the failure of love
“This is my command: love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends, because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the father.” (John 15:11-15)
In his parting words, he says a few things. Make your home in me. The world will hate you. And then, a commandment of the highest order: love one another the way I loved you.
How did he love me? He gave his life. He endured shame. He didn’t seek to be reinforced or to be put on a pedestal. He was humiliated. He shared his words, his heart, his spirit… his all.
How? How can you think we can love like you did? How can you call us into this utterly impossible project? It’s not fair. We’re set up for failure from the start.
This whole journey… how? How do I love the way you love me? How do I show grace, pour out gifts unreserved, lay my life down, when I am so weak, so selfish, so unravelled, so unsure of all I do, all I am? I feel like I’ve failed. What do I know about love?
But maybe. Maybe failure is the journey. Maybe love is impossible. Maybe love will always be just out of reach. Because in learning to love, we learn to fail. And we learn to receive the greatest gift of all: to be-loved. To be called beloved, when all we have to offer is our can’ts and don’ts and nots and uns. To embrace my grace-fulness, when I least deserve it.
Learning to love is learning to be loved. To know in our father’s eyes, we are enough. To be freed from our own needs of self-centredness, self-consciousness. In doing so, we let go of all our perceived strengths, all our heroic deeds, all the praises we heap on ourselves, for all we think we can do. And I learn to love, freely. To love like a child.
I am so forgetful. I will always think my love can stand on its own two feet. But it doesn’t. It stands on the shoulders of the ones who first loved us. On yours. To let grace fall down like a waterfall over my skin, over my heart. That I am enough, because I am yours. And in failure, I will find you. Oh, in weakness, I find you.
The heart beats.
The heart bleeds.
But the heart needs love, and yours most of all.
I can’t do this alone.
I can’t partake of this love journey by myself.
You are father.
You are the lover of my soul.
And I am loved by you.
Oh Lord, teach my heart, that it may know your love. I am but a broken vessel. But I find a healer in you. Who’d take my brokenness, and make it your own.
I am weak. Let me find strength in you. I love, because you first loved me. And together, we will fall and walk, fall and walk. And we will make the impossible happen.
moving over to …
This has been a precious space, carved out as a memento of the heart.
But I’ve decided to shift all my blogs into one cyber-terrain.
So come on to sochews.com, where I’ll continue to post devotions there. See ya!
the love journey
“Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” (Ephesians 5:2)
“Oh just love me and right now! Hold me tight! Just the way your promised.” (Psalm 119:76)
Psalm 119 is really a psalm of courage. It’s the heart of a man who truly, deeply, weakly loves God. Of a man who is so in tune with his failings, and so in need of his presence and input. David is honest about his wanderings, his forgetfulness about the goodness of God. But he shouts his desire to please Him, follow Him, honour Him from the rooftops. It’s bold, for someone who knows he’s not all together whole. This is a man who knows Him, and wants Him more than anything.
Love. It’s been a tough year for that. I’ve come to a point where I feel like I know nothing about love. I mean, I know love never fails, that it is above all, conquers all. But, what is it? The love I thought I saw in those around has proven to be shifting sand. It’s within our grasp, but slips away so easily, leaving us broken, struggling to see any light of love around and within us.
Love has disappointed this year. Or rather, my ideas of love have come crumbling down. Do I have it? Do I know how to love? Both those around me, and my father in heaven? Love feels big. An impossible project. We hurt when love’s not returned. Or can’t deal with it when love appears to be not enough.
Paul writes that when God loves, God really loves. He holds nothing back. His promises ring true into our heart of hearts, no matter how screwed up we are. He gives everything of Himself into this creation, His child. He pours all of Himself into all of us. Not for what we can give to Him. But because God is love.
Maybe to know love is to know what it’s like to be loved. To know that even when we are incapable, we are cherished. That boggles the mind. Because I will disappoint Him. I will fall and prove unworthy of that love. But maybe that’s where it all starts. That when I really, truly, weakly embrace the love of the divine in my life, all will break loose. God’s extravagant love will free me to make equally extravagant proclamations, to be free to live and dance in this love journey. It’s not about how much love I have, for God and others. It’s about truly, fully embracing a love like no other over my life. That grace will set me free. That grace will change my life.
