“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them.”
– Matthew 16:24-25, CEB –
We’ve talked about Love.
A language, a gift, a labor of prayer, a tree, a song.
For me, this Practical Love Series has impacted me in an unexpected way…
Love has grown from “practical” to Immense.
I can’t pretend I’m an extremely loving person anymore, because I’ve grasped a little more of Extreme Love. Seeing this, seeing Him, I feel no closer to application. I feel like I’ve stumbled into a Magnificent presence, and all I can do is empty compared to His fullness.
I’ve tried to figure out how I can practice Love.
But each day, I wake up on auto-pilot and my own gratification seems to be the destination.
I’ve gotten to Step A: I am not a very loving person.
Even Step B: There’s no way I can love the way I’m commanded to, on my own power.
But where do you and I go from there?
Let’s stop pretending.
People are NOT easy to love. People can be nasty, annoying, selfish, tactless, offensive, apathetic, distant, unjust. Frankly, pretty rotten.
BUT…Sisters, this practice of Love stopped being about “those people” a long time ago.
The problem is not Out There.
It is In Here.
Something inside me has gone desperately wrong and I cannot patch it up on my own.
Love is not a matter of getting everyone else fixed so I can stand being with them.
Love is very much like lighting a bonfire. The light gives–it must, by its nature. Love does not depend on how its object receives it, just as light shines on all around it. Some things reflect back the light; some only absorb it.
But to possess this fire, something in me must burn.
On cricket-creaking nights, I’ve sat by a campfire and seen dull, dry wood kindled. The fire animates it, a resurrection in miniature. And soon what was dead crackles with life–potent orange-blue flickers of heat and light.
And yet, though now alive in a way those branches never could have been on their own, they are being consumed. Living, they die.
In this same way, sin’s entrance into the world abruptly halted the previously unbroken exchange of Love, Creator to creature.Yes, in me, in all of us, something careened off the track. Our taste for good turned sour.
Love became a light that we blind men could not even see.
Now, Love’s restoration requires death. Jesus alone could bridge Love and unloving, or open eyes so the light could come. He, as Love Himself, defined history with the ultimate act of love: His own death.
I shrink from this. It sounds so final, so painful, so awful. Because I don’t want to die. My will doesn’t want to die. I like maintaining my own way, following my own road, chasing my own dreams.
To love, though, I must first die.
It was that way at the beginning, when I first began to breathe resurrection air. Dead in sin, He raised me up. The dry branch was hit with a spark of living fire.
That Spark in me began a cycle of flame that both enlivens me and kills me. It turns deadness into sparkles of flaming glory, but at the same time, it burns away part of me.
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S.Lewis talks about the sanctification of the believer:
“The principle runs through all life from top to bottom, Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Fire-starting is a radical thing. At the outset of our faith, we committed ourselves to unabashed following. What many people do not realize is that this commitment does not keep our hearts focused. We have to re-commit each day.
Each day, we must again die–every minute, if necessary. “Oh Jesus, take my life and let it be Yours, forever. Set my feet on Your path and not mine.”
The flesh that battles in us must be battled with this Holy Fire of Love until Jesus comes back to complete our transformation.
Until then, as long as we keep fighting with the power of God, life will be springing up in the ashes where the fire has scorched our sin nature.
Only as we give ourselves to flames can our light begin to shine.
Our parasitic sinful self, as it dies, makes room for our new self to flourish, a fire-brushed masterpiece of the Creator God.
Only then can we get down to the business of Love, as a practical thing.
Dying, we live.
Join me next week as I launch a Grand Love Experiment! I don’t promise a burst of genius, but I do think it could be revolutionary for my life, at least.
It is simple, but not easy. It is achievable–but not without Jesus at my side. Will you come along?
“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity ―