Am I Loveable? Part 2

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Stanley Park Pool — Vancouver Public Library

I used to play what could be called a “game,” but it was way more serious than the light-hearted approach I took with it showed my kids. We could call it “Who loves you?” When I was driving the kids to school, I would asked them a simple question, “Who loves you?” And they would answer with a sing-song list of those who had shown them love – parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, neighbours, Jesus. We had fun. We laughed. They teased me with their answers. But I knew something they may not yet have grasped:  the very quality and trajectory of their lives rests on the answer to that question.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Jesus – reading from the scroll of Isaiah.
(Luke 4:18-19, ESV)

 

Our sense of place in the world is dynamic and subject to change. A traumatic event can shake our confidence of love-ability. But trauma is not required in order for us to be plagued by shame, guilt and fear. The “normal series” of events common to life can create disappointment among peers, teachers, and bosses leading us to shape a negative view of ourselves. To be taken over by the belief that we are not loveable  profoundly affects our capacity to love others and to receive the love of others.  In this situation we have actually been taken captive by a lie.

The truth: The love-ability factor does not ultimately sit with us — it sits within God who has made us and acted on our behalf. God is the supreme lover of our souls.

Jesus includes an understanding of our love-ability in his conversation with a lawyer about the greatest command:

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  (Matthew 22:37-39)

 

When we are locked up in a love-ability deficit, it creates a cascade of insecurity resulting in desperate acts of self-improvement and even despair. We may severely limit our engagement with people, hiding the truth about us, in order to manage pain and avoid anything that might bring up fear or the shame of not being loveable or powerful enough to command adoration. Though the sources of darkness ravaging the soul are varied, the experience of not feeling loveable or of believing you cannot be loved is common.

We must see Jesus acting decisively for us. 

Jesus has a larger narrative for the glory of God. He understands that we are participants in a cosmic struggle against the knowledge of God. He says, “the thief comes only to kill, steal, and destroy.” (John 10:10) He was aware that the Evil One seeks to destroy people. What better way to alienate people from God than to attack our very receptors for the love of God?

Jesus’ life, His death, and His resurrection are an announcement of God’s love for us and the simultaneous in-breaking of God’s power ushering in His rule and reign. He is overcoming evil with good. He desires to make healing and the progressive health-making work of God available to you so He took up the Cross. Believing God, as He revealed Himself  in Christ Jesus, the Messiah of Israel, is to grapple with and accept a profound truth question:

Who loves you?

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Am I Loveable? Part 1

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Photo credit: daoro – Jonas Boni

The humility and wonder of being loved by God

Charles Wesley writes masterfully of a moment when the idea of God loving him becomes a reality. I include it here so the question of being loved by God does not remain an exercise of a mind trapped in the illusion of a closed system — either a system in which God has somehow been closed out from us, or one in which we have been closed out from God.

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me who caused His pain!
For me who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be That
Thou, my God, should die for me?

Chorus:
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace!
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own

Most of our thinking and feeling about experiences since childhood can conspire to challenge our sense of love-ability. It is a fortunate person who experiences a warm, safe, loving family environment in which they are affirmed and built up as a love-able person. Our earliest, significant relationships are tasked with managing the space in which we are loved and can come to understand our love-ability. Our sense of love-ability is not just a feeling, its actually a set of beliefs about ourselves and our position in respect to others and even to God. And that belief — can be shaped by grace and truth. The Gospel creates new ground for understanding our love-ability from the perspective of Jesus’ Cross. When that happens we sing from the depths of our soul, “Amazing love! How can it be?”

 

Digesting Disappointment

 

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Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Ephesians 4:1-2

When people disappoint us we enter a danger zone for relationships. It’s tempting to turn our disappointed expectations into a blanket statement regarding the person or persons. Here’s how I’ve seen disappointment poison relationships: instead of digesting my own feelings of disappointment, I can label the other person as a disappointment and make them the cause of my pain, totally ignoring the reality of my own expectations as the major player here. That’s a danger zone!

When we view a person as a disappointment we are in danger of loosing love to the grim reaper called pride. We will invoke shame as a weapon and turn to violence of speech or action in order to vindicate ourselves and try to get the other person to make us happy — or go away.

Healthy relationships do have expectations. The Apostle Paul has expectations of the church. He hopes for them to live up to and into the calling they have had from God through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:1). Like him, we do look for each other to live up to the callings of our relationships by keeping commitments and demonstrating value for the person. However if we demand perfection to our expectations will restrict ourselves from love; we will not be able to accept each other in our weakness, warts, and all!

So when I’m disappointed here’s what helps:

1. First admit I’m disappointed and keep it to myself first.

2. Humbly examine my expectations with the Lord. Its here that I have to figure out what story I’m making up about the situation and the person.

3. Resolve to treat the other gently, not as an object for my happiness, but as a person who is deeply loved and valued by God.

4. Explore what kind of adjustments, allowances, or space, I can make for the faults (weaknesses) of the other. As Brene Brown’s husband Steve says in, Rising Strong, “All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”

Having said that, even in disappointment I can and must determine the scope of my boundaries and gently and firmly reaffirm them. What the Apostle Paul encourages here in verse 2 is that we make allowances for other person’s faults because we love them.

5. And then if need be, discuss the situation with the other person without condemnation, truthing in love. This is the difficult but crucial conversation that must be waded into. But I think the health of our lives and relationships depends on our courage to do so. Digesting disappointment guards the heart against resentment and the many disorders of the soul that accompany such festering pain. Digesting disappointment creates space for us to grow in love.

When it comes to digesting disappointment, what have you found helpful?

They lost the love.

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2 “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. 4But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  Revelation 2:2-4

I had a funny conversation this weekend. A group of us were talking about a popular chain restaurant close to the campus. One person said, “Oh that place is really missing stuff, its not that great; its terrible.” So I ask, “What is it missing?”

Now at that moment, I was wondering if its menu was deficient. Or if this was a nutrition complaint coming at me. But no.

She said, “They have lost the love.”

Me: “They lost the love?”

Her: “Yeah. They don’t show any love.”

Wow!

Franchises typically pride themselves in having all the same stuff. But love can’t be franchised or systemized. Love must be made fresh daily.

So it is in our relationship with Jesus. As the church, we can do all the common work of being church, but if we do not allow our hearts to be renewed by the Spirit and drawn again to the joy and delight of Jesus in the Gospel, we will have “lost the love!” Just going through the motions, while commendable, is far from the life Jesus has called us into. In fact Jesus notices both the quality of the work and the “add-ons” created by love. He calls to us just as he did with the church of Ephesus to enter again into the heights of a life inspired and fuelled by Him. “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.”

Choice and Love

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9“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

12This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command.

15I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.  John 15:1-17

Jesus says, “You are my friends!”

Jesus initiates friendship.
I have loved you, even as the Father has loved me. vs. 9
I have told you everything the Father told me. vs. 15
I chose you. vs. 16
I appointed you to bear lasting fruit.  vs. 16

In a world of pick and choose I’m often astonished that we have a problem with the reality of love and choice going together. Part of the mystery of the Gospel comes down to this: Jesus choses us. It comes down to nothing but grace. No achievements, no class, no race, no self-righteousness, no good looks swayed the opinion of God towards us. As followers of Jesus we maintain the tension between the reality of our sinfulness and the amazing grace of His choice to include us in His band of brothers and sisters.