Take off the costume of Love

When I think about the moments I can still feel the daggers. The way my heart started to pound, the way my eyes cast down. The gross feelings I already felt being awakened again.  I sat … quiet, listening. I listened to the words spoken. You are not enough. I nodded in agreement. She was clearly right. You ought to try harder. You need to be better. You just aren’t getting it right.

We’ve all had moments of judgement in our lives. For some of us it’s been so often we get particularly good at brushing it off. The callouses so thick we don’t even feel it. Turns out, no matter how thick the skin – there are a few times that sting especially deep and long and hard. Those ones we remember. In fact, we remember it all – the noise in the background, the look in the eyes and the exact words spoken straight to us.

I hear the words and I feel the shame and I see the finger point and all I can think is –  do they think that I think I AM enough? Because I never feel like enough. Do they really need to point it out like this? I know I don’t love enough or give enough or use just the right words often enough. I know I’m not patient enough or kind enough and I don’t reach out to strangers enough. I know that the ways I love my husband aren’t always right and I tend to get snappy with my kids especially when they’re snappy with each other. I know all of this. I feel it achingly on my own without anyone else pointing it out.

The dagger pierced my heart when I was new to this whole gospel thing, a tiny babe in the ways of loving our Lord who gave His all for my freedom. A finger pointed straight at me and told me all of the ways I’d hurt, harmed, and damaged.

I know! I know I have. What more was there to say? But knowing wasn’t enough. I had to hear it from the lips that sat there across from me. Just to make sure, I suppose.

The knife twisted years later, as I was gaining footing and learning about loving Jesus with all of my heart – though failing to do it well, naturally. Turns out my ways of loving the Lord weren’t quite right. They weren’t enough. I needed to conform. There was a way to do this Jesus thing and I certainly wasn’t doing it. I needed to cozy up to particular theology and never question. I needed to speak in certain ways to get it just right. There was a mold and my misshapen self was not fitting into it.

The tears came as I nodded in agreement. Yeah. I get it. I fail on repeat and daily I repent and I know I’m not the model for christian lady magazine.

My heart was defeated as I sat in this place again, listening to the words describe my failures. I know. I’m never going to get this christian thing right. The attacks might as well keep coming. I’m a mess.

Years later my roots had plunged much deeper into the soil. Or at least I had a bit more understanding of grace and mercy and the gospel and my sinful heart. I also understood that perfect was not something I needed to be, yet the words came again. I sat there and listened as I was told my words didn’t honour God and I’d be right to change them for how can we honour God if not with our lips and our words.

I cursed in my head right then and there and walked away.

There’s a costume worn sometimes that resembles love. It can be put on over top of self-righteousness and power. It can be worn as a layer on the outside when underneath is need for control. This love disguise can be used to feign concern, care and worry. It’s almost as if those wearing the love costume are actually interested in our well being. But they’re not. Because love doesn’t point fingers and heap shame. Love actually says, I love you. Love says, my heart is for you. Love says, I’m with you and how can I help.

As difficult as these moments in my life were, I know that they’ve grown my character and faith. They’ve taught me what love is and what love isn’t. I know now that words of love are ones that draw us in but harsh words only point with fingers that push away. Words of love share with us who Jesus is and desire to disciple us to live and love like He did. Harsh words show us who people are and their desire for us to live and love like THEY do.

The kingdom of God is not about manipulation. It’s not about shame. It’s not about speaking perfectly or living righteously for all to see. It’s not about putting on your Sunday best or polishing up your act. It’s not about assimilation to christian culture but to have a heart that yearns for Jesus and a desire to follow what is laid out for us in scripture. If the kingdom of God is for everyone, and it is – for everyone – then it can’t be about speaking our culturally-canadian-christian words or failing to measure up.

Loving and following Jesus in obedience is not living a perfect life and pointing out the faults of those who may not do it just the same.

Loving and following Jesus means coming alongside people – all people – and speaking words of love. It means not having a preference for one type of person over another in terms of who we choose to share our love with.

Loving and following Jesus means not placing undue emphasis on lives that look shiny and polished but rather on hearts that are lowly, sackcloth and ashes, understanding  that we know we keep messing it up! WE KNOW! It’s the very reason we need a Saviour.

Loving and following Jesus means loving people as they are. My friends, listen for just a moment? There is a difference between loving people as they are and wanting people to be just like you.

My goodness is it ever hard to love people who are different, isn’t it?  And it’s easy to think that our ways are THE ways and it’s hard to not want people to conform to our very simple, suburban, white, middle-class way of life. It’s so much harder to trust that the Holy Spirit is leading and guiding all of those who love Jesus and so our lives may look different. The places we hang out, different. The music we listen to, different. The place we lay our heads at night, different.

My hope is that by understanding the love of Christ, I understand that He loves me. Me! A wretched, awful sinner who wants to follow Him with all of my heart but is wooed so easily by the things of this world. Me! A hypocrite who tells my kids to be patient and peaceful and kind and self-controlled and then within moments yells at them that we’re late and it’s time to go, NOW! Me. A simple girl who can’t get it right and has learned that the years don’t change that.

I don’t know all that much but I do know that if God loves me in all of my mess then it is my privilege to love others in all of theirs.

We aren’t meant to be pretty or perfect or polished or poised. We’re meant to admit that we’re a mess and that our darkened hearts need One who is greater. We aren’t meant to simply place love on as an afterthought to our motives, but we’re meant to be love to all.

I’m a mess friends, but I’m a mess who loves Jesus and wants nothing more than to say to those who cross my path – come. Come taste and see that the Lord – He is good.

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