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.

 

Advertisements

Day 24: Love doesn’t keep score

Forgiveness

via pinterest

We’re at the end of 1 Corinthians 13:5 – “Love……..it keeps no records of wrongs’ (NIV).

‘Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others’ (Msg)

Holding a grudge.

Tit for tat.

One-upmanship.

In short, unforgiveness.

This is what love doesn’t do.

It is very easy to hold a grudge against someone, to not forget when they hurt us, or do the wrong thing by us.  We are wronged by people every single day.  Usually by more than one person.  If you think about it, that’s a lot to hold on to.  And keep track of.  And think about what they should do to make it up to us.

Love doesn’t do that.

Love doesn’t hold a grudge.

Love doesn’t keep record of how people hurt us.

Love forgives.

Plain and simple.

I love this. I have forgiven those who did me wrong and have chosen to not have a hateful attitude to them. I pray for them daily and hope one day maybe we can be friends again

via pinterest

I can’t cover forgiveness in one topic, but the best explanation I’ve heard of forgiveness isn’t saying to someone ‘it’s ok’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’, it’s saying ‘you don’t owe me anything anymore’.  It’s saying to the other person ‘yes, you hurt me, but you don’t need to make up for it, I release you of any obligation’.  It’s not just forgetting what happened, and it doesn’t mean that work doesn’t have to be done to repair the damage in a relationship, but it’s letting go of a continual expectation on someone that they have to ‘pay’ for what they’ve done.

Forgiveness

via pinterest

And if you’re keeping score, holding things against people for how they’ve hurt you, and expecting them to ‘pay’ for it, you can guarantee that there are a whole lot of people out there thinking the same of you.  How much easier would it be to just let it all go?  To just drop what we’re carrying, because really, carrying stuff around is really hard work – emotionally as well as physically.  I once heard Dr Phil say that carrying emotional baggage is like having a pair of suitcases that you carry around with you all the time, constantly following you from place to place and they get really heavy.

Forgiveness

via pinterest

How much easier would it be to put the suitcases of unforgiveness down and just walk away?

In the Lords’ prayer Jesus says we are to ask God to ‘forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us’.

Forgiveness is a directive from God.

Forgiveness is one of the foundations of our faith.

We are created in the image of God, and we are to live like Jesus.  The cornerstone of our salvation is that Christ forgives us for our sins, so if we are created to be like Him, that means we have to forgive those who sin against us, who wrong us, who hurt us.

Forgiveness

  via pinterest

This life of real love is not an easy one, and unforgiveness is one of the main barriers we come up against in our relationships.

Forgive someone, and the walls come down.

Put your pride aside, turn away from your self-righteousness and sense of entitlement, and just let go.

It’s what God does for us (without the pride and self-righteousness).  He just lets go of everything we do that hurts him, and because of that, we know true love.

Day 23: Love….is not easily angered

Anger...

via pinterest

I found a variety of translations for this part of the verse (we’re still in 1 Corinthians 13:5):

is not easily angered (NIV)

is not easily provoked (KJV)

doesn’t fly off the handle (Msg)

Anger – ‘a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism’ (Merriam-Webster)

I would like to say that’s me, that I’m slow to anger and always able to keep my emotions in check.

Um, not so much.

I’m not an angry person, I can say that much.  But there’s a lot of ‘displeasure and antagonism’ that goes on in my head that takes a lot of effort to not let It out of my mouth, and at the end of the day, it still has a similar effect.  because anger affects us and hurts us more than the person it’s directed at.

Yes, we can say ‘they made me angry’, but really, no-one can make us feel or do anything.  How we respond to anything is entirely up to us, and we have to live with our responses.

When we act in anger toward someone else – in any degree – it causes them pain.  It is easy to give into feeling angry and responding in a way that blames someone else.  It is more difficult to look at why we’re feeling the way we do, and tempering our emotions and responses in a manner that won’t hurt someone else.

Anger results from something that happens that actually causes us to feel emotions that we’re not comfortable with – pain, fear, confusion, loneliness, shame, sadness.  Rather than look closer at what we’re really feeling, and why we’re feeling that way,  we respond in anger and end up hurting someone else in the process.  You could say getting angry is an avoidance process – blame someone or something else rather than look at ourselves.

Being angry with people is never helpful.  Being angry ranges from that feeling of frustration (displeasure) over the dishes not being done and grumbling about it, to the extreme of becoming physically and verbally violent and causing great damage.  In both scenarios, we have to live with what we’re thinking and feeling, and we’re the ones who have to live with the discomfort that anger brings.

