Day 31: In the end, and for now

This life we live?  This crazy beautiful, heartbreaking, wondrous life?  It does all have a purpose, despite that feeling of wandering lost in the wilderness at times.  Often, if you’re anything like me.

But one day, one day, it will all make sense.

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 the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a 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. (1 Corinthians 13: 11-12)

Right now, we think and see and live with earthly-based minds, because that’s where we are – in the here and now, down on this earth.  But on that day, that glorious day, when life and love all comes to completion in the heavens , and we come face-to-face with the One who loves us more than we can possibly fathom, everything will fall in to place, and we won’t be left wandering or wondering anymore.

For today, tomorrow, and all the days to come we have to live out here on earth, in amongst the people we love and don’t-love-yet, we have a job to do, a direction to follow that has been given to us so clearly, there cannot be any doubt.

We are to love.

Actively.

Every. Single. Day.

Even when it’s hard.

Even when it’s really hard.

Even when it feels like we need to turn ourselves inside out just to summon up one skerrick of love-as-God-tells-us.

This is who we are created to be, this is how God intended for us to live amongst each other.  And He sent His precious son Jesus to teach us this.  Even though the teaching involved pain beyond anything we can imagine.

This is why love is the biggest, the most, the greatest.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (1 Corinthian 13: 13, The Message)

Trust steadily.

Hope unswervingly.

Love extravagantly.

Right now, in my tired, worn out state, I can barely even begin to fathom what it takes to love extravagantly – what comes to mind is that it means to love like God.  To love each other like God loves us.

Without fear.

Without anger.

With hope, and patience, and endurance.

Writing about love, real love for 31 days has shown me that there is so much I have to learn, to discover, to embrace, I feel like I’ve only skimmed my fingertips across the surface of the His truth, of what it is He wants us to know and to breathe deep.

Love is the greatest.

Day 30: Love wins. Every time.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10, The Message)

Love never fails.

Not now, not ever.

In the end, when this world as we know it is gone and we are living in the heavenly realms with the One who is love, it is love that will endure, not any spiritual giftings or anything else.

But for now, it is love that keeps going, love that never gives up, never gives in, never fails us.

When we choose to love, we are choosing victory and triumph over despair and hopelessness.  I know this, because I chose love, even when it seemed impossible, and He who is love defined made the way for the impossible to become so very real.

My husband and I are living proof that love never dies, love always wins, despite how things may appear at times.  Love changes, yes, and there are peaks and troughs and ebbs and flows, but it is always living and breathing within us.  And that’s because God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4: 16).

I’ll leave you with this song that speaks so beautifully of this truth – love never fails, God never fails, even when we do.

Day 29: Trust and hope and perseverance (Part 2)

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We took our time, getting to know each other again.  And it was easy, no pressure or expectation, it just all flowed naturally.

Conversations when dropping kids off and picking them up, mainly superficial stuff, but we were mainly learning to feel safe with each other again.

Through all this, I saw and started living the trusting part of loving someone in action.  I had learnt so much about love, real love, over the past few years, and what this meant in a marriage.  I was coming to understand more and more that this message from God was less about how I felt, and more about being intentional.  By trusting God that it was His intention for us to rebuild our relationship as parents, and trusting Him that we would be safe in this, I had been given the opportunity to put this into practice.

It was my father in-law who first brought this passage of love, these words of God in 1 Corinthians 13 into focus for me.  I wrote this on my blog at the time (December 2007), and the words still ring true to me nearly 6 years later:

Yesterday I drove to another town to pick up my Nanna for Christmas, and as my mind was wandering, I was thinking about the kid’s aunties and uncles and cousins coming to visit their family for Christmas.  I was thinking about how it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the kid’s aunties (their dad’s sisters), and that I miss them terribly.  There are cousins that would have been my nieces and nephews if their dad and I hadn’t separated, and I’ve not met these kids who are such a part of my kids’ lives.  I cried, remembering how Christmas used to be with my former husband and his 4 siblings and their various partners and children, and grieved again for the life that once was, but is no more.

