That Agape Muscle
Not too long ago, I posted about how Love Is Not Blind and it’s been on mind again how we are to love unconditionally (agape). It’s on my mind because, being honest, sometimes I don’t want to love unconditionally…which isn’t very unconditional. When I’ve been hurt or someone is simply a jerk, my inclination is to furrow my brow and ask, “What is wrong with you, you moron?!”
“Love is patient, love is kind, It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Sigh. This passage has become a thermometer as well as a thermostat for me. As a thermometer I can use these “measurements,” if you will, to “stretch” to each day. I long to be patient, kind, content and humble.I have good intentions of being all of the above but the agape muscle gets a daily workout. Workouts can be exhausting. Especially if you have kids….and a spouse….and a Basset Hound. And then there’s “those” friends and customers and people with different political opinions, and, and…people are dorks, let’s face it. We’re all dorks. Dorks require agape. Everyone is capable of being awesome, adorable and lovable but deep down (okay, maybe not so deep), we are all selfish, stupid dingbats in need of a Savior.
It’s when I go back to the thermometer I can get a reading. For example, I am pretty darn good at keeping records. I can also justify the record-keeping and convince myself the record-keeping is necessary then BAM, this passage sticks in my face and tells me I’m sick. The agape muscle is weak, I have a fever and I’m sick in the head and heart – I’m not loving. I am NOT loving. If I have been impatient, it’s not because “he’s really trying my patience.” If he’s “trying” me and I’m being patient, he’s the one being tested, not me. (That smarted, didn’t it? Yea, me, too.) The realization that there are times EVERY day that I am not loving my kids pierces me. These verses lay out before me the times I am not expressing love. When I am putting my interests ahead of someone else, am easily angered, am thinking more highly of myself than I ought, I am not exercising my agape muscle; I am not loving.
You know what else smarts? This:
“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15
It would be A LOT easier if everyone were loving and obeying what Jesus commands every hour of the day but we can’t grow stronger and grow to be more like Jesus unless we’re loving unconditionally. Seriously, look at the idiots Jesus ran around with. If we’re honest, most of us wouldn’t put up with the nonsense He did and we’d pat each other on the back saying, “I don’t blame ya, man. Who needs that in their life?”
Love is not a warm, fuzzy feeling. Love is something you do. The warm, fuzzy feeling comes when I adore the person I am loving. I adore my cutie-pie 2-year-old. He’s two. It’s easier when they’re cute. But if I lose my temper when he’s acting like a terrible two, I have, for the moment, stopped loving him. This is convicting for me because I do lose it at times! A lot. Mostly with the older ones, though! When I am training my agape muscle through the Word and practice, I can instinctively remember that the training and discipline of my 2-year-old, Seth, is my service to him. I am loving him through the trial and I’m a much better mommy.
If my husband is acting….like a guy (men can be such <fill in the blank>), and I huff and puff and justify my anger and, um, lack of kindness, I have decided he is not worthy of my love (pride) and I am being bitter and conditional. Here’s another thing: people who “fall out of love” don’t fall out of love; they have chosen to not love. They have decided this person they are with is no longer worthy. Period. There – I said it. Shoot me. I have “fallen out of love” with my husband before but seeing how it affected my kids convicted me. I know how it works. I have seen couples separate for nothing more than petty selfishness. I have also seen and read about men and woman who loved their spouses despite circumstances that would have sent me running. Some have had to separate. Some never saw that spouse overcome their addictions. Some divorced but kept on loving and serving. That being said, the outcomes have not always been the love story “happy ending.” Sometimes, the overcoming isn’t overcoming the obstacles but overcoming ourselves. If we can love in the midst of unbearable circumstances, we may not be “living the dream” but we will become more like Jesus. “That doesn’t make sense,” people will say. If you’re not happy, you should leave. Folks, the cross doesn’t make sense and I’m pretty sure Jesus WAS NOT happy hanging there on the cross. It’s just a hunch. He wasn’t happy but he was loving.
If He can do that for me, by golly, I can love my kids, I can love my husband, I can love people at the theatre we work with (You’re all crazy. You know that, right?), our neighbors, my mom and in-laws. I can love my customers (some of you procrastinate worse than me, you know that right?), I can love those turn-coat Republicans and Democratics ;o), I can even love Obama. Yep, there I said it. Some people force you to look at them through the eyes of God because left to my own devices, there’s NO WAY I could bring myself to loving them. But I love our President by praying for him not only because I love our country (also unconditional – it’s a mess but still blessed) but because God sent His Son to die for Him just as He did for me.
