Yesterday I wrote about the why of love. I ended with questions that led me to more questions – normal for me. Today I’m pondering the how of love. How am I able to love at all?
In Reliving the Passion, Walter Wangerin Jr. writes about Peter’s insistence that he loves Jesus and would never deny him. Wangerin goes on to say that Peter does love Jesus – “as many Christians do! But great love risks a greater pride. For the very strength of their loving sometimes dazzles and flatters them – until they trust that love more than its Lord.”
Several years ago, I spent a lot of time with a dear friend who was struggling with her faith, with love in her marriage and seemed to be spiritually dying for lack of hope. We met together often to pray and had some unbelievable experiences in the presence of God.
After several months she finally seemed to be very near to hitting bottom. I knew there was nothing more I could do. I had nothing to offer her of myself. As she lay prostrate weeping to God, I sat a little distance away crying out to God myself. Honestly, I was tired of it all. My prayer was very self-centered. In frustration I asked “God why can’t she just have faith like I do?
Warning: be prepared for correction when you ask God a self-centered question.
God instantly reminded me of a time in my life when I was without faith, hope and love. I struggled for nearly seven years searching to acquire it for myself. Then one day, I asked God to give me hope because I was giving up trying to create it within myself.
In the matter of seconds that it took to verbalize that prayer, God removed all my doubts and gave me hope, faith and love like I’d never had before.
I wanted my friend to have that but I had forgotten how I came to have it. It wasn’t from within me. It was a gift from the author of faith, hope and love. I couldn’t give it to her and she couldn’t acquire it on her own. A gift is received only after the giver presents it.
Perhaps God doesn’t allow us to grab it out of his hands because he knows we will trust the love more than we trust him. Love in our control, fails.
What does failed love look like? It’s a love that measures who is worthy of being loved or how much love they should receive. Unfailing love does not measure. It cannot measure because it is infinite.
I Corinthians 13 talks about the many things that look like love and many things that are good but only three things are eternal. They are faith, hope and love. Mortal man cannot create or control the immortal. Only the eternal God can create and give eternal gifts.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthian 13:8-13
If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.
- John Heywood