Monday, May 4, 2015

What Love Must Do

There’s been much in the news of late regarding the mother in Baltimore who was seen slapping her son for participating in the riots there.  Most news reports I heard made her to be a sort of hero, for doing what my mom --- or dad --- would have done out of instinct.  But I’ve heard of other news reports critical of the same woman, for daring to strike a child --- even her son.
I’ve learned over the years that love is not an emotion, something felt in our senses, a tingle.  No, real love is a desire to do good for another, even before ourselves.  Love is not something we can choose to get --- it cannot be demanded from another.  Real love is something given, and it is most felt by someone else by our actions.  Love does something for another.
Recently the Wall Street Journal ran a section of stories speculating on how the world would look in 15 years from now (there was no story questioning whether we would survive that long).  One of the stories focused on the availability of little robots which would know just how to maximize our sexual excitement, and even gauge our mood and determine when we needed a “sexual re-charge”.  A personal love toy, a machine to give us love is how it was described --- but a machine can’t choose to love anything or anybody.  A machine is run by programmed routines --- it doesn’t “choose” anything: it has no will.  It can’t love us.  The article reminded me of the song: “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”.
Our love grows not only as our knowledge of another grows, but also as our self-knowledge grows.  And as we come to more honestly see ourselves, we can change.  Everyone thinks of themselves as good, but sometimes they are fooling themselves.  Someone who truly loves them will tell them of their goodness, but will also be honest enough to point out their weaknesses.  And while it is hard to accept that we are not perfect, if we can see our weaknesses we can change.  We can become even more loveable.  Love, a relationship of love, grows not only from knowing our beloved more, it grows from knowing ourselves more.
In our relationship with God, we need to know Him more.  God IS love; if there is some area we don’t love Him, it is because we don’t know Him enough.  And if we feel estranged from God, unloved, it is because we do not know His honest speaking to us.  We can’t believe He can love us as we are, and/or we can’t accept the changes He’d like to see in us, so we can accept all the love He wills to give us.
The woman who slapped her son during the Baltimore riots was seen by most people as a good mom.  She slapped her son in love.  And, based on later interviews, her son knew this.  He changed what he was doing.
If some kid from the slums can recognize a love slap and know he has to change, why do we sometimes find it so hard to accept a love slap from God, and know we must change?  (How often, sadly, I myself have challenged Him when He chastised me.)  Why are we so often like those newspaper know-it-alls who say “A mom should never slap her child.”  Like them, why do we so readily look at God and say: “Why did you do that?  If You loved me, why did You allow that to happen?”
There have been times in my life when I had to look in the mirror and ask myself:  “Who are you?”  I wondered if I was like the teenager, tossing bricks in the riot --- or “wonderful ideas” at the office --- trying to impress friends and co-workers --- “looking for love in all the wrong places.”  At other times my relationship with God was like the teenager who expects food on the table, clean clothes in the closet, and a mom who is “okay --- except for when she butts into my life.”  At times I wanted God to butt out of my life too.  And sometimes when things got really bad, my relationship like God was like the teenager in jail who is allowed one call, and who says: “No, I can’t call mom; she’ll never forgive me for this.”  I think that sometimes I was almost afraid of God, like a teenager.  But when I really thought on it --- when I prayed on it --- I realized that no matter how badly I’ve sinned, this God who I am sometimes afraid to talk to is the same God who forgave His Son’s killers.  And then I realized that nothing I could do would ever stop his loving me.  I just needed to grow up, as a teenager does, and accept this in my heart.
My prayer life has improved over the years, and even more during this past year as I focused intensely on it.  It used to be a struggle to pray for 10 minutes; now prayer fills hours of my every day.  I am growing in my knowledge of God, by talking to him.  The typical teenager thinks he knows everything, even if in his heart he knows he doesn’t; I know that’s how I once felt about my relationship with God.  Thankfully, a friend told me I had to grow up, and so I began.  It wasn’t easy in the beginning, but I began.
Are you getting on in years?  When will you grow up?    An always forgiving, never leaving, loving God awaits you.  Perhaps you remember some slap from Him in the past, or fear one due in the future, but remember:  He’s not expecting you to die for Him.  You know that.  Whenever I find myself not quite knowing how to begin my conversation with Him, I always start out stating the obvious:  “Lord, You know that I love You …”
Because God DOES love us, He lets us make poor decisions, but that doesn’t change His love.  He will help us see our weaknesses.  And if you perceive God doesn’t like something you’ve done or are doing, it’s time for you to change.  That’s what love does too.  It’s a matter of growing in love, or with God, of growing in holiness.
It is what love MUST do.  It is the very reason for which we were created, to do the actions we must do:  to know and to love Him.
And to be loved.
            - - - - - - - - - -
Children, let us love not in word or speech,
but in deed and truth …
-- 1 Jn 3:18
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless
it remains on the vine, so neither can you
unless you remain in Me.
-- Jn 15:4
If you are reading this and are someone who hasn’t sincerely spoken to God in a while, perhaps the words of Psalm 63 might help start your conversation.  I say them at least once a week:
O God, you are my God, for you I long;
for you my soul is thirsting.
My body pines for you
like a dry, weary land without water.
So I gaze on you in the sanctuary
to see your strength and your glory.
For your love is better than life,
my lips will speak your praise.
So I will bless you all my life,
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul shall be filled as with a banquet,
my mouth shall praise you with joy.
On my bed I remember you.
On you I muse through the night.
for you have been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand holds me fast.

No comments:

Post a Comment