COVID-19 lockdown has taken my time of reflection to a whole new level. In the place of introspection, I question why this has happened and how do we move forward from it? How do we love better and display God in the world?
Thoughts expressed, heart revealed, being bold
I have been a homebody for some time now, so the COVID-19 #lockdown does not really faze me. However it has caused me to take more time to reflect and reconnect with parts of me which I had hidden, some I had buried deep within my soul.
I came face to face with, dare I say this? Once you put it out there, there’s no taking it back! I don’t know if my openness and vulnerability will be too much for you.
Hmmm..... I feel I am meant to.
I came face to face with a deeper realisation of what lay hidden within me:
I do not love well.
Phew! That was heavy yet freeing. I continue to be taught what it means to love from God's perspective rather than mine and boy is it stretching. I am not where I once was. Loving myself and others has not come naturally to me. I think I can honestly say I struggled in the past to believe God loved me or I could love Him back.
Yet here I am sharing my personal journey amid unprecedented times. There is nothing that makes you reset your perspectives, perceptions, mindsets, lifestyle and relationship like what we are facing in the world today.
The #NHS has been around like forever literally and it's taken the COVID- 19 for people to go outside to clap and appreciate the work that they do. People are paid millionaires for jobs which only give us entertainment. The way of the world right!
However, I found myself thinking about how I love and in those moments I began to realise the truth is, 'I do not love well'. Knowing this meant I was open to learning and changing, and so it begins.
Think about it like this, in simple terms, going to school all your life and being told to take every lesson you learnt, every homework you submitted and every exam you ever sat, and getting rid of all that knowledge because it literally was inconsistent with God's Truth.
Some of you may question this, please go ahead and check it. I can only speak about what I have experienced. I do not love well. It does not mean I do not love at all, it means I did not draw love from the perfect undiluted source - God.
Love in marriage, an example
I'll give you a practical example. When my husband passed away, I nearly died. Parts of my heart and soul died with him but I won't go into that. Our marriage was not perfect, nope far from it but he was my best friend. I realised in him passing on, how much I did not love on him as much as I had the potential to.
My love was fragmented. Whenever we argued, he would apologise even though I was the one in the wrong. I was stubborn and difficult because I was immature. He loved it when I cooked and served him, but getting me to do that was a ceremony - it took a lot of begging and coaxing on his part for me to even make an effort.
I pushed him as far as I could to test and see if he truly loved me. Crazy, right!
But this man never gave up on me. He loved me and was more mature about what loving me required. Marriage is the greatest place to experience love but it is also the most challenging union to test your heart's ability to love. I was tested and I tested his love. One person, just my side of things, wow!
Maybe you can see why I felt I had not loved well. I did not love sacrificially but my best friend did. My love was conditional and demanding. We had the most amazing times and I supported him but I was not a fully submitted wife. He went out of his way to love me. I could have chosen also to love him more by respecting him.
The way in which I learnt to receive and express love were warped. I don't place the blame or responsibility on anyone because I am a grown adult and have free will to choose. But my ability to decide was impacted by what I knew - 'learnt behaviours and understandings'. A whole manner of things contributed to this.
In my moments of reflection, I began to have a conversation with God about this. Not the example I have given above, but about how I love now? How do I love myself and others? Most importantly, how do I love God? For in loving God the ability to love others flows freely, naturally.
My past prayers were brought to my remembrance.
I had prayed to God to help me walk in love, to love God above all else and from that place love myself and others. His love, infinite and uncorrupted yet real, available and accessible. A tangible expression I could partake of, mirror and draw on to express onto others without any need for it to be reciprocated by those I expressed it to.
Crikey! Yikes! Lord! What had I prayed for? Oh, Lord!
Our ability to love comes from the reserves of our heart and soul. Have you thought about how you choose to love? Jesus died knowing it would be up to us to decide whether or not we would accept His gift and sacrifice. He did it anyway. LOVE.
When we pour out, we must be refilled. The question is, who and what is refilling your reservoir -
Is it what you learn from family and friends?
Is it what you read in books or watch in movies?
Is it what you see on social media?
Is it from the place of your pain and brokenness?
Or from your preconceived ideas of what it should be?
Now you see why I said the process continues. There are layers to love - be it to others, ourselves and to God. In the Greek language, there are at least seven words used to describe different types of love and three of these appear in the Bible. In Hebrew, there are nine words that appear in the Bible for love. Love oh, love!
The bible teaches us that God is love and we are made in His Image. So I am supposed to look and be like love. But I do not even though in Him I am.
Those who are loved by God, let his love continually pour from you to one another, because God is love. Everyone who loves is fathered by God and experiences an intimate knowledge of him. The one who doesn’t love has yet to know God, for God is love. The light of God’s love shined within us when he sent his matchless Son into the world so that we might live through him. This is love: He loved us long before we loved him. It was his love, not ours. He proved it by sending his Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins.
