Extravagant Love

Happy Valentine’s Day! When I was a little girl, I remember getting so excited to go to school on Valentine’s Day. Our teachers helped us decorate Valentine bags with our names on them so the other kids could place their Valentine cards in them. I couldn’t wait to see who gave me a card and then see if someone I liked might have placed something special in there. (Those were the days!) I still love to get a card or a note because it really does makes me feel special. I even save my cards because I just can’t throw them away!

I think, no I know, that God’s love is so vastly different from any human experiences that we have ever had in life. Some of us have been blessed by being surrounded by lots of loving people in our lives. Some of us have had a few loving people in our lives and others have had none. We all come from different situations and some of us like me, have a hard time grasping what it is like to be loved by a heavenly father who loves with a perfect love because my earthly father was not so good in the loving category. Our earthly parents are our first encounter with love in our lives and if they are not so good at loving us, then our belief system is formed that we aren’t worthy of love. “If one of our parents can’t love us, then who can love us,” becomes our core thinking. 

For me, love has been painful and hard because of the experiences I had with my Dad. I did everything humanly possible to make him love me. I tried so hard to be what he wanted me to be that I almost sacrificed my sanity. Those of you that know me think I actually lost my sanity, but I am claiming it is still there! Ha Ha! I have regretted wasting all those years trying to get my Dad to love me until recently. I started reading Ann Voskamp’s book “The Broken Way” and came across this paragraph that made me think of myself. She says, “Jesus risked Himself on me. How can I not risk my life on you? You may not love me back. You may humble me, humiliate me, reject me, shatter my heart, and drive the shards into my soul—but this is not the part that matters. What matters is that in the act of loving we become more like the givenness of Love Himself. What matters most is not if our love makes other people change, but that in loving, we change. What matters is that in the sacrificing to love someone, we become more like Someone. Regardless of anything or anyone else changing, the success of loving is in the how we change because we kept on loving.”

I used to beat myself up because I continually tried to show my Dad love and he shattered my heart and drove the shards into my soul like Ann mentioned. But, now I see that I was doing my part because I was loving him like Jesus did. Now, I am not saying that anyone should allow someone to physically hurt them. I am talking about loving someone with the love of Christ. I didn’t realize until later in life that I needed boundaries with my Dad. Boundaries are good and we should have them. The mistake I made was continually watching for him to change. I felt like it was my job to make my Dad change and see the errors of his ways when in reality it was God’s job. I put myself in the wrong position. (Oldest child syndrome)

Love can be complicated with some people and it can be easy with others. Love can hurt and it can also bring you joy. God created us to love one another. He also commanded us to love. So how do we love those people out there that say cruel things, hurt us continually, disagree with us, cuss at us and turn their backs on us? We have to get on our knees and pray. Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with God’s love even when we don’t want to. I hate to admit it but there are a few people out there that I would prefer not to love. I don’t even want to be in the same room with them. There are people out there that have hurt me to the core of my being. But, I am commanded to love them. So, I have to pray (sometimes through gritted teeth) for them and ask the Lord to forgive me for not loving them. I have to be honest with the Lord about my feelings and ask Him to help me change. I can’t do it on my own!

Before I can love anyone else, I need to realize how much Jesus loves me. I can’t love others until I fill my love tank up with the love of Christ. I can’t love others if my love tank is empty. I have to focus on God’s love for me and allow Him to love me before I can love anyone else. This has been a huge struggle for me most of my life. I really have to focus on scripture that tells me how much God loves me. I have to tell myself that I am loved by God. I also ask Him to tell me He loves me over and over again when I pray and spend time with Him. Allowing God to love me has been hard. I have built walls around my heart and it has been hard to let them down. But, I have learned that God’s love is so good and He would never hurt me. I can trust Him.

I personally know that I need to love more than I do. I need to pray for it more and I need to demonstrate it more. It is so easy for me to put up my protective wall and let someone else do the loving. But that isn’t what Jesus calls me to do. Love is risky. You put yourself out there when you love. You open yourself up for rejection and hurt. But, so did Jesus. He put Himself out there every single day of His life. He was loved by many but He was also rejected by many. He was spat on, yelled at, ridiculed, beaten and crucified. He did all of that because He loved us so much! Yikes! Now if I am honest, that makes me want to run and hide instead of love.

So, this is what I have to do. I have to look at Jesus and say, “Because you love me, I want to love like you do. I want to live my life for you. You know this is hard for me because I have been hurt so many times. I need for you to give me extravagant love for others. I need to look to you for help because I can’t do it on my own. I can’t love on my own. I need to open my heart to your love flowing through me. Help me to love so and so because it is really hard for me to love them. Forgive me for having such a hard time. Please fill me with your transforming love and thank you for loving me! Amen!”

If we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, then we are capable of loving the difficult people in our lives. I have to remind myself that if Christ can love those who spat on Him, then so can I. If He can love those who rejected Him, then so can I. If He can forgive those who hated Him, then so can I. If He can love those who hurt Him, then so can I. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1John 3:16

I am going to leave you with some thoughts by Ann Voskamp. “I am what I love and I will love you like Jesus, because of Jesus, through the strength of Jesus. I will love when I’m not loved back. I will love when I’m hurt and disappointed and betrayed and inconvenienced and rejected. I simply will love, no expectations, no conditions, no demands. Love is not always agreement with some, but is is always sacrifice for someone. We are all lovers compelled by love. Love or war, the answer is one and the same: I surrender.”

You are loved by the creator of the Universe dear friends. Our world doesn’t teach us to love like God does. I pray you will have your love tank filled with His love today and every day! Until next time…

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