We’re all dirty, rotten sinners. I didn’t set out in this rant to bring myself to a Third Day song but here I am. God told Hosea to love Gomer. Gomer was a prostitute and was repeatedly unfaithful. God told Hosea to take her back and love her. He wasn’t given the option of “feeling” love for Gomer. He was obedient and unconditional. (To get the whole story, read the book of Hosea). Third Day’s song, Gomer’s Theme, is precious to me as it reminds me that I am loved no matter how far I stray but it also reminds to me to love others even though they don’t deserve it. It’s a beautiful song – do take a listen. (And this is why Third Day psycho fans are called Gomers – so we can tell you that you are loved no matter where you’ve come from or what you’ve done. )
When I am having a hard time with another because they’re being…human….I flex my bicep (what there is of one) and say, “It’s time to exercise (imaginary kiss of the bicep) the Agape Muscle.” It ain’t easy but if you don’t use it, i.e. get comfortable being bitter, discontent, unforgiving, prideful and selfish, you will develop Love Atrophy and, while you may feel very justified for being so, you will end up in a spiritual wheelchair. Good luck with that.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
Thanks for hanging in there with me for such a long one. That was very unconditional of you.
Time to excercise :* the Agape Muscle!
What’s not shared is lost,
Love is not blind
“Love is not blind – it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.” –Rabbi Julius Gordon
I’ll be honest. I’ve always thought that phrase “Love is blind” is stupid. On the one hand, if you love someone without knowing (seeing) them, you don’t really love that person; you love your idea of who that person is or you love pretending to love or you “really have a good impression of them and could possibly love them….eventually.” On the other hand, if you REALLY know someone, odds are you see crud that isn’t very loveable. If a person REALLY knows you, they see the same in you. Makes love a tad inconvenient, I think. And, frankly, exhausting at times.
So much has been written about unconditional love and commitment, I’m not sure I need to add to the list but I do have a different angle at the moment. My thing is- why do I bother? Why do I keep loving or trying to love people who make it difficult? Especially when they don’t return the favor. I just want to be loved where I’m at. You know? Unconditionally? I don’t need every stinking shortcoming pointed out. OH, and how I love it when I hear I’ve been mentioned in conversations where I was not present. (It’s okay – I know they’re just jealous they’re not as awesome as me.) I have been stabbed in the back, belittled, berated, exasperated and exhausted from folks not willing “to see less because they see more.” I want to “return the favor” sometimes and often, I do. Other times, I just give up. But something keeps bringing me back for more. I could just leave these people behind. “Eat my dust.” That’s what I want to do. But, apparently, I’m a child of God and He won’t let me. I say apparently because, I confess, I see how bad I can be, like those folks who see more, and I hear the voices say I really can’t be adopted or I wouldn’t be so bad. Quite often, I’m the exasperating one who loves conditionally and can be difficult to love.
But Christians have the Holy Spirit in them and I know He’s in me because He won’t let me quit, grows love in me when I want to hate, gives me joy when I feel depressed, lifts the guilt when I know I’m guilty and helps me find love in others when “those” others show how me NOT to love. So why love?
Jesus loved me enough to die for me. I didn’t do anything worthy of that. In fact, quite the opposite. Motherhood has given me a taste of why Jesus did what He did. These little people can drive me crazy but I love them like crazy! They can act stupid, annoying, & infuriating (kind of like me) but I love them enough to die for them. I don’t claim to love as unconditionally as Christ (as evidenced by this post) but I can say He has done something in me that doesn’t make any sense – He loves me and His love is in me. It sounds weird but it’s the only explanation for why I love the jerks in my life. That doesn’t mean I have to be a glutton for punishment – one of my mantras is “I have enough of my own drama. I don’t need anyone else’s.” But it’s a comfort to me just to know I love another because I can’t help myself – it’s a Jesus Freak thing.
SO, ya freaks, just ‘cause I love ya doesn’t mean I don’t see how rotten you are, too. It just means us brothers and sisters in Christ can be rotten together and know that when God looks at us, He sees what Jesus did for us so that’s what we should see, too.
What’s not shared is lost,