Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. For the entirety of your lifetime God wants to teach you about love. He will do this in all sorts of ways — puppies, children, relatives, music, inanimate objects, nature. His desire is for you is to learn about love to enhance all the relationships of your life so that you may love others as yourself.
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The first part of being able to love others is to understand God’s love to us. Here, we come back to the beginning. Again. I have heard the verses from Genesis so many times I really didn’t think there was anything more to glean. How wrong I was and how glad I am to have been wrong! In Genesis God creates man. What I hadn’t really considered or seen until reading it in The Message translation is why.
I knew generally, it was about love but I never could have explained it like this — God was lonely.
The last three years of my life have had some of the loneliest moments I hope to ever experience. As an extrovert, a verbal processor, who loves to be on teams, relishes relationships, cherishes friends, works in a collaborative field — this was soul crushing caliber loneliness. Even recently, I’ve been literally on my knees asking the Lord to mend that part of my life. A few months ago one of my sisters came for a visit. The morning after she was gone I looked across the room and no one was there. There was no one to give to, no one to cook for, ask what was on their mind, no one to find ways to care for. Now, I’m not codependent but I know I was not designed to live alone. I understand deep loneliness. I’m sure you do too. And so does God. He was lonely because although He had the angels, they didn’t have the free will to choose to love. So he made us, gave us free will so that we could choose love. Love as a cure for loneliness!
Then He gave Adam animals and was like, hey, have fun naming them — so Adam does. “Oooh! This one is a baa baa and this one is spiky, and this one is soft, and that was fun but,” Adam spoke as he reflected, “Lord… I’m still lonely.” So God made woman from man.
God made woman for man. Adam asked for her. Men, you need women. You asked for us. Your fulfillment wasn’t in the things of the world; it was in the sharing of your life. If you are called to be single, as Paul says, be single. But if that’s not your calling, remember — we are fearfully and wonderfully made for each other. We need each other. All of us. And the choice to love is God’s first creation. To combat loneliness, dark times, fear, frustration, it is the utmost thing you can do. Love is the reason we are here.
The second part of being able to love others is to understand where love comes from. When I give to people, I don’t give from myself. Though it’s my heart’s desire to fix everything, I can’t. That’s something I’ve really learned. Am learning. It’s why you need a strong sense of identity, to know where you stop and God starts. Otherwise you’ll burn out. We cannot do it of our own power. We need to be seeking the Lord so that we can receive His love and pour that out onto others. It is far sweeter, richer, stronger, delicate, far more lasting and satisfying than our own could ever be.
Do you know where a strong identity comes from? I recently had a conversation with my aunt. We had been discussing women in our lives that saw themselves only through the prism of their broken husbands, lamenting at their damaged identities. I asked why she and my mother were not like that, why they had such untouchable identities and she said, “I guess it’s because I knew I was loved.”
I’m going to say it again — she said, I knew I was loved. To be loved is the most fundamental thing possible. When our Heavenly Father created us, this is what he had in mind: that we would choose to be loved by Him and love others in return.
The third part of being able to love others is to understand how to love. I’m going to start with something we so very rarely discuss as a form of love. Prayer. If God has given you a heart for someone, the best thing you can ever do, the most wise, useful, fruitful, active thing you can do is pray for them. How often do you pray for those you hate? Those you are unsure of? Those you love? Do you pray for the people you date? Not that God will grant your wish and make them your spouse and not in spiritual intimacy with them either — but for them as a sibling in Christ?
The how of love can manifest itself in so many ways. Sometimes God asks you to love in silence. He wants you to listen to him and not be focused on results. Be still, so He can stir up what you needed to see. Other times He wants you to explicitly lay it out, gives you the opportunity to speak into the life of someone He’s put before you. He asks you to speak up like a lion, even when you feel like a mouse.
The other day, I was having it rough and sat down to pray. God put on my heart to immediately text a specific family member, “I love you.” — just those three simple words. Like pushing the first domino, those three words toppled into a whole conversation about how I was there for her in a time of crisis, how she thought the crisis had been a such burden to me, and I was able to tell her it was such a blessing. (Um, tears.)
During the crisis, I was asked to pray before she went into surgery and I had no idea what to say. I closed my eyes and asked God to lead me. He replied, just be honest. I heard myself start the prayer with what was on my heart, “Lord, this sucks” and we burst into laughter. We hadn’t talked in 12 years but there we were. Praying over her, laughing together in that moment was such a huge, important thing for me and over two years later she’s texting that it still means something to her too. (More tears)
Then, after some more conversation — she called me a powerhouse. A powerhouse. I can’t even tell you… This woman I’ve been afraid of for most of my life just told me she sees me as powerful when I’ve only ever felt small and it was the most amazing thing. She saw me in my mother’s womb, sucking my thumb, and treated me terribly for thirty years and now because I chose to love her anyway, God reached inside my past and smoothed out wrinkles like they were bed sheets under a hot iron. (Happy tears)
The most powerful lie to someone who loves relationships is that there has been irreparable damage — but that is not Kingdom. Tenacious love can endure, persist, is never taken away from you, and can heal what has been torn even if the other person chooses to walk away. Sometimes God lets things be broken because it’s important for us to choose to keep loving anyway.
This is God to us. He created me to be tenacious, has shown me how to love people who don’t deserve it, because He loves me anyway. I don’t deserve it, but He loves me. He loves me anyway. And He loves you too.
Your Father loves you.