Some time ago, I asked God to teach me to love.
It’s interesting to me, after all these years, that the first passages of scripture my mom took me to, teaching me to allow the Spirit to write the Word on my heart, were passages about love. Sitting on her bed after the light had faded, she opened her Bible to 1 John and asked me to read. And I think of her every evening, when I sit down on Zoe’s bed and hear myself say, “Now what does that scripture tell you about you?” And after all these years, the thing I want most is to love God and others well.
I don’t remember exactly how long it’s been since I asked, because what Mom always says is true: Time just seems to pass more quickly with every year. And walking with God is a timeless experience anyway, a spiritual reality that supersedes and blurs physical details. Even though I measure my pilgrimage on this earth in hours and minutes, for Him, ” a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day (2 Peter 3:8).” So, even though I’m tempted to say “a few years ago,” I’m well aware that the truth is probably closer to a lifetime. And I’ve a lifetime more to go on just this one lesson. But don’t worry, God and I are multitaskers. He’s up to it. I’m not. But what lump of clay gets to tell the Potter not to shape the lip of the vessel and its handle in the same instant?
There are certain things I ask for already knowing the answer. Anything that ultimately means transforming me into the likeness of Christ is an automatic slam dunk on the holy court, the kind not achieved by any sort of amazing athleticism on my part but occurring only as Almighty God places His hands beneath me and lifts me to the hoop. And if I’m completely honest, it only works if the Holy Spirit is actually the one holding the ball, and then only when with all my heart I really want anyone watching to see Christ making the dunk and not me. Whenever God answers my prayers for transformation, as He changes me until I begin to disappear beneath the unmistakable One, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie, the blessing for me is complete joy. It’s the kind of joy that radiates, fills, and abides, and it is beyond anything I can adequately describe with words.
And, as the saying goes: The more I learn, the less I know.
But the more I feel that joy, the more I want to tell you all about it. That seems to be the way with the Almighty. Every time He touches someone, they can’t help but speak. It’s as though, as the prophet Jeremiah said,
…if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot (Jeremiah 20: 9).”
I guess that’s why I chuckle every time I read the accounts in the gospels. Jesus touches a life, heals it in some life-changing way, and then says, “Now, don’t go telling everyone about this.” Almost every time, the next sentence reads something like, “so they went home and told every single person they could find what Jesus had done for them.” I recognize that in this day and time, those who don’t believe often feel that this openness is offensive, as though sharing these experiences is meant as some sort of proselytizing maneuver. Perhaps even the man who’d been unable to walk for 38 years received a few snarls from those he grabbed by the arms as he ran along screaming, “Look! I can walk! I can walk!” It is true after all, that in the face of his miracle, the religious leaders of the day said something like, “Oh, I see you’re walking. Did anyone mention you’re not supposed to carry that mat on the Sabbath (John 5)?” Oh Father, forgive us, for we know not what we are doing.
As one changed, I need to point out that this telling is not about being right. It is not about convincing anyone of anything. It is about feeling so much powerful joy that I cannot contain it. I am compelled to speak. I am so excited, so bewildered about this thing that God has done, indeed is doing in me presently, that I must tell.you.about.it. He is healing me. I must grab your arms as you walk by and say, “Look! I am learning to love! I am changing!” Because ultimately, this is about love, and love doesn’t just exist or happen, it compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14) to move and to be different. Love—His love—makes us run through the streets. It makes us dance, sing, rejoice, cry out, hug, smile, laugh, and reach out to touch the person no one else wants to touch. I am still shocked, every time the Spirit reminds me that Jesus reached out and touched the leper, who moments before had been yelling, “Unclean! Unclean!” as he passed through the street. The more He loves and changes me, the more I want to love every single soul I can find. Love—beautiful and wise, obliterating and kind—bubbles over and flows forth. And with all my heart, I know that God loves us more than we can ever even begin to understand apart from His Power at work within us. And suddenly I understand why He’s so patient.
So, please forgive me if I make you a little uncomfortable. But, well,
I love you.
I asked God to teach me to love, and He reminded me that the first and greatest commandment is to love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22: 37, 38). Loving you is not about you or even about me at all. It is about Him. If I love Him, I love you.
I asked God to teach me to love, and He pointed out that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me (Matthew 25:40). So, the love that compels me to touch you really moves me to touch Him. It isn’t about touching you at all.
I asked God to teach me to love, and He pressed His hand heavily on my heart and whispered, “It isn’t about who you like. I want you to love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. …If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them (Luke 6: 27-36).”
I asked God to teach me to love, and He wrapped His arms around me and showed me that love is a choice, given freely to the undeserving. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
I asked God to teach me to love, and He firmly said, Whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen (1 John 4:20). And then I felt this holy finger, pointing at the word love, pointing out that God did not choose the words like a lot, or be kind to those nice acquaintances.
I asked God to teach me to love, and He reiterated that real love is sincere, deep, and from the heart (1 Peter 1:22).
I asked God to teach me to love, and I felt a Holy push and heard the word move, because He wants me to love not with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18).
I asked God to teach me to love, and He pointed to the cross, and He sewed into my heart the truth that I cannot love without getting hurt. I will love some of you and you will reject me, hurt me, even despise me.
I asked God to teach me to love, and He said, “Love holds hands with sacrifice.” For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).
I asked God to teach me to love, and He pointed to a crown of thorns. Love isn’t proud. It isn’t often understood. Love gets mocked and falsely branded. Not everyone knows how to accept love, many don’t believe it exists or is really love at all, and many, many people are simply afraid to admit how much they need it.
I asked God to teach me to love, and He showed me a Lamb slain. With fire, He wrote on my heart: If you love them, you’d rather die to yourself and carry their pain then see them be without me.
And even as He changes me, by His grace, I plead with Him:
Oh, merciful God, teach me how to love as you first loved me.
Even all those years ago, when my mom sat with me teaching me to love the Word, I knew without a doubt that God had made me, called me, for telling. The compulsion to do so is His breath in me. It is so much a part of who I am and must be that when two wonderful friends separately mentioned to me that they’d learned about a conference for Christian women who write, blog, and speak, I paid attention. I have had so many generous, loving mentors in my lifetime—women who have placed their hands over mine and taught me to pour out my gifts for the glory of Christ—that I have learned to treasure the insights of others who have traveled the path ahead of me. She Speaks just sounds like a place I need to be, as a woman called to tell; a woman moved by love. For as long as God wishes to use me, I’m His vessel. And ministering to women brings me immeasurable, humbling joy. What a blessing! If you have also been called to transparency, you really should go too. Best-selling author and keynote speaker Ann Voskamp is offering a scholarship to the conference, but hurry! Entries need to be up by 9am tomorrow (sorry for the late notice). Please, if this describes you too, bless me by joining me in the adventure.