If You Love Something, Set it Free

walking-away

 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogantor rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor. 13:4-7

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours forever.  If it doesn’t, it never was”.  I’ve heard this quote attributed to everything from pets to people.  As a young girl growing up in the 70s I used to collect sayings like these.  They sounded oh so romantic to my teenage heart.  I would cut the words out of magazines and hang them on my bedroom walls.  I was young and idealistic and loved everything having to do with romantic passion. Love seemed easy—if it was good, keep it around; but if it got hard, let it go and if it came back, then maybe it was meant to be.  It was within this idealistic framework that I began dating.  When it was good, it was good, but when it wasn’t good, either I let go or was let go—after all, one doesn’t hold onto love too tightly.

Fast forward a few more years to the point where I’d experienced enough of life to learn that truth is too narrow a road to ever be subjective. Quaint sayings and easy love may have been part of the culture I was raised in but it wasn’t the glue that holds society together.

As I matured, not only in years but in spirit, love and family became something I held onto tightly. I took seriously those “love” verses from the Bible found in 1 Corinthians 13 that were included in my wedding vows. I went to church and determined to raise my son to understand the importance of God and family and keeping your promises, even when walking away would have stilled the choppy waters and stormy undercurrents threatening my very soul.  I clung to those vows even as friends and family left me and thought me insane. I was convinced that true love held on.

But what if true love turns out to be a little of both?  What happens when the act of holding on so tightly suffocates the very air out of the one who is loved? What if true love really is accepting someone for who they are but letting them go as well so they can discover what love is to them?  What if insisting on holding onto a relationship really is me trying to have my own way and calling it love?  What if true love really is letting go?

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor. 13:11-13

To God be the Glory

“But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them,” (Numbers 20:12, NIV).

 

We were down to our last five dollars, again…

Due to choices I made when our son was young– to stay home with him as opposed to working full time, to send him to a private Christian school as opposed to public school, to pursue a master’s degree that only added to the student loan debt I had already amassed–our coffers have been pretty empty for quite some time now.

So this wasn’t a new feeling…but it was getting old.  That romantic notion that love is enough to see a couple through life’s struggles was wearing pretty thin in reality.  Don’t get me wrong—there hasn’t been a single day I haven’t been grateful to God for His provisions—it was more a feeling of not measuring up.

So this particular morning I prayed to God for a miracle.  You see, my job is temporary and ending soon.  My husband took a pay cut when he switched from a higher-paying job to a 9-5 so he could be home more.  We needed to buy groceries and pay bills, and that modest five dollars just wasn’t stretching far enough.  So I unashamedly asked God to provide for us in a big way.

Lo and behold, He did just that.

I received a call later that afternoon from a company offering me a positon that more than doubled my current salary. Stunned, I hung up the phone and informed my husband in hushed tones, struggling to grasp what didn’t seem real.   I know God answers our prayers, but I can’t pinpoint too many times they were answered with such promptness.

I promised God right then and there that to Him be all the glory concerning this answered miracle.

And for several days, I did give Him all the glory. I shared with those closest to us how God had come through in such a big way.  I advised them to pray fervently and have faith. I assured them that God’s promises really do come true , and reminded them it had nothing to do with anything I had done but instead reflected His grace and provisioning.

However,  Satan saw this as the perfect opportunity to whisper into the insecure part of my being that I deserved this promotion—that the glory wasn’t God’s but was mine due to working hard and striving in school. And for a while, I forgot about the miracle and believed him.  All of a sudden, I measured up in this world. And to be honest—it felt good.

Until this morning.

While reading my devotional, I came across the story in Numbers concerning Moses hitting his staff on the rock in order to provide water for the Israelites.  God had instructed him to speak to the rock so that water would gush forth, but perhaps caught up in the deception of his own self-worth, Moses chose to strike it with his staff, making it appear he was responsible for the miracle instead of God.  But God is not to be mocked.  He instructed Moses that due to his disobedience, he would not step foot into the Promised Land after all his years spent traveling there.

Ouch, did that hit home…

I praise God that He opened my eyes to my arrogance sooner rather than later.  Society measures our worth by accomplishments and material success, but our worth in God is based solely on His unfailing love and mercy.  I could no more deserve that than I could this opportunity He so graciously bestowed upon me.

I’d rather be back to that five dollars and grateful for God’s provisioning than successful in the world’s eyes and disobedient in His.

“Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!”

1 Chronicles 16:8 ESV

 

 

 

Tears of a Clown

I’m a mess.

My 13-year-old son left Monday for his first ever week-long sleepover camp.  And to make matters worse, it’s not down the road, or a county away, but in a whole other state—Tennessee, to be exact.  He is 7 long hours away from me at a middle school Christian retreat at Johnson University, accompanied by a leader and helpers I deeply trust and surrounded by friends, some he’s known since birth.

So really, there’s nothing to worry about.  I should be extremely happy for him.  He’s probably having a blast; growing in his walk with Christ and witnessing others do so as well, eating Ho Ho’s, drinking soda and playing killer Dodgeball. Never mind the fact that he’s only called twice, both times late at night when he was too whipped to say much…

But this mamma, instead of looking forward to some much-needed me time, or even me and hubby time, is sitting here a muddled, sleep deprived mess, counting down the hours until his group returns tomorrow.  At night, when I should be sleeping, I end up wandering into his room, taking inventory of the posters on the wall or the toys scattered about, just to feel close to him and remind myself he will come back.

What’s going to happen to me when he turns 18 in five short years?

Deep in my soul, I know he’s in good hands.  He was God’s child first and will be His to care for again once he’s left the nest and spread his wings to fly away. God has graciously lent him to his father and me for a few short years, just as He lent His Son to the world for a few short years over 2000 years ago.

How hard must it have been for God to send His most precious Son to earth, having spent eternity with him already in heaven.  How hard it must have been to know that this precious life He created would eventually suffer an unspeakable scourge at the hands of Pontius Pilate’s soldiers, be stripped and mocked and made to carry his own cross to the site where he would be brutally murdered. How God must have suffered and died inside with Jesus while he was hanging on that cross, wondering if his Father had deserted him.

Pondering on this undeserving sacrifice God spoke into being on my behalf certainly puts my son’s advent to church camp into perspective. It also assures me that my heavenly Father knows how I feel as I worry and wait.

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32, ESV)

Rescue

“Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your  sins  and heals all your  diseases,  who redeems your life from the pit  and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed…

The LORD is compassionate and gracious; slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:1-12, NIV).

 

Twenty-one years ago I was a single mother, lost and alone, drowning my tears and fears in alcohol. I had no direction, no hope, and literally wanted to die. My beliefs concerning God led me to think that because of my sins, I was condemned in God’s eyes, relegated to a life of sadness and misery in this life; condemned to hell in the next.

My sister lent me a book that introduced me to the Living Jesus, Who came and literally spoke to me one night. I can still hear His voice telling me how much He loved me; that I was light and had a future in Him. I actually wrote down the words He said as He was speaking. I shed tears of wonder and relief that there really was a reason to have hope; that my past did not have to dictate my future. I had always craved unconditional love but didn’t believe it really existed.

No part of my life today resembles the life sentence I was living out 21 years ago. I have spent every moment since that metamorphic night dying to self so that I may be reborn in righteousness; devoting myself to the living truth as found in the Word. My greatest desire is to live in such a way that my family and whoever else I can reach may know what I never knew before–Living Hope, the Truth, the Life, and the Way. Jesus’s words literally saved my life.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7, NIV).