Then slowly, maybe one day, I will approach even just a smidgen of knowing what love is. That I will wake up every morning, and shout His promises like they’re mine, and mine to hold. That this love will pierce the darkness, through sin, in doubts, and prove to be a potent force.
Father, you love me. You love me in my shame, my frailties, my moment of pride and selfishness, my ignorance, when I’m trying to impress. You hold nothing back.
I don’t deserve this love. But you are love. You can’t and won’t help yourself. I am Yours, and nothing can take that away. Neither heights or depths, principalities or powers, darkness or success, can take that away.
Teach me to embrace you as love. Because you first loved me. That’s the love journey. Amen.
the lost cause worth fighting for
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are - no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”
“… What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving … steep your life in God’s reality, God’s initiatives, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out, you’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 5:3-5; 6:31,33)
At the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Bible says he received a thunderous applause. What teaching! People were saying. So unlike the religious teachers! A man who lived what he preached! Bravo! The words were revolutionary by examining every hidden motive in our body, every deceit in the heart of man, laying it bare and out in the open.
Yet, I wonder how many of these people went back, and didn’t heed his words. How many truly rethought their way of living. How many loved their emotions roused and tickled for one day, then plugged themselves back into the machine, oblivious to his very counter-cultural words. Because, if we were being honest, I wouldn’t blame people for saying, “Awesome stuff! But impossible nonetheless.”
I read Jesus’ words 2,000 years later, and find the same reaction in me. How can I ever hope to live content in who I am, not reaching and grabbing for what I think is rightfully mine? How will I find peace in times of restlessness, comfort when I am lost? I live in a world that’s so self-centred, with voices that makes God’s voice seem so small. Will I ever love God for nothing more than just love’s sake, not for what I can get or use Him for?
I feel wretched. I feel like this year, I’ve abandoned him. It feels like I’ve abandoned all sense of his grace and mercy, his faith and belief, his presence and banner over me. It feels like I’ve lost battles after battles, allowed the heart to be squeezed dry of promises that should ring true, of a Spirit that should nourish the weak, encourage the frightened. It feels like, for all intents and purposes, following the ways of Christ is a lost cause. For me, for my friends, for the world around me.
I went back to servce today, after so long. Listened to the message, closed my eyes, said prayers, hung with friends. I was reminded that I don’t have to walk this journey alone. I feel that’s one of the hardest parts of learning to listen to his voice: that I’m walking alone, no one around, a fish swimming upstream. It feels like that so many times. That this spiritual journey seems so hard to share with anyone. And maybe, it should be better to stop walking.
But I want to be free. I want to laugh at the face of all the grabbing and surviving and “what’s in it for me” philosophy. I want to cut the strings that say I must live, look, act, talk, become a certain way. That puts labels on the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, that tells me not to be content in who I was made to be. Deep down, I want to know what love is, to hope with every fibre, to have a faith that moves mountains, to hear Him whispering, to dance with gratitude, to not worry, to respond whole-heartedly to God’s gifts that keep on giving.
Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever learn this. I’m so stubborn, so forgetful, so easily distracted, so sensitive to what others think. But I know no other way. I rather fight for this lost cause, than live mired as a puppet. But the road to learning? So painful. So lonely. So uncomfortable.
I give up. I give up, because I don’t know any better. I think I know better, but I don’t Father. I’m so sorry God. I’m sorrowful over my lack of presence in your life. I’m sorry, because I can care less many times. I repent.
But Father, you are Grace. You are Love. You are Worth to the worthless, Salvation to the blind, the deaf, the dumb. You are present when I’m lost. You’re here when I can’t see you or hear you.
Lord, teach me to fight this lost cause. That I may learn to revel in your giving, in who you are. That I will give up the desire to live life my way, to be significant, to bolster my name, to not be guided and ruled and reigned. I don’t trust you enough, for sure, so teach me. Even if it hurts. Amen.
