ask? Will I apathetically ignore the Good, pursuing the ugly instead of the Beautiful?

“He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
-Micah 6:8

Friendship: Arrow or Song?

I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.

I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?

Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;

And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

At first glance, an arrow and a song seem completely separated, and having little or nothing in common except the speed with which they both disappear. Yet by the third stanza, the relation between the two is cemented as both objects (that formerly had taken one stanza each) are discussed and compared, fused, in one stanza.
Just as an arrow is capable of wounding, destroying, so a song is capable of healing. And just as a friend is capable of restoring a song (providing healing, joy, understanding), so is a friend capable of causing spiritual hurt like the physical harm an arrow can inflict. Like an arrow must be deliberately released to hit its target, so must the wounds that hurt us most from friends be deliberate and intentional.
When one shoots an arrow, or shares a song, he doesn’t know exactly how that arrow or song will be received; when one offers the gift of friendship, he does not know how his offer will be received. In one sense, he is leaving himself vulnerable – as though he has shot his only arrow of defense and is now left open to whatever may be shot his way, or has bravely allowed another to listen to his most personal emotions and in doing so, made explicit what may be scorned or rejected.
The specific adjective ” still unbroke” in the third stanza seems to strongly imply that the speaker expected his arrow to be broken, and one could say, also did not expect to find his song “in the heart of a friend.”
Friendship and joy is risky business: we are often broken, and our songs are rarely recovered. Yet, with great risk comes great value. Therefore, once found, true friendship is worth all the risk. Two people are able to know and care for each other well enough to think and feel with one heart, to finish each others’ songs, inspire each others’ songs, and most difficult of all, preserve each others’ songs “from beginning to end.” That is most difficult because it requires unselfish giving, the willingness of one individual to keep the heart of their friend, the “song” or soul of that person’s very existence, without losing even one line.
I cannot help but connect the idea of friendship, songs, and arrows with the biblical characters David and Jonathan. Jonathan risked his very life to preserve David (the writer and singer of the Psalms, a master musician) from his own father’s jealous hatred, by shooting an arrow in warning to the hiding David. In a few years, after David had been on the run from Saul’s attempts to kill him, he happened across a sleeping Saul one night, but instead of killing him, David demonstrated respect for his God and his friend by simply taking the spear and water jug next to Saul. David and Jonathan both did their best to preserve the life and heart of each other. And in spite of the worst circumstances, separation, and incredible stress, they managed to turn something terrible into a joy-giving, life-preserving friendship.

I just began reading this narrative account of a Dutch woman who became involved in the underground effort to help Jews escape during World War II. These quotes are taken from the first five chapters of the book.
“Happiness isn’t something that depends on our surroundings. It’s something we make inside ourselves.”

” ‘Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked, that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill the love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies too. Or, we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.
‘God loves Karel – even more than you do – and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy.
‘Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, God can give us the perfect way.’

” I did not know, as I listened to Fathers footsteps winding back down the stairs, that he had given me more than the key to this hard moment. I did not know that he had put into my hands the secret that would open far darker rooms than this – places where there was not, on a human level, anything to love at all.”

“And so I learned that love is larger than the walls which shut it in.”

Brave

“So sometimes we have to decide: are we going to love, or are we going to look smart? Because, loving the
needy doesn’t look smart.”

This quote, and those following,  is taken from a message by Gary Haugen, president of International Justice Mission.

I found this message incredibly relevant to my own life and decisions right now.

~~~~~

What does all this mean? Well, it brings us to the topic that John asked me to address, which is “What do we
do when the will of God is scary?” Well, first we might look at the question. Is God’s will ever supposed to be scary? I
mean, isn’t God supposed to take care of me? Isn’t he supposed to keep me from danger and make me safe? In fact,
aren’t I probably out of his will if I’m feeling scared? Well, according to Jesus, no. In fact, it turns out that doing God’s
will in a fallen world is inherently dangerous. Over and over in Scripture, Jesus teaches us that his disciples will suffer
for following him. Of course, we will avoid a lot of suffering for following him. We will avoid the suffering of guilt, the
suffering of self-destruction, of addition, of hell. But there are other kinds of suffering we will encounter precisely
because we are following him. And he wants us to be very clear about this. In fact, in our New Testament reading
from I Peter it says, Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But, even if you do suffer for doing
what is right, you are blessed…Keep your conscience clear, so that when you are maligned, those
who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for
doing good, if that should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.

So some suffering can clearly be God’s will. It isn’t necessarily the suffering itself that is God’s will, but rather, in a
fallen world, following the will of God will generate suffering in our lives. In fact, there are two things that are always
the will of God and always dangerous in a fallen world: telling the truth and loving needy people.

