The Courage to Love

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When I was fourteen years old, I was taken in by my best friend Brittany’s family. Due to some challenging circumstances at home, it was the best place I could be at that time in my life. They welcomed me into every aspect of their lives; meals, sports functions, family functions and even holidays.

The first Christmas I spent there, I was shocked to see my name hanging on a stocking on the mantle. I literally did a double-take. I did not deserve that place – right next to all the biological children, there was my name. It will pass, I convinced myself. They will be sick of me and regret the decision to take me in once they see all my faults and failures.

To make a long story short, it’s been over twenty years and I still have a stocking up. For many years it was hard for me to wrap my heart and my brain around such unconditional, extravagant love.

I recently was asked to speak at MOPS and the topic was “The courage to love people extravagantly.” It is a thought provoking topic and I couldn’t help but think of Brittany’s family and the extravagant love they showed me.

Extravagant means: exceeding what is reasonable or appropriate, absurd. More than usual, necessary, or proper.

Yes, I was certainly loved exceedingly by this family…I was loved more than what was reasonable or appropriate. I was loved absurdly. I was loved more than usual, necessary or proper. I was considered family, and still am considered family.

Then, I thought about the Lord and how extravagantly loved I am by Him.

Ephesians 5:1-2  in the MSG translation says,

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.”

“His love was not cautious but extravagant” is the most beautiful part of this passage for me. Perhaps it is because I, along with many others I know, sometimes love cautiously for fear of getting hurt or rejected. I believe if more people had the courage to be vulnerable, we would see a lot more extravagant love happening in our world.

C.S. Lewis says in his book Four Loves,

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even 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. To love is to be vulnerable.”

So, I guess the first question isn’t if I have the courage to love extravagantly but do I have the courage to be vulnerable? Do I have the courage to love others so much that it puts me at risk of being hurt?[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@MelSMiller, @SimpleScripture”]Do I have the courage to love others so much that it puts me at risk of being hurt?[/tweetthis]

Will you join me in tearing down walls and taking off masks?

 

Unpacking the Gift of Grace

db84366fda353f0119b056f5f1ad8129We talk a lot about gifts around Christmastime. My daughter has a full on Vendiagram for her wishlist. One circle contains things she really wants, another the things she doesn’t want and the overlapping circles are things she kind of wants. My hilariously responsible firstborn has taken Christmas wishlists to a whole new level. One gift that I’m determined to talk more about with my kids this Christmas is the gift of grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

We won’t appreciate this free gift of grace we’ve been given unless we first understand what it is and what it does. Grace is: the unmerited, undeserved, unearned kindness and favor of God. Grace does: divinely empower believers to live a new life in Christ.

Grace reminds me a lot of that stocking that hung with my name on it when I was taken in by an amazing family when I was 14 years old. I didn’t deserve it, earn it or work for it. I just simply said yes, I want to be a part of the family. The rest is grace.

So, if I choose to accept, not only am I offered the free gift of being a part of the family of God but I’m also offered divine enablement to fulfill His will. In other words, grace doesn’t start out because of me and my own strength and grace doesn’t depend on my and my own strength. That’s good news because I fall short of my own strength too often!

This quote from Tim Keller paints a beautiful picture of grace:

“The gospel is this: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves that we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ that we ever dared hope.”

There seems to be such a big chasm between our unworthiness and God’s unconditional love and grace for us. Yet, the awareness of this chasm feels like a healthy place for my soul to rest. In this awareness, I’m at a place of absolute gratitude for all I’ve been given. In this place, I’m no longer trying to prove how good I am or how entitled I am. In this place I’m more gracious and merciful to others, knowing I too, am an undeserving recipient of the gift of grace. In this place, I know I’m not worthy but I know I’m not worthless.

In this place, I stand absolutely in awe of Him.