For me, there’s a lot that goes on in my head that I don’t verbally or physically express when I get angry, but I still have to deal with those feelings regardless.  When I yell at my kids, it’s about me, not them, and whilst I might feel better for about 30 seconds, I feel worse for a lot longer because I know I haven’t acted in love.  When I sit and stew over someone I have to deal with who’s particularly frustrating, I’m the one who had to deal with how I’m feeling, and they never even know what’s gone through my head.  When I don’t keep myself in check and I speak before I think in the heat of the moment, I have to live with not only what I’m feeling that caused me to speak words that wound, but I then have to live with knowing that I hurt someone.

I have found that breathing and counting is a wonderful tool for dealing with anger, as simple as it sounds.  Count to 5 and breathe deep before responding.  This small pause in time prevents pain and wounding, for both myself and the people I love.

(Just after I published this post, I read this post over at (in)courage from the beautiful Ann Voskamp .  Go read it.  Now. Please.  I’m still letting her words sink deep.)

What are your ‘hot spots’ when it comes to anger?  How do you deal with it?

Day 15: The story of us (Part 5)

It took 3 years after we separated, a year after we were divorced, for us to start talking to each other again.  Oh, we’d had some conversations during that time, over the phone – once we’d started court proceedings in the early days, we didn’t see each other in person.  It was just too hard, and never ended well.  We had a few phone conversations, but primarily any communication was via my mother-in-law, or brief notes.

A few times, I had asked my husband through his mum if he wanted to start meeting face-to-face when we dropped the kids off and picked them up, but he wasn’t ready.  And in hindsight, I probably wasn’t really, either.  Throughout this whole time, I thought I was coping with everything fine, that I had ‘gotten over’ our marriage breakdown and was looking ahead to all the possibilities life had to offer.  I certainly wasn’t living in regret and wallowing in self-pity – I was studying for my nursing degree, I had (and still have) a wonderful new family within my church and was loving the discovery of living life in Christ, I started running and had a great social life.  For the first year after we separated, I went to counselling regularly and that was a huge help in learning how to live life day-to-day in the aftermath of the death of a marriage.

But there was always something missing, and for the longest time, I couldn’t work out what it was.  Not in my head, anyway, but deep within, I knew what it was.  I just chose to ignore it completely.  He was missing, my husband, my love, the boy I knew I was going to marry even before we began.  The part of my life that had grown to envelop him and his love for so many years was empty, a ragged, gaping wound.  And I just ignored it, as much as I could.  I thought it was easier to just pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, to fill it up with other things and to believe that a new relationship would make everything better, would make me whole again.

Not quite.

In fact, not at all.  God wouldn’t let me ignore how I felt, wouldn’t let me pretend the emptiness wasn’t there, and slowly, over time, He led me into that space I kept trying to run away from and taught me how to just sit there and let Him love me in that place.  And to do that, He started by bringing my husband and I back together, in the most uneventful of circumstances.

My mother-in-law was going to be away for a few weeks, and there wasn’t anyone else who could facilitate the kids going between our homes, so the time had come where it was up to us to start making it work.  And to put it simply, it did.  3 years of being apart had given us the time and space – and grace – for the rawness of our wounds and hurts to settle, to start to heal, and we were able to feel safe with each other again.  We started by meeting in a carpark and then at his mum and dad’s house, and I smile now at thinking how polite we were with each other.  From the first time we met with the kids, I felt such peace and a very real sense of God’s presence, and I knew that it was His perfect timing.

And I knew that I still loved him.  That I had never stopped loving him, as much as I’d tried to convince myself that I had.  I perhaps didn’t love him as I did when we were married, but that deep, true, forever love was still there, and I only wanted to see the best things in life happen for him.  Which, to my mind, included him meeting someone new and forming a new relationship, because he deserved that.  Just like I did.  I fully believed that we would both be happy in new relationships, and that we were in a place where we’d each be ok with that happening for the other.

See, I had it all planned out, because I thought I knew what would be the best thing for all of us.  And really, it’s easier to start again with something new than to repair something that’s broken, isn’t it?  Isn’t that what our throwaway culture tells us?  Don’t worry if it’s broken, you can always get something shiny and new?  It’s what I saw in broken marriages and relationships all around me – broken hearts trying to find healing and wholeness in something new, in someone new.  It’s what had happened for my parents after they divorced, in that they both remarried. I thought that’s what you did after a divorce.

I saw new relationships and new marriages after divorce everywhere I looked.  I didn’t see people holding onto hope for their marriage to be repaired after its’ destruction.