“Elisha answered, “Go and tell him, “Don’t worry; you’ll live.” The fact is, though - God showed me - that he’s doomed to die.” Elisha then stared hard at Hazrael, reading his heart. Hazrael felt exposed and dropped his eyes. Then the Holy man wept. Hazrael said, “Why does my master weep?” “Because,” said Elisha, “I know what you’re going to do to the children of Israel; burn down their forts, murder their youth, smash their babies, rip open their pregnant woman.”
“He copied the way of life of the kings of Israel, marrying into the Ahab family and continuing the Ahab line of sin - from God’s point of view, an evil man living an evil life.” (2 Kings 8:11-12,18)
This is an ominous tale. A mere servant comes to Elisha for a message. Instead, he received a prophecy of tragic proportions. Hazrael was told that he would be king, and an evil one. He would murder children, rip open pregnant women. Hazrael couldn’t believe it, but it happened as Elisha said.
This is a tale of destiny. The idea that a man’s destination has been charted. All it took for Elisha to determine Hazrael’s destination was to stare deep into his heart, to read every agenda, observe every motivation. The result caused Elisha to weep.
We fear this kind of judgement. By man, yes. But mostly from the One who knows us deeply. By the One whom all things are laid bare, whom nothing is hidden. The One who reads our hearts, knows our innermost thoughts, sees every secret. The One who made us.
What does He see when He stares me in the eyes, reads my heart? Does he see the selfishness, the apathy, the loss? Does he stare inside, and see a destination of independence, short-sightedness and a life with no understanding of love? Do I bow my head in shame, tremble in fear, cause my master to weep? Is there a path I’ve chosen, a path of meaninglessness, that even I’m not aware of?
I’m always caught in this tension of what I am now, and what I am in the future. I think I’ll be a better person 10 years from now. Other times, I think I will be worse. I can feel so powerless before my own faults, that it’s no use to do anything about it in the now. On the face of all my doubts, my trespasses, the weight of the world’s pressures, what can I really do to change my destination?
This is the fight of faith. To believe in a God of Intervention. To hold on to a God who redirects, replots, redetermines our journey. A God who doesn’t just set a final destination, but asks us to be active participators in it.
It takes every ounce of energy, of hope, of belief, to look God straight in the eyes, and say, “I’ll fight.” To not let our shame guide us, but to lift our heads high, and say not sin, not our mistakes, not our iniquities, not our frailty, not our weaknesses, will separate us from Him. That faith in a father of love will be worth it.
It’s so hard to believe this. So much easier to give up. So much easier to walk to our supposed tragic destination because, well, can anyone really blame us for it? But to continually, persistently look Him in the eye, and believe in His goodness, His mercy, His heart - this is what changes us. It’s what makes us whole.
Oh Lord, if I look at myself, I weep. I’m so un-Christlike, so riddled with evil. But you are bigger than my weaknesses. So much bigger.
Father, I want to believe that. Guide me Father. Change my way of thinking. Teach me to fight the good fight, to keep the faith, to finish the race.
the silence of god
“This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out - plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hoped for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else.” (Jeremiah 29:10-13)
The Israelites could be excused for thinking God would deliver them from their enemies’ hands. Here they were in Babylon’s capture, and they were wondering whether God would save them. God’s message was this: I will bring you back home. I will take care of you. I will show up and execute plans for good.
But not before you learn to live 70 years under Babylon’s captivity. Until then, make best of your circumstance. Until then, I will not save.
We love quoting these verses as ones that point to God the Deliverer. To the One who is always Present. The Good-Hearted with plans of hope for us. But these feel-good sentences are sandwiched in between two sobering realities. That Israel had to endure oppression, depression, abandonment. And that even if they walked through this, the true question was: How serious are you about finding Him, more than anything else?
The last three weeks have been sad. A cloud of stasis hanging over, standing on the edge of depression. I look around at the very real problems of the friends around me, and wonder: Does He care? Is this God I’ve been professing for so long, whom I worship, unable to really help us in our time of distress and need? Why does it feel so often that we’re left fending for ourselves and each other against the lies and deception thrown at our souls? Where is God?