Today I picked the kids up for our family Christmas with my mum and step-dad, my dad, my Nanna and my sister, and we had a lovely pre-Christmas lunch.  After lunch, I took the kids to their (paternal) grandparents to drop them off, and got chatting to my former in-laws about Christmas and various arrangements.  My former father-in-law disappeared for a minute, and came back with two roses for me.  He told me he knows how much I like them, and that they’re nothing really, to which I responded that they were beautiful and certainly not nothing.  He took my hand and gave me a kiss, and wished me a Merry Christmas.  He then told me he still loves me, and his voice broke as he told me he always has and he retreated hastily into the house.  I struggled not to burst into tears then and there, and exchanged Christmas greetings with my former mother-in-law as I breathed to keep my composure.  Which I quickly lost as I got back into the car to leave.

My father-in-law took our separation quite hard, it was a couple of years before he could really talk to me again, and our relationship has been slowly rebuilding ever since.  This man loved me like his daughter, took great joy in his son’s family and was a big part of my life.  When I left my husband, I didn’t just leave one man, I left his parents and siblings and their families, as well.  And I miss them all.  So. Much.  I still grieve that they’re not part of my family anymore, not a part of the life I dreamed of.  It certainly wasn’t a fairytale family, we all had our ups and downs, but they adopted me as one of their own and I loved them dearly.  I couldn’t wait to be an aunty (we were the first ones to have kids), to see this family grow and love and enjoy each other.

We often forget that divorce doesn’t just affect the husband and wife and kids involved.  There are others, others who love us that we sometimes leave behind.  Sometimes for just a season, sometimes forever.  The journey I’ve been on over the last nearly 4 years is not one I had anticipated would happen in my life, and it’s been an unpredictable ride.  I’ve prayed for restoration of the relationships that were fairly suddenly broken, and God has certainly been doing His work in the kid’s dad and I this year, for which I am so grateful.  I see His hand in the rebuilding of relationships between other family members, and I give thanks that these relationships are so much better for the kids than how it’s been in the past.

Two roses showed me today what love can be.  People who love us can be hurt, wounded and  grieved, but as His word tells us, ‘Love is patient, love is kind…..it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…’.  This verse was read at our wedding, and I know now I didn’t really understand it then as I do now.  I looked at it with romantic blinkers on, quite unable to grasp the enormity of what this scripture means.  The two roses my former father-in-law gave me today showed me what love is: ‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love’.  I believe love can change, the love we feel for people can change with time and circumstance, but God tells us that it remains, it never fails, therefore it never dies.   I know how corny that sounds, but it’s true, and I don’t think I fully understood that until today.

Even with this insight, and with the thought of God’s intention to restore our marriage always at the back of my mind, I still wasn’t convinced that this message from God was real.  I never thought of it as a promise at that stage, simply because it wasn’t what I wanted.  Ultimately, I didn’t trust Him or His words to me.

Then came the turning point, for me.  Nearly 2 years after we has started talking again, I started thinking more and more about being married to my husband again, and started to explore in my heart what that would be like.  Still as an abstract concept, but one I was giving more consideration to nonetheless.  I was finding it surprisingly easy to actively love this man, but in a brotherly, I-want-the-best-for-you sense, not because I felt in love with him.

But I still didn’t want this.  I didn’t want to commit to working on restoring our relationship, our marriage.  I wanted shiny and new, because that would be easier. 

I still didn’t trust God.

Until quite literally one day, I found I had no other choice.

I was in Queensland on a scrapbooking retreat weekend with a group of wonderfully faithful ladies whom I had met via an online scrapbooking forum.  They knew my story, and some of what was going on in my heart.  During the Sunday morning worship, we had opportunity to share and give thanks and basically tell some of our story, if we wanted to.  I didn’t. Not then.

But God had other plans, as He often does.

Sitting in the meeting room of the old restored Queenslander, I couldn’t ignore the thumping of my heart, or the voice that was gently saying to me ‘Tell them.  Ask them to stand with you.  Ask them to trust with you’.  So I did.

I was trembling all over as I stood up and took my turn to speak.  With a halting start, I told my story, our story, and heard the rushing in my head as I came to speak the words I knew I couldn’t hold in any longer.  I told the women that God had ordained to be with me there at that point in time that God wanted me to commit to trusting Him to restore our marriage, to follow His leading, and I didn’t want to.  I didn’t think I could.  It was impossible.

