I’ve always been someone to cheer on those around me. Someone who will encourage when I see someone feeling down. Because I know, perhaps all to well, what it feels like to be beaten down to the point where you’re tasting dust and having no one to help you stand. No one to aid you in coming up out of the dirt. Life gets challenging when there is no one to tell you that although it was from dust that you were created, you were never meant to dwell there among the ashes.
We are the children of the Son. Like the Phoenix we were created to rise again and to overcome.
If there is no voice to spark the embers and call us out of the ruins and back into the sky from which this star descended, then how are we to find our way back to our home inside the Heavens?
“Therefore, encourage each other every day while you have the opportunity. If you do this, none of you will be deceived by sin and become stubborn.” Hebrews 3:13
I must confess that I often wonder if I am on my own in this. Am I doing myself a disservice of igniting flames just to pass the baton to someone who will run further and faster than I could ever see myself, in the end leaving me back in the dust. I am just being real with these thoughts in hopes to spur on conversation. Please tell me I am not alone!
There are some questions in life that may never be answered, but this I know: It has been one of my greatest privileges in life to be able to see the people who God has placed in my life soaring with the potential that God has breathed and birthed within each of them. The same potential that God has given me the honor to see within each person as well.
The trouble with this perspective in life, being an idealist in other words, is that I feel I am often disappointed. Especially when those with said potential either refuse to see it or refuse to apply it and do something with it. I guess that’s all a matter of perspective as well. I more than likely disappoint others in this same way. Guess that's where expectations will always get you.
Whenever my mind starts to spiral into these thoughts, I am often reminded of a quote from one of my favorite TV shows (nerd alert!) Doctor Who, The Day of The Doctor episode. The War Doctor is speaking to The Moment (an oracle) says: “Great men are forged in the fire, it is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.” Maybe so.
As I allow these thoughts to pave the way for a bit more soul searching, I can’t help but consider what my church recently finished teaching from Psalm 23. A few weeks back the focus was on the verse that states “I shall not want.” As I’ve thought about the phrase and what it means to not be in want, the first response was in getting past the stereotypical American “First World” mind set. I honestly think the weight of this goes deeper than just the materialistic desires. It is David’s heart knowing and trusting in the truth that with God leading the way through the course of his life: “I shall not want” for the need to be loved, to be provided for, to be protected, to be satisfied and fulfilled in every single one of the deepest longings of the human heart.
Paired easily with 1 Corinthians 13, to me personally, that means digging deeper into my own heart and forcing myself to ask the questions that I am afraid of answering. It means really questioning my motives and if “love is not self-seeking” then am I okay with encouraging and building up those around me, even if I am far surpassed in both greatness, and opportunities or experiences? If I’m not, then I am not trusting God as my shepherd to “make my lie down in green pastures” or to “lead me beside the still waters." If I'm not, then I am walking in pride and self-preservation.
The idea of never lacking or never being in want is written throughout the bible. No, please hear me, I am not advocating for a prosperity gospel, because I believe there is enough biblical evidence out there, as well as personal experience that proves that God cares way more about our character, out of the love of a perfect and good Father, than He does about our comfort and success. At least success as we have defined it for years via the filter of “The American Dream.” Which leads me back to my original question, am I doing a disservice to myself, when it isn’t even about success to begin with? Furthermore, how are we defining success in the same way that God would define success? Or through the materialistic, first world mindset?
This is a theme that Paul also wrote about heavily in Philippians, obviously grasping the same truths of what really matters when it comes to our needs and provisions. This leads me to hopefully at least begin understanding what Paul is referring to when he says, “whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-8)
So if we as Christians are called to love in the same way that Christ loves, then Paul seemed to have some form of understanding in this. At the very least, enough trust to be willing to surrender and sacrifice for the sake of knowing the Lord personally. It is something we as Christians must consider. If Paul’s love for the Lord looked like this, what does that say about the Lord’s love for us? Or what our love for those around us should look like based on this? I believe what this all is saying is that our love for one another should know no bounds and expect nothing in return. Not an easy objective to live by, but one I have been wrestling with and aiming for all the same.
It does not and should not matter what has been done to us. Again, I know this may sound naïve. I can almost hear some of you saying: “but you’ve never experienced abuse like I have!” or “you have no idea what my ex did to me!” I may not know your story, and believe me, I am aware that every story is different. But trust me when I say that I have walked in similar shoes and I do empathize with the pain you feel. God has challenged me in seasons of my life to forgive what many, myself included, would deem as unforgivable at times. I am fully aware that it is not without the help of the Holy Spirit and a great understanding of God’s love, both for ourselves and others, that call me to see, as C.S. Lewis once said: “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” I trust that if each of us allowed to reflect on our lives and our motives, we would see this as truth.
So my challenge to you dear readers, is this: “Love each other deeply, for love covers over a multitude of sin” (1 Peter 4:8). It may be the idealistic tendencies in me talking here, but imagine what our lives and our worlds would look like if we all learned to actually live this. To love not out of a place of fear or pain or bitterness, because that's not really love in the first place. If love is anything less than unconditional, it it not love.
"There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out all fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." 1 John 4:18
My challenge is to aim towards loving purely from a place of Christ and our assurance in Him in every form. A confidence in our identity as dearly loved children, and in knowing that He is our protector and vindicator. I do believe that each of us carries within us the capacity and potential to change the world around us if we would actually choose love. Yes, I’ll admit it. I am a dreamer, but I have the faith to believe that I’m not the only one! ;)