Saturday, February 11, 2017

Redeeming Love

I read a post on facebook earlier from a friend who is writing an article on marriage.  She asked the question:  What's the secret of staying married?  Buried deep in the comments was this:  how to keep deciding to love when it's hard.

As I've mentioned before I am reading The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp.  This book has challenged me in ways I didn't know I could be challenged.  It has given me a perspective I functioned without but can not pretend I do not have now.  It has blessed me with the opportunity to understand what love is in a way I didn't know was possible.  But it has also left me with choices that need to be made that are both difficult and necessary.

In the beginning of Chapter 8, Ann presents this question:  "What if you break open your one heart and risk pouring out your one life in givenness and you aren't received as being enough to actually be loved back?"

Now, I am not about to get into my entire life history, but I can tell you without sharing details, that I know something about that.  I know exactly how it feels to give everything of yourself in the hope of being loved the way you desperately want to be loved only to find out, "You are not worth my time, effort, affection, attention, self-sacrifice."  And it hurts.  And it leaves you wounded.  And the scars never disappear.

So then, how do you take the risk again?  How do you get back up from feeling completely unworthy, unlovable, damaged, and dirty to try one more time in the hopes that this time will be different?  That this time love will stick?  That this time the love will be accepted, treasured, and reciprocated?

At the time of my life that this happened, I didn't know Jesus the way I do now.  So, I can unequivocally say it was nothing but God's grace that picked me up and gave me the wherewithal to do it.  I may not have known it at the time, but I can undoubtedly see it in retrospect.

However, without having been healed properly, the wounds that remained have followed me up to this point.  There are still triggers that sometimes feel like they willl never go away and still keep walls built up around my scared heart.  It's one of the reasons I bought this book.  I'm tired of living this way.  I certainly don't want to continue this way.  I absolutely don't want to die this way.

Through this process, I have come to see that God can take the most painful parts of your past and redeem them in probably the most painful, but effective, ways.  What left you shattered before can actually work to make you whole again.  And while I might not have chosen the methods God has decided to use in this long, daunting, arduous journey, I can tell you, He makes it personal enough to get your attention to make you realize something bigger than you think is at stake.  Because sometimes it's about more than restoration of what the locusts have eaten, sometimes it's about growing your faith in a way that makes you understand your absolute and utter dependence on the love of Jesus.

But back to Ann's do you risk loving when you aren't guaranteed a return?  I can give you the cliche answers of trusting God, having enough faith to muster up your strength, and believing that God's plans are good and that He'll see you through what might feel like the valley of the shadow of death.  I could tell you to rely on the Spirit that lives in you that has the same power that rose Jesus from the grave.  And while all of those are true, I don't believe that any of those things will independently get you off the ground and willing to put one foot in front of the other.  The reality is, you need God's grace.  You need His grace to give you another chance, another glimmer of hope, another glimpse of belief that this time will be different and worth it.

As Chapter 8 comes to a close Ann writes: "The risk of a vulnerable communion always leaves you tasting the grace of Christ."  Opening your heart isn't easy.  Pouring out your heart can feel like you are holding a 10 gallon bucket trying to pour into a dixie cup without spilling.  But oh to taste the grace of Christ when He exceedinly and abundantly gives you more than you could have ever asked or imagined, makes every tear, heartache, and frightened step worth it.

Jesus you gave your life for us because You believed loving us was worth the risk of being rejected.  Fill us with your love, a love that heals our wounds and gives us the strength to love others, risking it all, to taste the sweetness of your grace.  Amen

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