But I knew it wasn’t.

In that moment, as I spoke the words aloud that God had breathed into me more than 2 years earlier, I knew it was possible.  I knew, without doubt, it was the fairytale ending that could come true because it was no fairytale, it was God’s story.

And that’s when I started to trust Him.  I started to trust that what He had spoken to me was a promise that would be fulfilled, and I started to trust that He would change my heart, create anew what it needed to be to love this man as my husband again.

With that trust, as hesitant as it was initially, came hope – hope that began to believe in possibility, and seeing love lived real as it was supposed to be.  Of seeing brokenness mended, and beauty rising from the ashes.

My trust and hope in Christ that this promise would be fulfilled was not unwavering.  It was often dependent on what I was experiencing, what I was seeing, what I was able to control, and as time went on and things didn’t happen according to my timeline, my trust and hope sometimes all but failed.  But never completely.  And that was simply because of that deep-rooted, unshakeable knowledge that if God says He will do something, He will do it.

He doesn’t break promises.

He doesn’t go back on His word.

And He doesn’t give up on us.

Because He loves us.

It took nearly seven years from the time that God first spoke to me about restoring our marriage to my husband asking me if we could start again.  More than four years from the time I stood in front of God, in a room full of His daughters and said ‘I don’t want this, but I will trust You and Your goodness’.

It took believing in what was out of my control, patience, a lot of frustration (on my part), time, heartache, overcoming disbelief and standing in the truth of God’s word to get to where we are today.

In short, it took persevering with hope and trust to see His promise fulfilled, to be now living hope fulfilled.  it took real, active love to live out the story He had written for us.

The story that isn’t finished yet, that is still revealing itself with each new day, each turn of the page.

I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

What’s your story of hope? Are you living hope fulfilled, or still persevering, trusting in Jesus?

To catch up on our story, follow the links below:

Introduction

The story of us (Part 1)

The story of us (Part 2)

The story of us (Part 3)

The story of us (Part 4)

Trust and hope and perseverance (Part 1)

Trust and hope and perseverance (Part 2)

Day 28: Trust and hope and perseverance (Part 1)

Love….

Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end

(1 Corinthians 13:7, The Message)

Do you want to hear a story of trust and hope persevering without doubt, and never giving up?

I wish I could tell you one.  But I can’t, because that hasn’t been my journey.

When God first told me that He would restore my marriage, I didn’t want to hear it.

But as He was patient with me, and let this settle into my heart, I reluctantly began to trust that this was His best for me.

As time went on, and our relationship started to be re-built, I cautiously trusted Him more and more, until eventually, I fully came to believe that this was His plan for us.

And it wasn’t a truth I embraced.  In fact, it was something I resisted for a long time, and when I finally acquiesced and accepted that trusting God’s way, as opposed to mine, would make life a whole lot easier, there was a peace in my heart.

Until I started to live out that trust, and realised that my timing of events and God’s plans didn’t exactly follow the same timeline.  This is when I started to learn what it was to persevere in hope, despite what life looked like in front of me.

Because that’s what real love is.  Trusting God always, placing our hope in Christ and persevering in our faith despite what we see with our eyes.

I’ll tell you my story of this lesson tomorrow.  It’s one I’m still learning.

 

 

Day 27: Stories of love

It’s taken me until the end of the day today to write, because I just can’t get my head around my next post.

Trust and hope.

How do you fit that into one post, without putting the reader to sleep for the sheer length it would require?

So I haven’t even tried.  And then I came across this on (in)courage

 

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Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
 Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.

Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!
    Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations.
    Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

(1 Chronicles 16: 8-9, 23-24, NLT)

Go and tell His stories.  His love stories.

The stories of our lives.

Come back tomorrow, I’ll tell you my story about trust and hope.

Will you tell me yours?

Day 26: Love puts up with anything

(Please let me preface this post by saying when I talk about love putting up with anything, I am absolutely not talking about abuse in relationships, on any level.  Abuse of any kind in a relationship is never ok, and is completely intolerable and not at all a part of the definition of real love in relationships).

