“Our pace, the incessant activity, the noise, the interruptions, the deadlines and demands, the daily schedules, and the periodic feelings of failure and futility bombard our beings like the shelling of a beachhead. Our natural tendency is to wave a white flag, shouting, “I give up! I surrender!” This, of course, is the dangerous extreme of being weary-the decision to bail out, to throw in the towel, to give in to discouragement and give up.”
“There is nothing wrong with feeling weary, but there is EVERYTHING wrong with abandoning ship in the midst of the fight.”-Charles Swindoll
Friends, I waved the flag.
I did more than wave the flag in surrender, I heaved it over the side of my storm-tossed boat into the waves of failure, abandonment, fatigue, depression and boredom. I raised my puny fist and cursed the endless night with ugly profanity-laced words. When none but the deafening silence of a seemingly indifferent God and uncaring world responded, I lay down in the frigid waters of disappointment and disillusionment rapidly filling my deck and I slept.
To the world I was normal. They couldn’t see I was merely the walking dead, sans zombie accoutrements. I drank coffee at Starbucks. I encouraged friends. I hugged children. I cooked dinner. I gambled and giggled on a Vegas trip. All, while sleeping on the inside, violins of crap-t.v., the occasional martini and food kept me slumbering on the deck of my spiritual and emotional Titanic.
I slept until the shout of a kid who manages a movie theatre woke me up.
His name is Chris Bernstorf. He’s a spoken word poet. He is a Christian. And he is a light. A light so bright, it woke this girl up.
I sat in the pew ready for some worship time at this new church I have been checking out. I knew the music would be good. I knew I would sing good. I knew it was the ‘right’ thing to be there, as I brought a young friend of mine. I knew it would be good and I would be home just in time to catch my favorite shows on t.v.
Before the worship began, the kids who run the church invited a friend of theirs to share his poetry. This skinny kid in skinnier jeans and a wrinkled shirt stood on the pew and began to talk. He shared how amazed he was that God could use him-a kid who swept popcorn and managed a theatre. Chris asked us to sing “This Little Light of Mine”. He disappeared into the back of the church. As “Let it shine…” faded out, and yes, I sounded good, a roar erupted from the back of the sanctuary. Breaking the fourth wall and the icy glass and depression-fueled stupor around my heart, he shared this:
I wept. I shook. And, most gloriously, I WOKE UP.
It wasn’t the words, in particular. I, like most Christians, want to be a light. It wasn’t just the well crafted verse (the kid is a genius), I’m a writer and can turn a phrase or two. It was the passion. Chris was passionate because he knew God was passionate about him. This kid’s words were soaked in a powerful passion through which God could shout His demand for us to truly be His light in a dark world.
I heard. I saw the light. Through this kid’s beautiful verse, Jesus said to me, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine (make day dawn) upon you and give you light.” (Eph. 5:14)
I’m awake now. I’m stretching. I’m praying. I’m reading John Bevere’s, “Relentless”. My muscles are stiff and I stumble about. However, this scripture is real for me. “18 By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones).” (Eph. 1:18 AMP)
It ain’t pretty, this boat I’m floating in. Just out of reach, across the bow is that damn white flag. I choose to look sternward. I choose to know and understand the hope to which He has called me.
As I pray more, I pray for you. I pray you would awake, oh beautiful sleeper, to the hope He has for you. I pray you would awake to His light upon your heart.
What does it mean to love abundantly?
There is the scripture which says that no greater love exists than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. The single most extravagant act of love in all of time was the crucifixion. God and man collided with sin and death. Even to His last moments, bruised, bloodied and dying, Jesus chose to forgive. He chose to love despite the pain, despite the thorns, despite the brokenness of His own spirit.
I have loved, in ways I thought extravagant. Often with disastrous results. No, I haven’t been nailed to a cross. However, my heart, motives, actions and character have taken a beating. I’ve bled over relationships broken beyond my ability to repair. I’ve chosen to forgive. I’ve also chosen to toughen up my defenses. I’ve become far more selective on who, what, when, where and why I will lay down my life. I found myself devoid of life to give.
But doesn’t loving abundantly mean exactly that? Abundance. Not careful and selective choosing. Not defensive protectiveness. But loving despite the consequences or the messiness of the journey?
Hours before the hellish abuses of the crucifixion, Jesus prayed alone in the garden. He prayed that it would all pass by Him, that He wouldn’t have to endure the horrific physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Yet, He made a two part decision. The first was to come to terms with the toll His love would demand. The second was to see beyond the excruciating death to what lay beyond.
Hebrews 12:2 (ERV) 2 We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and he is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.” (emphasis mine) Jesus fully realized the pain He would endure. He also accepted it ‘as if it were nothing’.
The cross of crucifixion-nothing! Are you kidding? He could accept it because the joy on the other side of the pain far overshadowed the hellishness He would endure. The ends were so glorious, so beautiful, so joyful that the pain would become nothing.
To love abundantly is to come to terms with the fact that love will hurt. It also means to recognize on the other side of that pain is something good IF we look to the One who makes us complete.
Less-more-abundantly is a journey. One I am undertaking to understand how to love abundantly through the pain to get to the other side.
There is a song which asks all the questions I do when it comes to love. It gives no easy answers, however, it points the way. There is only one way to love abundantly, and that is with arms wide open, my heart exposed. This blog is one way I am opening my arms. Will you open yours?