Joy & Pain…in service

Slowly, but surely, I’m plugging away at Fernando’s ‘Call to Joy in Pain.’ A few things I gleaned from today’s reading were that if churches really want to see the congregation rise up as servants (and not merely consumers), one of the very best ways to see that accomplished is for the leadership to invest themselves in loving the flock. Love motivates and inspires. We are living in a generation that refrains from vulnerability in relationships, but when we allow that to go on, we are short-circuiting the good work that comes from dealing with difficult circumstances honestly and seeking the Lord to help us to help those in our church body who’s needs surpass our perceived abilities to offer time, resources, energy, etc.

These are some helpful reminders for those of us who plan to be involved in lifelong ministry, whether full-time or part-time, paid, or volunteer. We all have a part to play here. As much as we sometimes feel that our schedules are already brimming, I would encourage you to prayerfully consider if there is any capacity in which the Lord might want to use you to either love another church goer or help someone from the body out with a practical need. One of my periodic things is writing letters to women from my congregation to encourage them in their walk, let them know I’m praying, or follow up about something that I know has been happening in their lives.

Sara Groves is one of my favorite artists…when I think about love, there are a few things that pop into my mind almost immediately: excerpts from C. S. Lewis’s Four Loves and Kierkegaard’s Works of Love (see quote tab) and songs from Sara Groves. Here are the lyrics for one of them:

When it was over and they could talk about it
She said there’s just one thing I have got to know
What in that moment when you were running so hard and fast
Made you stop and turn for home
He said I always knew you loved me even though I’d broken your heart
I always knew there’d be a place for me to make a brand new start

Oh love wash over a multitude of things
Love wash over a multitude of things
Love wash over a multitude of things
Make us whole

When it was over and they could talk about it
They were sitting on the couch
She said what on earth made you stay here
When you finally figured out what I was all about
He said I always knew you’d do the right thing
Even though it might take some time
She said, Yeah, I felt that and that’s probably what saved my life

Oh love wash over a multitude of things
Love wash over a multitude of things
Love wash over a multitude of things
Make us whole

There is a love that never fails
There is a healing that always prevails
There is a hope that whispers a vow
A promise to stay while we’re working it out
So come with your love and wash over us

C. S. Lewis & the four loves

love, l-O-v-E, LOVE…

“Enough already!” I groan inwardly.

But the Lord will have His way with His children and, as of this last week or two, His theme for me is love.

Unfortunately for me, this is one of those courses that I dread taking with God. The one I show up late for and cut altogether whenever I get the inkling to find something else to occupy time. I justify myself, or at least I try to, by doing the reading (in His Word) and the homework (in my Bible study workbook). The trouble is, I don’t want to have to sit in on the class and engage in it. I don’t want to have to look the divine instructor in the eyes while He guides me and disciplines me. You see, it isn’t the first time God has pointed out that I have some things to learn from Him about love, nor is it the first time I’ve tried to evade Him. This quote has stopped me dead in my tracks on many occasions when I come to the point where I must actually face that I’m running from God’s lesson plans on love.

C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

Yeah, when you put it like that, then I know I’m called into account whether I show up to class or not. In this season, I’ve been inclined to withdraw from fostering relationships with people. I do my job, work on my Bible study, carry out my responsibilities at home and in church, but I keep my distance otherwise. I’m contented when I’m throughly mentally engaged in a project or some reading. I’ve given preference to doing over being because it’s easier for me to do things and it doesn’t require much of my heart to press on in the tasks God has given me to do. At least, not the part of my heart that gets too emotional…

God has my number, though. He always does. So, I’ve been studying the gospel of John and the Johannine epistles. This time, I see John in a different light. There is more depth to him than I realized and his exhortations for us to grow in our love for the Lord and our love for others were born out of trials and questions and disappointments in his life, even as he was the beloved disciple.

Kierkegaard says something to the effect of ‘love the person you see and see the person you love,’ meaning that we often place great demands and expectations on the people we love that become the conditions for which we continue to love them. But, to be made more like Christ, we ought to love those people for who they are and really make the investment of knowing them. Any great changes that we would hope to see will come more out of love than out of withholding it. Sometimes we even discover that it was us who needed to change, not the persons that we love.

So, part of the application piece for me is having a renewed desire to love on my Lord, my parents, my church, my co-workers, and the other people that I cross paths with. Furthermore, in order to do this, I need to stick around long enough to receive God’s love, because otherwise I have nothing to offer. This is where I’ve been hung up lately, I feel the void, the nothingness, and I know I can’t fix it. I ask God to fix it, but then I don’t really want to wait and let Him do His work in His way.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.