I didn’t see anyone believing that people can change, that what is broken can be made new.

I didn’t see people living the reality of love – myself included.

I didn’t see people fighting to hold onto what they once declared they were to committed to.

I didn’t see ‘for better or for worse’ being lived out in all its’ brutal reality.

I didn’t see people saying ‘This was my fault, too, and I know I need to change’.

And yet I still saw the beauty of love being lived real in the marriages of my friends and family who got it.  Who knew that marriage was a lifetime deal, through everything that life threw at them, and that you don’t give up on your marriage or your spouse just because of how you feel.

Who knew that love isn’t a feeling, but it’s a verb, an action, a choice you make every single day.

Who were living love and marriage as God created it, a promise and a covenant that binds hearts and lives together forever.

That is where my hope came from, where the glimmer of possibility started to emerge.  Not just in the words I read in scripture, not from something someone tried to tell me, but by seeing love and marriage lived for real.  The good, the bad, and the ugly, the easy and the hard, the joy and the sorrow.

As my husband and I got to know each other again, I became more sensitive to everything related to love and marriage around me.  it was like my senses were heightened to everything I wanted to know, I was hungry for information and examples of how to love someone, how marriage works, how you keep your commitment of ’till death do us part’.  And yet I still didn’t believe that I’d need any of that for my husband and I, that we were still destined to be married to other people.  Yes, I know, you can say it – I was a slow learner.  Which was ok, because God is infinitely patient.

But at the same time, my senses became more attuned to the hurt and wounding that happens in marriage, and it was through this time that I developed a heart for seeing marriages not just work, but thrive.  I have often said that I’ve learnt everything I know now about marriage from being divorced, and I am very grateful for the lessons along the way (although you wouldn’t have heard me saying that at the time!!!).

So my husband and I continued to get to know each other again, and slowly and cautiously started to believe that we could actually make this work, that any part of life we created to work together in wouldn’t collapse around us again.  And it was in taking this risk, in having to trust God completely that I started to learn about real love, about living out love for real every day.  He was making something new, bringing out beauty from the rubble and ashes, and creating new life in us.

It was only the beginning, and we were in for the ride of our lives.

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)

Day 14: Love does not envy

comparison

via pinterest

‘Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have’ (The Message)

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with this every day.  For me, it’s not about things, objects, ‘stuff’, but more about ability, as such.

I wish I could write better (or as well as her, or that blogger, or that author).

I wish I naturally had more patience (like that mum I know who I’ve never heard raise her voice at her kids and never seems to get frustrated with her family).

I wish I was more disciplined by nature (like my friend who is always so organised and has everything under control and exercises every day and only cooks gluten free….).

I wish I had more confidence in my opinions and expressing them (like so many people I know who are so sure of what they say).

I wish I felt assured that I am enough, and I don’t need to keep trying to be more (like so many women I know in real life and online whom I admire).

Before my husband and I came back together again, I so desperately, desperately wanted to be in a relationship, just like the majority of my friends and people I knew – even though I knew their relationships were far from perfect.

I wish, I wish, I wish……..

I can get so caught up wishing for things I don’t have (or think I don’t have – it’s all about perception), that I lose sight of what I do have.

At the absolute basic level of life, I wake up breathing every day, I have a roof over my head, food on my plate several times a day and people who love me.  Everything else is gravy.

I have the ability and the opportunity to write every day, because I was born into a world that values education and literacy, and encouraging creativity.  I write because it is how God has created me, and I’ve been able to realise that.

Whenever I’m impatient in life, with anything, it gives me the opportunity to practice grace – with myself, with other people, with whatever situation I’m in.  If I’m cross with the kids or frustrated with my husband, it’s because they’re in my life, and I love them.  Because we are all human beings, we are imperfect, and we all rub each other up the wrong way at times – if we didn’t have that, we wouldn’t become impatient and cross and frustrated.  So I’ll take impatience over nothing any day.

I may not be as disciplined as I *think* I should be, but I am plenty organised enough to provide my family with what they need, to perform in my job effectively and efficiently, and to know how to take care of myself.

When I am sure of what I know and what I believe, I have no fear in speaking it out, and am learning to stand in the courage of my convictions, even when they fly in the face of what the world around me thinks.  I’m learning that whatever we think or do or say, if we do and say it with love and kindness and respect, and without judgement, it is heard and received as it’s intended.  I still have the element of ‘what will they think of me?’, but I am learning to counter that instead with ‘what does God think of me?’, to live with the power and courage that the Spirit gives us .  It’s working.