‘It always protects’ (1 Corinthians 13:7 – NIV)

We all put up with a lot in our relationships, simply by virtue of the fact that we’re all imperfect people.  In Paul’s first letter to Peter, he implores us to ‘Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter 4:8), and The Message bible translates this as ‘Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything’.

That’s a pretty challenging statement – love makes up for practically anything.

Anything.

Annoying habits.

Differences of opinions.

Doing things differently to how we do them.

Judgement.

Hurtful actions.

The hard stuff of love.

Matthew Henry asks ‘What cannot a lover endure for the beloved and for his sake!‘ , and from my experience, you don’t know the answer to that question until you’re in the thick of it.  And I’ve found that actually, when we love someone, we can put up with a whole lot more than we thought possible.  Not only that, we don’t highlight or publicise their faults, simply because we love them.

It’s not always easy – in fact, it’s often plain, downright hard and uncomfortable and irritating and sometimes painful.

But it’s what we do.

Because at the end of the day, as I said before, we’re all imperfect, and if we’re putting up with someone else’s shortcomings, they’re putting up with ours. 

That’s what love is.  Give and take.  Push/pull.  Imbalance.  Ebb and flow.  Lots of deep breathing.

When we love each other like this, we are saying ‘yes, you annoy me, no, I don’t like your behaviour and yes I’m hurt – but because I’m committed to this, because I’m choosing love, I’ll deal with it and won’t make it into a bigger deal than it is.  Let’s move on’.

Or something like that.

I know I’m probably not the only one thinking ‘I wish that was as easy as it sounds’.  I can only speak from experience, in that I’ve found it’s one of those things that gets easier with practice!!  And lots of deep breathing.  And counting to 5.  Or 10.

And talking.  Lots of talking.  People don’t know how they affect us if we don’t tell them, and in the long run, it’s a lot more effective to talk to someone about what we find annoying/irritating/hurtful about their behaviour than to just avoid a potentially difficult conversation.  Of course, that doesn’t mean people are always willing to change their behaviour or actions, and we are the only ones who can choose how we respond.

But honestly?  Just talk.  And listen.  And be willing to compromise.

How do you manage the imbalances in your relationships? 

 

Day 25: Love finds goodness.

‘Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth’ (1 Corinthians 13:6 – NIV)

I have to admit, I struggled with this verse when I was fleshing it out, trying to put into words what it means.  All I could think was that true love looks past the faults of the people we love, and looks for the goodness in them.

It’s taken me this long to think of It (duh), but I remembered that there have been great scholars who have delved deep, deep, deep into God’s words to help us understand them.  Matthew Henry has this to say about the verse:

The matter of its joy and pleasure is here suggested: 1. Negatively: It rejoiceth not in iniquity. It takes no pleasure in doing injury or hurt to any. It thinks not evil of any, without very clear proof. It wishes ill to none, much less will it hurt or wrong any, and least of all make this matter of its delight, rejoice in doing harm and mischief. Nor will it rejoice at the faults and failings of others, and triumph over them, either out of pride or ill-will, because it will set off its own excellences or gratify its spite. The sins of others are rather the grief of a charitable spirit than its sport or delight; they will touch it to the quick, and stir all its compassion, but give it no entertainment. It is the very height of malice to take pleasure in the misery of a fellow-creature. And is not falling into sin the greatest calamity that can befal one? How inconsistent is it with Christian charity, to rejoice at such fall!

2. Affirmatively: It rejoiceth in the truth, is glad of the success of the gospel, commonly called the truth, by way of emphasis, in the New Testament; and rejoices to see men moulded into an evangelical temper by it, and made good. It takes no pleasure in their sins, but is highly delighted to see them do well, to approve themselves men of probity and integrity. It gives it much satisfaction to see truth and justice prevail among men, innocency cleared, and mutual faith and trust established, and to see piety and true religion flourish.

Turns out I wasn’t too far off the mark in my understanding.

Look past the faults of those we love.

Don’t revel in their failings.

Delight in their strengths and goodness.

Love truth and justice.

Find the goodness and ignore everything else.