|360 Degrees of Transformation||
Last Sunday, at church, I was given a challenge to allow God to open my heart to love everybody. Not just love the people who are easy to love, who I like to love, and not by just saying "I love you", but loving ALL people, even those who aren't lovable by the world's standards, and SHOWING sacrificial love. Actual, real, agape love. I prayed, for myself, an invite to let God come in and change my definition of love.
Since then, I've spent a lot of time with my heart breaking, and tears pouring out. God has re-lit a fire in my heart, and I can feel the protective shell burning off. I feel exhausted by the weight of love for people who's stories I've heard but never met, and the sadness for their pain. I even had a dream where I experienced in detail a heart-breaking and overwhelming grief for the hurting children of the world. Have you ever awoken from a dream where you've been sobbing, and it affects your entire day? Today is no exception. In my job, I hear many people's stories, and again today, my heart is hurting for those who hurt. Inside America and beyond our borders, who are the ones who we see hurting? Who are the ones who require sacrifice to love? And what can we do about it?
Loving others, how Jesus loved on earth and how God loves always, is not for the faint of heart. It hurts! Physically, mentally, emotionally hurts. I can no longer hide from it, and I don't want to! If this is a part of what God feels for everyone, because of His love, I want to feel it ALL. I believe that many times, people are unable to handle that pain, and that is why they hide from it. My God calls for me to stop hiding from it. I know what He wants from me. What He has always wanted from me. To shrug off these chains of "self" and make the daily sacrifices for those who need to experience God's love, as I have experienced it.
What does that sacrifice look like? It looks like time taken from my day to give someone a ride. It looks like giving money to help someone out, without expecting repayment, or expectations of how it should be spent. It looks like listening attentively when someone needs to tell me their hurt, and not offering "helpful" advice or judgement. It is offering to run an errand, watch someone's child, and SERVE someone who needs to feel loved, without reciprocation. It is doing or giving to someone without expectation of thanks or praise. Here is what else it looks like, for me. My experience has been to hide away when the world is overwhelming, and when I've been hurt. My instinct has always been self-preservation, to protect myself from those who have hurt me, and from those who WILL hurt me. It will happen again. It looks like me getting back up when I've been knocked down, walking right out the door to keep loving when I just want to hide.
God doesn't say that we won't ever be hurt again, and He doesn't say it will be easy to love, but He does promise that He will provide peace, comfort, and strength to continue. He promises to give rest. When you need something, look to God, and He will provide what you are needing. Just remember that it doesn't always look like what you think it should. And love doesn't always look like how the world says it should.
Where can we go with this sacrificial love? Anywhere. Go with courage. It takes courage to admit that bad things can happen to regular people like us, and is not the result of imagined bad choices or bad parenting. It takes courage to give to people who the world says are undeserving. It takes courage to speak up, lovingly, to defend others. It takes courage to not hide behind computers, the words of other people, and past mistakes. It takes honesty to come out from under the labels placed on us that differ from God's identity for us. It takes honesty to speak truth to ourselves, even when it hurts.
I encourage you to always begin and end with God. Look to Him for help and direction. Look at how Jesus lived to understand what it means to love like Him. This is no easy task, loving others with agape. Again, it is painful, requires the free will sacrifice of self, and is viewed as radical and strange by others. But...if you want to be another step closer to understanding Who God is...live a life giving away agape love to everyone you meet, dirty and clean, rich and poor, misunderstood and unlikable, ___________(fill in the blank). Love those that others call on you to hate. Love those who you might believe deserve pain and death. And count on God to fill you up, meet your needs, give you rest, peace and strength, instead of relying on others.
Whatever you decide, I still love you. Mostly, it takes more than one call for you to be ready for this change. Keep letting God in. Don't shut Him out.
And, always, please pray for me. This is a difficult journey for me, and your prayers do help.
We might be in different places, but all of us are on a journey.
Leah's Life Verses