(sacrificial) love

It’s been an interesting week, where I always had only one of two bananas I needed for a birthday cake, and the lives of three separate friends kept me up late thinking instead of sleeping when I really needed it.  In all three situations the same emotions kept coming up.  Emotions I have often felt myself: fear, exhaustion, selfishness, confusion, guilt, defeat.  

Our focus this month is Agape (selfless) love, so that’s been on my mind too, and in each case I saw sin pulling hearts away from that goal.  Pulling our love to earthly things, clouding our focus with self-pity, using a full calendar to mark away another day where servant love gets buried by impatience.  “Hmmm, THAT’s not going to work for a post… that’s not Agape love.”  I didn’t realize I was actually gaining a better understanding of God’s love from the ways human love is imperfect.  

“My grace is sufficient, my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 2:9

When you say goodbye to a baby too soon and feel your body failed, that you could have done something different, and wonder why God even gave you this pregnancy just to take it away— He loves you and your body, made in His image.  And He loves your baby.  He doesn’t make mistakes, and His love goes beyond this life.  When you doubt, He gives assurance.  When you feel you have failed, He is faithful.  He knows what we need and wills all things for our good, even our good meant His taking up the cross.  He willed His death!  That’s (sacrificial) love.  Will we suffer this for Him? 

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

When you have to make choices for your child’s education and jump down the rabbit hole of how many things taught in secular schools are at odds with God’s word, there are so many choices and no helpful signs saying, “THIS CHOICE IS THE BEST!”  It’s stressful and probably not the last time you just want OUT of being the responsible party.  Even when the sinful world presses in on all sides, threatening to overwhelm, God loves you.  He gave his Son for us.  His own child not just ‘on his own in a public school’, but on a cross.  For us.  Don’t sweat the small stuff even when Satan makes it seems big!  In Christ all the big things are taken care of.  No strings attached, no ulterior motives, just (sacrificial) love.  

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

When it’s the middle the night and you cringe at the sound of a baby fussing.  The same baby you just nursed/rocked/bounced/shushed/paced/burped/swaddled for the fifth time.  Even cringing takes more energy than you have, and with all your might you will that baby to magically quiet himself and sleep.  Even though you know your will has no real power, surely this level of desperate wishing must produce some result.  But it doesn’t.  You pull off your blankets, pick him up again, feeling tears well up as you sink into the rocker, stare at the streetlight and wearily teeter on the brink of despair.  You love this baby but this, this is a new kind of challenge,  Motherhood has a way of testing extremes.  You are human.  You have your limits.  

God doesn’t!  He loves you, yes you in the same nursing bra you’ve worn for two weeks.  When you are weak, He is strong.  He has redeemed you, called you to this role and equipped you for it.  How amazing to feel spent in body and soul, then realize God uses this fragile, taxing time to pull you closer to Him.  Closer to an understanding of the depth of His selfless love, “Ah, my child, you have sacrificed this much, much more you can’t imagine— I love you so much better than that.”  

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, […] to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,  and to know this love that surpasses knowledge— that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesians 3:17-19

We have what we need to get through new motherhood (old motherhood too!), in Him.  In prayer, and in friends in whom Christ’s love/compassion overflows.  Soak that servant love up!  Any bone tired mama would love their babe a little more if they slept through the night, but God doesn’t love us “IF….  or BECAUSE…” Good news, He never keeps score, or a little notebook of feedings and naps or lack thereof.  

Last, my hubs has a birthday in January which we’ve always celebrated a month later, around Valentine’s Day.  Almost for as long as we’ve known each other.  Just to give it a little space, a little dessert of it’s own, apart from the Christmas season.  It’s fitting to celebrate my spouse every day, but especially on a secular holiday filled with ideas of love that aren’t really selfless at all.  The mail had been full of ads for jewelry and chocolates and flowers, car sales, and date night coupons to restaurants.  Is that what God wants love to look like??  

Our wedding text is humbling, and an awesome verse for every day living.  Humbling because God gave me a spouse who is better at selfless love than me any day.  We’re definitely two sinful people doing life together, but I’m frustrated, refined and blessed by the way the Holy Spirit uses Matt to 'be Christ’ to me.  Sometimes our fights run like that one S.O.S. chart from confirmation class (shows our sin, shows our Savior), and as much as that can be hard for my ego to take, isn’t it actually pretty great? 

We see our Savior whenever we come face to face with the limits of our love.  When "mom life’s" duty and exhaustion crowd love out, when clouds of doubt darken our way ahead, when you disappoint the people closest to you or are disappointed by the way they love you, when questions about life and death shake the picture of life we had planned, keep your chin up.  Lift your eyes to the cross and know a love that’s better, bigger, and stronger than ours IS OURS.  :) Take the time to fill up, and let His love buoy you along on the quest to love well.  

Thankfully for me, for us all, in Christ even our wimpy attempts at agape love will be blessed! 

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children.  And lead a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 5:1-2

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faith and face-plants

A while back, I went to the zoo with a friend. Our kids spent most of the brisk morning running from habitat to habitat while we got some chatting time in. When we were leaving we ended up doing the inevitable mom departure situation. Tell the kids it’s time to leave…then stand around talking for an additional 15 minutes while the kids run around crazy. During that time, my littlest son who is two years old, in an act of what probably seemed to him a very brave and maybe even heroic moment, took a running start and tried to run/leap off the curb. I *think* he thought he was going to gracefully continue his super speed run after his running-man-in-the-air moment. Instead, he face-planted. It sounds a little sad, but really it was pretty cute. We really thought that he thought this was a great idea.

As I was checking for skinned knees and kissing his little scraped hands, I couldn’t help but draw the parallel between this little face-plant and my own life.

Have you ever tried to attempt life by yourself, only to fall flat on your face? I’m totally guilty.

I’m guessing you know the story of Jonah. God had great plans for Jonah to go to Nineveh to help spread God’s message to those people. What did Jonah do? The exact opposite of what God told him. His plan led him to be thrown into the sea during a raging storm only to be swallowed by a big fish. How’s that for a face-plant? (Or is it a fish-plant?)

You and I are certainly not the first and won’t be the last person to try to live life independent of our God. Our sinful nature thinks we have our life all figured out! Being organized, tidy, scheduled— these are measures of success on the earthly side. Our old Adam thinks if we only accomplish or obtain that *one more thing*, then we will finally find contentment and be happy. Feeling overtaken by life and feeling all alone or the opposite, feeling so overly confident in what we can accomplish are both the result of life lacking our Savior. In the end, the truth is that we need Him.

We need Jesus to hold our hand.

God is our all-knowing, all-powerful, ever present God. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness. His staff and his rod, they comfort me. (Psalm 23) He does this. Not me.

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When I find myself floundering through life or even flat on my face by my own doing, it’s usually true that I’m not holding the truths I know as dear and as close as they should be. Fortunately for us, we have forgiveness through our Savior. We can run back to our Father’s arms and ask for guidance, strength, patience, peace, comfort, and contentment. The Holy Spirit builds our faiths through our prayers and through our Bible studies. We just need to stop leaping off the curb alone and let God support us.

Romans 10:17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Isaiah 55:8-11, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

1 Corinthians 1:31, “Therefore, as it is written: Let him who boasts boasts in the Lord.”

Isaiah 40:29-31, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles'; they will run and not grow weary, that will walk and not be faint.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the me, myself and I and to forget that we don’t need to walk through this life alone. Thankfully for us, God gives us a hand to hang on to before we set off.

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