I’m understanding that the God I’ve created may not be the God out there. I want Him to answer, to deliver me from my sin like a superhero, to conquer my inner demons, lift my head. I want Him to speak loudly, clearly, dispel all my fears and doubts away. What I don’t want is, at this present moment, for God to be silent. Even if He is.
This is the part of the Walk no one tells you about. The part where God, it seems, has abandoned you. Where when you wait to hear a still small voice, and hear nothing but the raging beating of your own heart. When God doesn’t deliver you from Babylon’s hands. At least, not yet.
And yet, the incredible truth is that, even in my apparent desire to hear Him, I’m not that serious about it. I still turn to the toys of this world to distract me, still lean on short-term pleasures, on finding solace in creations of this world. I don’t want God more than anything else. Not even close. I want God’s miracle touch to make things better so I can go back to playing my own games of independence and self-delusion. I love what God can do for me more than the Walk itself.
The silence of God is painful. So painful. But maybe it’s needed. Because when He is silent, I stop seeking Him to find what’s in it for me. I don’t wait for that miracle touch, that band-aid answer to prayer, that saving grace so I can live life my way. I just want to know who God is. I give up my vain imaginations and seek Him with a greater, more raw, less controlled portion of my heart.
At this moment, I’m nowhere near. I don’t really need God. But I’m slowly getting there. Because I know I’m incapable of walking alone. Because I need to overcome my fear of fully trusting God. Once and for all.
God, who are you? If this is a season of silence, so be it. If I am to be stripped of all self-created idols, then that’s the pain I’m feeling. Father, I can’t hear you. But I all I want is for you to just lead me.
the only light in a dark time
“We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you - your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust…. We couldn’t be more sure of what we saw and heard - God’s glory, God’s voice. The prophetic word was confirmed to us. You’ll do well to keep focusing on it. It’s the only light you have in a dark time as you wait for daybreak and the rising of the Morning Star in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:14, 19)
It’s been quite the year. Lots of surprises. Not all of them invited or asked for. Many sorrows as well. Lots of reminders that I am frail, heavy-laden, sinful.
I look at the life of Peter, and wonder. Here was a man who jumped the gun, denied Christ, suffered huge self-remorse and pity, was mistake-ridden. And here he is, exhorting the church, telling about promises that turn us away from lust. Telling us that God’s Word is the one light we have in a dark time.
How did you do it Peter? How did you grow? How did you allow that point of denial in all God is, to move you to another place? How did you become a man God could trust, Peter? How?
Promises. The words spoken we hold on dear to, because we believe they will come true. But it’s hard when the promises we make to ourselves are broken. When we cannot trust our own commitments. The commitment to become better. To grow. To love another as Christ did. To turn away from sin. When we can’t keep up our promises, we are frail, fragile, and doubt ourselves.
That’s my life at this moment. The falling steps are catching up to me. I’ve allowed guilt and shame over broken words to cover me, drive me away from freedom, from the mountaintop. There is no sin greater than self-rejection, no poison more potent than the lies we ingest about ourselves and our humanity.
But this is the crux: can God’s promises be trusted? When God says, “my love covers a multitude of sins” or “there is therefore no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus”, is there, really? These words are carriers of truth, powerful destroyers of shame, blame, strife. But do I trust it? Do I believe they exist, and that those words can really become flesh in my life? Or are these promises empty shells, just as easily doubted as those I make to myself?
God’s word is truly, right now, the only light I have in a dark time. Because if God’s words have no power, if His promises of freedom, love and faith can’t apply in my life, then there’s no point anymore. When all around falls down, the Word that says, “Child, you are mine” is my only light. The only way to walk away from coveting lust, and into glory.
Deep down, all I want from you, God is to speak. I just want to hear. I just want to know you give a rat’s ass, you still know how to comfort and bring peace into outer and inner civil wars. I want to know your words ring true in the 21st century as they did in the days of Jesus.
Father, let your words ring true. Let your words become flesh. Teach me to trust your work in me. Amen.