“Grow also in love. Ask that your love may become extended, more intense, more practical, influencing every thought, word, and deed.”
It’s been some time since I last wrote about how I’m doing with my “phrase of the year”. Since we are more than halfway through the year, I figure there is no better time now than to share a few reflections on how things are going.
Loving someone comes easily when they are easy to love. Right? But life doesn’t usually work that way. We are all human, we are all broken and will make mistakes and hurt those who love us and those we love. Then there are those people, you know. The ones who make us all squirmy and uncomfortable and we just think there’s no way we can love them. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” (Matthew 5:46a)
Before we touch on that, I first want to talk about the importance of three words that help us realize how we can grow in loving others, with (and because of) grace.
1. love extensively
2. love intensely
3. love practically
1. How can we choose to love extensively? This looks different for each of us. For me, I know one of my challenges in loving others comes when that person isn’t easy to love. It can be someone who has hurt me with words or the stranger on the street corner asking for money. It’s hard for me to freely extend my love to those people. And yet, if God loves every single person no matter what, who am I to not love even the least of us?
2. How can we choose to love intensely? Think about someone you love to the moon & back, for forever and ever and ever. Now try and imagine that feeling multiplied times a billion. It’s hard, right? The easy road is to love ourselves more than anything and go through life serving ourselves and our interests. The harder road is loving others more than ourselves. It means making ourselves uncomfortable, not the other way around. Being intense in loving others means that I need to love myself less than I love others.
3. How can we choose to love practically? Again, this will look different for everyone. The thing to remember and ask ourselves is this: how am I daily putting others before myself? What am I doing to love that person? For me, it is intentionally having snacks and extra water bottles in the car to give a person in need. It might even be asking them if I can pray for them. Ouch, that’s tough isn’t it? It’s uncomfortable. Just as we do practical things to care for ourselves, we should choose to do practical things for others.
For me, growing in love is a daily (even, hourly) challenge and work in progress. If I let it, it will be something I grow in, for the rest of my life. There are always going to be opportunities for me to love someone other than myself, whether it’s at home or outside my home.
One specific thing God has placed on my heart is to be more loving to all the people standing at the street corners in our city. It’s ugly to admit that deep down inside, I just want to sit behind my steering wheel, in a comfortable air conditioned car, hide behind my dark sunglasses and pretend they aren’t standing there. God is showing me to have a more tender heart toward them and yes, it’s scary for me.
Find the thing that makes you uncomfortable, the person or people you have a hard time loving and allow God to speak to your heart. Let your heart be tender toward them and show them love. “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” (Mark 12:31)