I was created in the image of God, and He has claimed me as His own.  I am enough for Him, so how can I not believe that I am enough? Being anything more or less than who I already am will not make Jesus love me any more or any less, He loves me just as I am.

And for the whole time I was praying and hoping and despairing and crying over the desire for a new relationship, God was working in me – breaking me, moulding me, reshaping me into being more like Him (I’m still a long, long way away from that).  Without that experience, I would not be who I am now, and my husband and I wouldn’t be together again.

Strong’s Concordance gives the translation of ‘envieth’ (as in the KJV) as ‘to have warmth of feeling for or against: – affect, covet (earnestly), (have) desire, (move with) envy, be jealous over, (be) zealous, zealously affect’. Love doesn’t feel these things, doesn’t behave this way – we do, because of our humanness, but we can choose not to, when we choose love, when we choose to live like Christ, and not give in to our self.  Believe me, I know that that is far easier said than done, and it’s something I have to be conscious of and work on every single day.

God gives us every single thing we need, even if it’s not what we think.  He knows what we need – not want, but need – more than what we do.  Wanting something else takes our attention away from what we already have.  Envy steals faith.  Jealousy binds up our hearts with bitterness and the desire for what we don’t have.

But when we love, when we choose faith and trust over envy and jealousy, we see what we have, the blessings before us that God has showered on us with abundance.  Which He does because He loves us more than we could ever fathom.

What is your ‘weak point’ when it comes to envy and jealousy?  How do you counter that, and try not to let it affect how you live?

Day 12: The story of us (Part 4)

When I first heard God speak to me about praying for our marriage to be restored, I thought He was crazy.  Then I thought I was crazy for thinking that, because I know that really, God is the only one of us who is completely not crazy.  As crazy as His ideas appear at times.

Trust me, there was a whole lot of craziness just beginning.

At the time of our lives that this was happening between me and God, my husband and I weren’t even speaking to each other.  We were both still healing in our own ways, and for a time of several years couldn’t communicate effectively with each other directly.  God gave us an amazing blessing in the form of my mother-in-law, who kept the lines of communication open between us (albeit indirectly), and who helped us maintain what had become the normal routine for our kids.

So how on earth could this marriage be restored, completely renovated and rebuilt when neither of us had the tools or inclination to even want to make it happen?  We didn’t even remotely like each other at that point, let alone want to be married again.

Here’s the thing I know now – it was never up to us to make it happen.  That was God’s job, His desire and His plan, and He knew how it was all going to play out.  And so many times along the way, I really wished He’d given me the script of how this story was to unfold, because for the most part, I was completely lost.

It took me some time to actually become an active participant in this grand plan – well, active in that I decided to take part.  That makes me laugh so hard now, thinking that I actually had a choice about this whole thing.  Of course, I had a choice (we can always choose whether we follow God’s leading or not), but ultimately this was God’s master plan for us, and He created the desire in me to want to follow the steps along the way.

A month or so after I reluctantly prayed the prayer to see our marriage restored, I went and saw the movie ‘The Lake House’.  It’s the story of two characters separated by time, communicating via letters left in a letterbox at a lake house they both lived in at different points in time.  Without wanting to spoil the story (and I highly recommend you do see it if you haven’t already, it’s a favourite of mine), there’s an event that leads Sandra Bullock’s character to implore Keanu Reeves’ to wait, to just wait.

As I was watching the scene, I heard God speak to me again, as clear as day, in the voice I was coming to recognise as His.  I heard Him say ‘Just wait, I promise you it will be worth it’.

I came out of the movie completely energised and so excited to see what that would mean, what this promise of ‘it will be worth it’ would look like, how it would come to life.  I was convinced that it would be in the form of a new relationship, and that it would happen soon, because surely His promise was about fulfilling the deep-rooted desire I had to be in a relationship.

It was.

It totally was.

Just not exactly how I was picturing it.  Or in my ideal timeline.  Or by my reckoning.

In fact, what I thought I wanted did not even remotely look like what God had in store for me, and had I known the details of what would make up the journey ahead, especially without knowing the ending, I doubt I would have been a willing participant.  It was my first real lesson in faith, in trusting God, and learning to understand why God doesn’t give us a blow-by-blow description of what’s ahead of us because if we knew, what would we need Him for?

It took another several months before the first signs of repair and rebuilding between my husband and I really started to show.  During that time, we were both in the ‘planning stage’, much like when you build or renovate a house.  Not that we knew it at the time, but God was doing His work in both of us, quietly and without fanfare.

He was laying the foundation for a new building, a new life, a new love.  I had no idea how painful and difficult that would be, but man, was I about to find out.

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)