Delightfully loved ones, if he loved us with such tremendous love, then “loving one another” should be our way of life! No one has ever gazed upon the fullness of God’s splendor. But if we love one another, God makes his permanent home in us, and we make our permanent home in him, and his love is brought to its full expression in us. And he has given us his Spirit within us so that we can have the assurance that he lives in us and that we live in him. - 1 John 4:7-13 (The Passion Translation)
There is so much to unpack in these verses:
You are loved by God.
God's love is to 'continually' pour out from us into others.
Your ability to love is because of God.
As you love you grow in relationship with God.
If you do not love, you do not know God.
God is love.
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary is God's demonstration of His love for us, the offering for our sins to restore us back into relationship with God.
Our lifestyle must be expressing His love to one another.
When we love on one another we are displaying the nature of God.
If we love one another, God dwells in us, and His love is perfected in us, made complete in us.
Where does the reset start?
In Jesus. Jesus chose to die for us. This is where we begin our love discovery.
I think it's important for us to reflect on who we are created to look like because the bible says we are made in the image of God. What does that mean and how does it relate to love?
"The imago Dei (meaning the image of God in Latin) is not a quality possessed by man; it is a condition in which man lives, a condition of confrontation established and maintained by the Creator. … The imago Dei is that in man, which constitutes him as him-whom-God-loves." - Focus on the Family
The word 'image' in Hebrew is tselem which literally means 'a shadow which is the outline or representation of the original.' God placed within us a shadow or representation of His Own nature and function (office, goal, purpose, ways etc). It is our responsibility to live as representatives of God, acting in the same manner as He would.
I had to ask myself a question years ago, Michelle, DO YOU LOVE GOD? I avoided to answer and instead chose to water down the question. Michelle, DO YOU TRUST GOD? This one was easier for me to manage. ABBA is my Father, ah, I can’t live without Him. Of course, I trust You Father. You are all I have.
Okay, let’s stop there for a moment. “I HAVE GOD”? That should answer my level of trust and relationship, right?
When you have something, it means that thing is yours. Merriam Webster dictionary defines it this way, "to be in a situation in which one is not required to share someone or something with anyone else."
How can Michelle have God? God is the one who has me. You probably think it’s not that deep but the bible also says “How can your words be good and trustworthy if you are rotten within? For what has been stored up in your hearts will be heard in the overflow of your words!” Matthew 12:34 TPT
Think about this - when you have something, you depend on yourself to keep it. Especially when love is not at the forefront of your heart. When brokenness is, self is the focus. Selfish! Me, mine...you avoid giving and sharing. You can see why my love reservoir had murky water. My eyes were on me.
Love requires you to give away. God gives you, for you to give to others.
Back to the not loving well. The reason I loved being a homebody - you know being indoors with myself, is because I didn’t want to put myself out there, to build relationships and love people.
I didn’t want to invest in relationships. Why? Because I was afraid of being used, getting hurt or losing loved ones. I didn't believe I had anything to offer. I wanted to hold onto what I had. Relationships are hard and take a lot of effort. In that time of my life, I just did not have the energy in me to give anything of me. I was being emptied of my murky waters.
Love is far simpler than that. Love does not mean attachment. Love is expressing the nature of God. We see that in the life of Jesus and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Jesus went about doing signs and wonders, bringing healing and freedom everywhere He went. He is love personified. We can love anyone and everyone if we chose. Creating relationships and establishing friendships require varying depths of love.
Now I’m not the only person impacted by life’s experiences. Life can be really painful and hard. It takes so much energy. But only because we rely on ourselves to be the source.
We are not the source. God is.
I did not love well because I did not know how to and now in Jesus, I choose to yield and learn. I receive His love and it transforms me to look different than how I was.
As a Christian, we need to be intentional about our actions towards others.
I may make more mistakes down the road but my faith and hope are in the application of His Word. I continue to learn from His Word and trust in the Holy Spirit - while taking responsibility and action. He fills me with His Love and I see me differently. His Truth is the transformation in me to be better in love.
If you would like the Holy Spirit to come and comfort your heart from any pain you have experienced, please pray:
Holy Spirit, come into my heart and heal me of every brokenness in the name of Jesus. Help me to love again from Father's heart to mine and from His heart to others. Show me the areas in which I may have the wrong notions of what love is and how to show others Your love. Thank you for Your fresh outpouring. I receive your overflowing love in me right now in Jesus name, amen.
I initially wrote this post on the 29th April but did not post it until today (1st May) because I believe I had to wait to see this song.
Lean back and listen. Find God's love.