Yesterday I was making Kira some lunch when I thought to myself, quite out of the blue, that I am missing something big. I feel certain that this was something planted in me by God, because it is not what I usually think. Usually I think that it is good that I am working so hard at surrendering to God, and that I am glad I am doing so much, because when our pastor talks about how people need to step up and do what God is telling them to do, I am exempt from that message.
That (in case you didn’t already know) is pride. There should never ever come a day when I think to myself that I am doing things just right. The reason is this: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Right there says it all. I cannot do it just right. I am incapable. Unfortunately, most of the time I don’t realize that I fell short by 8 miles. Most of the time I really do think things are going well.
Immediately after thinking the initial, “I am missing something big” moment, I thought about my post last week about cleaning Matt’s bathroom. I specifically mentioned that I did it for Jesus, and will do it again for Jesus, but not for Matt, because I don’t love Matt enough to voluntarily clean his bathroom. This, according to the whisper of the Holy Spirit to my soul, was what I am missing. The big thing. Doing something for someone other than Jesus because I love that person enough to serve them for their sake alone. That is what I have been missing.
I do not boast about how much I love people. I am simply stating the truth here. I do not think that I am particularly good at loving people, and it certainly doesn’t come naturally to me. I tell Tim all the time that I need to love people more. He says (like the good, kind man he is) “You love people a lot” and “You underestimate yourself” and lots of other complimentary things like that which he fully believes, but which are completely false. I truly do not love people that much.
But God loves people a lot. I mean, A LOT. And Jesus died so that people could meet his dad, and his dad let his own kid die the most brutal death as yet imagined just so that we could know them both. That’s a lot of love. Crazy, but loving.
So I stood in my kitchen wondering how on earth such a profound truth could have escaped my notice (again pride- humility wouldn’t have missed a beat, assuming that I miss tons of stuff without even realizing it) and I knew, beyond a doubt, that this one was going to be harder than all the rest. I knew it with a weight that had not yet been put into words. Maybe ‘dread’ would be a good descriptive.
I knew that I was/am unwilling to put my heart on the line like that. To actually let my heart feel gentle feelings of love, grace, honesty, etc. toward people in my life. Even as I type this I feel overwhelmed with the difficulty of what God is asking of me. To feel. To actually feel. To engage in lives not my own or those of my nearest and dearest.
Please understand that all of my life I have known that true love is willing to do things for people. Work and listen and keep it’s temper. Love is willing to give and not receive and so forth. I also know that love is a verb – an action word, and as such, love is not loving unless it is active. But I wonder how often I have lied to myself saying, “I did this good thing, which proves that I love this person” instead of, “I love this person, so I am going to do this good thing for them.” I wonder if our “generational Christian” culture has told us that this is okay. That it is okay to act right without actually having the right motives. I don’t know. I guess I just don’t want to be alone in my absence of heart, so I am willing to blame my culture for my personal failure. Anyway…
I realized that I am not engaged. That half of my heart wants to be like Christ, but the other half doesn’t want to get involved in all the yucky mess that humans are. And yes, humans are yucky messes. All of us. Jesus pointed out the halfheartedness I exemplify. He called me on my halfway-willingness and labeled it so that I would know what I am looking at. I was thinking about this particular breed of halfheartedness, when the verse, “If you are neither hot, nor cold, I will spew you out of my mouth” popped into my head. Ugh. I thought, “Are you kidding me?! Is this really what this is all about? Because I thought I was making tracks out of lukewarm!” This is what this post is all about. Am I willing to give up everything to follow Jesus? Am I willing to let Him put me in the sticky mess of people in this world and actually love them like he does?
Otherwise, I am just halfhearted. Willing to engage in the relationship with the Perfect One, but not in the relationships with the all the others.
I think the big idea that Jesus wants to brand into my brain is that I should love people for their own sake, just like he does. That I should want to feed the poor because the poor are some wonderful people who probably just hit some hard times. That I should want to visit folks in prison or in the hospital just because they are probably bored and lonely and sad and need someone to talk to. That I should want to actually meet and become friends with all these people because they are interesting, unique, wonderful individuals. That I should want to clean Matt’s bathroom just because I care about him and want him to enjoy the comfort of a clean environment. That in order to truly obey God in every way (like I tend to think I am already doing) I need to love like he loves. Really love. Heart engaged and willing to be hurt and all that. Jesus hugged people, touched people, looked them in the eye, told them the truth, prayed with them, talked to them. I need to love like that.
God showed me that I would rather ignore people’s problems than actually engage in them. That I would rather shut my heart up than pray for people or visit with them, or actually listen to their problems. I told him that I can’t deal with it all, that I will get overwhelmed, and do you know what the response was? ”I can handle it.” Just like that. If I am to love like Christ, I need to be like Christ in his constant communication and reliance on God. There is no other way. I will have to hold his hand and trust that he will get me through the pain and the danger and the un-comfortableness of the ordeal.
I imagine a little kid holding their parent’s hand. Trust, full confidence in the other’s ability to handle any situation, and just a cheerful willingness to be along for the ride. I hope and pray that God will help me keep that kind of outlook as I attempt to get my hands dirty in the nitty-gritty of real love of real people. I hope that he will be gentle as he teaches this difficult and elusive lesson. I hope that I will someday become good at loving. That I will not always be backward at it. That I will fully forsake my pride and stop judging. That I will become someone missing the mark by a smaller margin, since I am holding the hand of the one hitting it every time. I just don’t want to miss anything so big anymore.