WHAT IS LOVE?

Apparently today is the yearly day of love, so I’m going to ask a simple question:

What is love?

Baby, don't hurt me

Night at the Roxbury, Saturday Night Live

(Get the Night at the Roxbury scene out of your head, and I’ll continue.)

This is a question I’m thinking about a lot, since properly loving people is supposed to be the goal of a Christian. Yet even though I’m called to live a life defined by love, I’m still terrible at actually doing it. Because love takes a lot of courage, and I’m a coward.

The other day I asked God to give me the courage to love, and I had no idea why. It just sort of came out of my mouth, or popped into my mind, most likely because God knows me and knows I’m terrible at loving like I’m capable of.

So for my sake, it’s a good thing our culture has redefined Love as something much easier, because it lets me off the hook.

We’ve transformed love into a feeling.

Into kissing and sex. Love in our culture has been largely redefined as sexual, and because  love isn’t something we think about as something which requires great courage, I’m allowed to be a coward while still being seen as a good person. Merriam-Webster defines this love as “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.” This is the love people make money off of. This is the love Nicholas Sparks has made millions of dollars on, and the love that has convinced us that flowers are romantic and began the holiday we are celebrating today. And this is also the love that has led to a 50% divorce rate, because it’s the love that we can fall out of because it’s the love based on feelings, and feelings change.

But the dictionary doesn’t stop here. Merriam and Webster continue on towards a better definition: “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” As a Christian, this definition is much more accurate. It is the center of the message we find our hope in. It’s the center of our religion. Without unselfish behavior and benevolent concern for others, we’d all still be sacrificing lambs and hoping God would have mercy on us.

Without unselfish behavior, there would be no Christianity,

because unselfish is a synonym of Jesus Christ, and an antonym of  natural humanity.

And with this definition of love – Christ’s definition of love defined as unselfishness – I’m back to being a man in need of courage. I’m back to being a man who is naturally selfish yet has recognized Christ’s unselfishness, as well as His desire to make me unselfish – His desire for me to “love as He loved.” And because of Him, I am slowly improving. Or rather He is slowly improving me, because I am naturally selfish, yet God is naturally the opposite. And He has promised to make us the opposite as well.

And because I’m a coward, I’ll keep on praying for the courage to love, and keep on trusting that He’ll help me and continue showing me what love truly is – continually changing it’s definition from a feeling to a sacrifice.

What if you rethought the phrase, “we give love to get love.” What if you shortened it to only giving? Would you be as eager to love if you knew there would be no reciprocation? I hope I would, because I know He would, and I know He did.

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WHAT DO YOU WANT [and does He want you] TO BE?

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What do you want to be when you grow up?

We’re all asked that question over and over again in life, and as we move through adolescence and into being a “young adult,” it seems the answer often becomes less clear. Closing in on 26 years of age, I’m still asked this question, although usually in adult-speak, with people asking me things like, “so what do you do with that degree,” or just, “so what do you want to do with that,” and I still don’t really know the full answer. I don’t know if I ever truly will.

When I was young, I always knew the answer. I never really wanted to be a professional athlete, or an astronaut, or a famous musician. I never wanted to do what other kids dreamed of doing. I always wanted to be an architect – so much so, that in my free time I’d draw blueprints, or build houses with wooden blocks or legos. That was what I thought of as “having fun.”

So I made sure I could make it happen. I always did well in school, and eventually was accepted into a highly competitive architecture program, where I was soon kicked out after the first year because of a GPA 0.2 points lower than it needed to be.

So began plan B – go to my in-state school, get an engineering degree, and then head off to grad school to finish it off with a Masters of Architecture degree. And then I got to know God.

I’ve always been a “Christian.” I grew up in church, never swearing or drinking, and never getting into trouble. I was nice to people, smiled a lot, and prayed every once in a while. But I didn’t really know God. I didn’t start to know Him until my sophomore year in college – and that’s when my ‘dream job’ went out the window, because it was just that – mine.

I started to realize that it was my dream job – not His dream job for me. I started to realize how much smarter God is than me and how much better He knows me and my potential than I know myself. And because of this, I started to get scared. If God was calling me away from architecture, then he’s calling me towards something I’m not so sure that I’m good at. I was all prepared to design some buildings, give my ten percent, maybe join a bible study or two, and live my life – but God doesn’t let us off easy. He doesn’t let us off at average. If you don’t believe me, read the Bible and His plans for the people in it. He always sent them to do something that scared them, and they usually hesitated to act for a while. But eventually, they did it, and realized God made us stronger than we thought.

God sees potential, and strives to make sure we reach it. We, as humans, see pleasure, or money, or fame, or convenience, and think it’s potential. We see what we’re good at, and try to use it to cash in, or maybe we even try to use it to “serve Him.” And sometimes, using the talents we know about is exactly where He wants us. But sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes he’ll ask us to do things we know we’ll have to work our butts off for – things seemingly unachievable – but we ultimately know that it’s where our purpose lies, so our cowardice to move from vision to action can’t last too long, because eventually, as we get to know Him, our dreams and His align and we realize it’s a better dream after all.

Are your dreams aligned with His? Are you still pretending you didn’t hear His voice, continuing to move forward on your own path? Acknowledge the voice. Focus on it. Quiet your own fear if you have to. Is He asking you to keep walking, or to switch paths?

ROOTS.

 

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive though hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and basic principles of this world rather than Christ.”    – Colossians 2:6-8

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Can a tree live without roots? Can it continually grow stronger, prevailing against the winds, if the roots aren’t there?

Of course not!

No plant can go strong without it’s roots finding water, and in the same way, no Christian can grow strong without their roots being in Christ! Without Him, you can grow tall, but it is all based on pride and selfishness, and you will soon fall at the first true storm. But only when you realize continued growth and provision is found deep below, and you seek out to find it as a root does water, can you grow through a humble spirit and in the knowledge that it is only through Christ’s provision which you have been made strong. And then, when all roots are firmly gripped and entangled in Christ’s deep love and wisdom, can you withstand any storm the world may produce.

Are your roots shallow, while you take pride in your knowledge of Christ, or are they deep seated in the wisdom that only through Christ can such knowledge – and ability to love – truly exist?