~~~~~

Sometimes the will of God is scary because he’s asking us to choose between a life that looks successful and
a life that is actually significant. A life that wins the applause of our peers or a life that actually transforms lives
through love. In Washington, DC, I think, one of the most exalted positions of life is actually becoming a Senator.
Really though, history shows that you can actually be a senator of just about no significance. Sometimes it’s just
confusing. Are we seeking success or significance? Jesus tried to be clear about all of this with his disciples. He said
in Luke 9:24 “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will
save it.”

~~~~~

Embark on the lifelong journey of spiritual formation and renovation of the heart. It’s not by
the sheer will inside that we will be brave. It takes reformation of the heart. And God doesn’t call us to try
to be brave. He calls us to train to be brave. It’s not something we arrive at tomorrow, but hopefully, by the
grace of God, it’s something we’re entering into more deeply ten years from now.

~~~~~

Amen.

“Love seeketh not Itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair.”

So sung a little Clod of Clay
Trodden with the cattle’s feet,
But a Pebble in the brook
Warbled out these metres meet:

“Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to Its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

Common Ground?

We need “open hearts, open minds, and fair-minded words” when discussing the issue of abortion.

But those who wish to prolong the “debate” over abortion are the ones wishing to still beating hearts, stop working minds, and unfairly silence the words of millions of children.

We need to find “common ground” on this issue.

How will that lead to resolution? The equator seperates North and South, it does not bring them together. Can there be any compromise when it comes to determining human life? The options seem pretty clear cut – dead or alive?  This “let’s hold hands and work together” nonsense is focused only on those people already living, with no regard to those not yet born, which is who the whole controversy centers around. But then, since those in favor of abortion often do not acknowledge the unborn as human, it makes sense that an admonition of this sort that focuses on the born living’s best interests will go over well.

“Is it possible for us to join hands common effort?”

What might that common effort be? One to improve the lives of those people already born?  Will there be any hands to hold?

Love

‘Beauty is as Beauty does,’

Is the charm repeated.

 

But in this world,

this distorted  mortal world,

What is Beauty? And what is Truth?

 

For if you have not Beauty, have you Truth?

But if you have not Truth, have you Beauty?

 

Truth is sometimes ugly,

But Beauty is as well.

Appearances are oft’ deceiving,

This anyone can tell.

 

Love is Truth’s Redeemer.

 Pride stands condemning Truth and Beauty,

When left from Love.

 

 

 

 

A Loving Heart

“Don’t follow your heart – lead it.”

                                           -Fireproof

Willing to Risk It All?

Am I willing to risk it?

To really love others, at my own risk?

It seems like people are forever talking about taking risks in love, mainly romantic love, but the risks they speak of involve mostly physical, sometimes emotional, risks in exchange for the reward of  either love, or what they perceive to be love. But to really risk everything, in exchange for nothing for oneself, this is love. The irony of course, is that when we do risk everything for others’ benefit, and not our own, we are benefitted most. But when done exclusively for the benefit it gives oneself to give to others, is it love? And, if it is not, can one receive the reward?

It seems so easy for me  to be willing to risk all for God, to risk it all out of my love for Him. But, while it is easy for me to be willing, it is not so easy to commit to actually risking it.

To risk having my pride trampled, being taken advantage of, becoming destitute, losing control, being a nobody – it all seems so easy to say ‘yes’ to in theory, but it is so easy to say ‘no’ to in practice.

I am reminded of  1 Corinthians 13: 4-7.

If one follows this passage and takes the “risks,” he or she would in effect take the risks of being late, being scorned, being ignored, being cheated, being wronged, being hurt (physically and emotionally), being lied to, being stepped on, being overlooked, etc.

But, if one does take those risks, he or she would be able to have the “most excellent way.” It certainly is worth it. So why don’t I take the everyday risks more? Is my own selfishness really so powerful?

I say I am willing to risk it all, even my life, for Christ. But when it comes to daily taking up my cross and following Him, and so loving Him and others, does my willingness show?

1 Corinthians 12:30b; 13:1-9, 13

And now I will show you the most excellent way.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.                                                       

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the tuth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophesies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away…

And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.