Today I’d like you to welcome my fabulous niece, Megan Dohm, to the blog. She has been sharing her amazing insight with me as she’s helping me edit the manuscript for Breaking Up with Perfect, the book I’m writing to be released fall 2015. In addition to her many other gifts, Megan is a talented writer, so I asked her to share with us. In addition, she’s offering a fantastic giveaway from her Etsy store Little Brown Cards at the end. You’re going to love it! Please welcome, Megan.
Within the last few years, I’ve had a major blind spot exposed. Don’t you hate that—cruising along living your happy life and then wham! There’s a glaring flaw you never knew you had.
And it’s big.
And it’s pretty ugly. How could you have been blind to it? I guess that’s the definition of a blind spot.
As a general rule, I find it easy to be giving to the people I hold dear. Our family jokes that logistics is my spiritual gift (administration is in the list in I Corinthians 12 : 27. The day I found that out was a very happy one), and with that wiring comes a bent towards working long, hard, happy hours—for the people I love.
But when it comes to the people that are hard to love, my eager hands go limp and my feet start to drag. I’m guessing you have hard-to-love people in your life, too. Maybe they’re demanding, either physically or emotionally. Maybe they’re ungrateful, no matter what you do. Maybe they smell funny, or came from a completely different background, so you have nothing in common. Here’s the thing:
I can’t fix those I am supposed to serve. I can change my heart towards them.
In Luke 6, Jesus addresses this issue. He says, “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.” (Luke 6: 32-33)
Ouch. Double ouch. This makes my human heart start to arch it’s back and prickle a little. “But So-and-So is constantly butting into my family,” it whines. “And they never say thank you,” it sniffs.”‘And they hurt. My. Feelings.”
Now you’ve seen the ugly state of my heart when it’s throwing a grown-up tantrum. Since I was raised in the South (home of Bless Your Heart Syndrome) none of these sentiments are ever expressed out loud, but they can be simmering in my heart. So it’s important for times like this (when your heart has the self-control of a three-year-old) to know the why.
Why are we called to love and serve the unlovely?
The answer is a few verses later in Luke, “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6: 35-36) Not only did God love “those other unthankful and evil people”, He loved us. When we were screaming against Him. When we were His enemies. He loved us enough to die for us and take on the wrath of God. He poured out ultimate Love for the most unlovely.
I think He expresses it even more clearly in I John 4: 10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
And furthermore : “By this we know love, because he laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” (I John 3:16-18).
Notice how God doesn’t speak of not giving to those in need if you are in a time of famine—His concern is with the heart, and how I can shut it off and harden towards my brothers and sisters in Christ. These words pierce me to the heart when I read them, because I can think of times when I intentionally hardened my heart towards God’s beloved. God through John also takes away any excuses I might still be harboring. I think serving a fellow believer is going too far demanding, taking too much? The commandment is to lay down my life. I talk about loving them, and that’s a good start? God calls us to a higher standard—acting with truthful care.
Here’s what I’m not calling myself to—I’m not instructing myself to get my act together, work harder, and by pure gumption start loving hard-to-love people.
I’m calling myself (and those of you who have stuck it out for this long article) to repentance towards God first. Run to Jesus, and ask His forgiveness. Unlike us, He is never grudging. His hands do not falter to give us grace, even when our hearts are in an ugly condition. Then, take the love and grace that is new every morning, and apply it to tough relationships around you.
It’s not going to be pretty. It won’t feel saintly. There will be no golden halos, no lights with heavenly voices. My guess is it will be more of a gritty, in-the-trenches, eating-crow experience. I’m going to fail many times a day (an hour?). Keep running to the cross. Keep repenting, keep turning away from self and sin and towards God, as many times a day as necessary.
I can assure you that this process is less than fun at the beginning. But you know what? It’s one step towards becoming more like Jesus, who loved us lavishly. And it’s one more step in the direction of sharing His love with the people around us.