A Prodigal Learns to Love

Last night, bitterness, selfishness, fear, and love all met in a stuffy overcrowded but home-y room. The room where I happened to be laying awake in my bed with my sister just inches away, sound asleep. As bitterness, selfishness, fear and love mingled, they arranged themselves into the form of a question.

How do You want me to love?

That question stirred my soul so much that I spent most of my night trying to discover its unending implications.

If there is something that I've learned in the past few years it is that if I am awake, it is because God wants me up. He has something to say, or He wants me to listen, or He wants me to pray (even though sometimes I don't even know what I should be praying about, that is where I am grateful for the Spirit who speaks when I can't), or He longs to show me something through His eyes. He wants me to be up so that the stillness of the night and the quiet humming of the fan become a static soundtrack to the divine discourse that sweetly develops from the ache inside my soul. The very same ache that up to that point, I was severely unaware of.

So, I prayed, "How do You want me to love?"; I sang it, and under a heavy sigh, I whispered it, and God knows how much I thought about it.

I often think of myself as someone who loves unconditionally, not always because I want to, but because God has given me the gift to love deeply beyond any ability that I could ever muster up. I know its a gift because as most ungrateful children do, I stupidly fight it and seek to give it back when I'm in a difficult place-- I hate how unappreciative I can get in those moments.

As a tool, God urges me to battle bitterness at all costs since the evilness that spreads from bitterness manifests itself in the form selfishness, an enemy of unconditional. He has also taught me to fight fear, because loving is a scary thing when it is done His way. It is frightening because I can't love like Jesus while using my definitions for love and by setting up stipulations for when to love. It is terrifying because I have to get myself out of the equation. It is terrifying because my flesh wants it's way and it uses fear as a get-away route.

Last night, I wanted to be selfish. I just kept saying, I can't, I don't want to, I can''t. The, "I can't", and the, "I don't want to" translate to this: I was foolishly contemplating to not love. I wanted to stop feeling. I claimed tiredness and the inability to love. In a nutshell, I was unwilling to love; I was telling God that I didn't want the heart He gave me and I was rejecting the ability He gave me to feel with unfathomable depths.
Instead of turning me away, as I deserved for my ungratefulness, He reminded me of what love is about.

"Prodigal", He said, not in an accusing tone, but in a grave and tender one. He continued, "I welcomed you with open arms after you spent my inheritance on selfish desires. Not only were my arms open, but I never once asked about why you left or what you did when you were gone. Instead, I rejoiced. I rejoiced that you returned and that was enough. I saw you covered in mud, but I didn't care. I saw past the dirty, smelly, rebellious person that you clearly were. I saw you as who you were meant to be seen. Forgiveness was already declared before you even returned. You saw no bitterness in My eyes or in My words, nor did I remind you of the pain you caused Me. Do the same unto others".

BAM, pain is not an excuse to cease from loving. Self is not included in the decision to love. Joy is the correct response, not because hurt is not real or present, but because love rejoices in truth (I Cor. 13:6), and because forgiveness is already extended. And joy, truth, and forgiveness stump pain, selfishness, and bitterness every single freaking time.

That is how I can love like Christ, by sacrificing as Christ did. He had the power to choose not to walk the Via Dolorosa to the Cross, but He chose it because He knew what love demanded. He could've chosen to die a different way, rather than on the cross with nails and shame, but He chose because He knew the sacrifice that love required. He could've chosen to have the wrath of God fall on us instead of on His shoulders, but He chose it because He knew that love meant reconciliation to Himself. He rose because He knew that death needed to be conquered so that we could live, and not just live, but live in and with Him. I call that true love, a love that sees beyond the temporal.

When God looks at us, He sees Christ in us. Not the dirty, smelly, rebellious people we are. Love is looking through the eyes of the Father. We must ask God to give us His eyes to love people like that. 

This morning, I did what spent I all day yesterday telling myself that I was unprepared to do. I loved even though I felt like I couldn't anymore, because that is what love does, it looks to Christ to supply strength, ability, and motivation.


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