Here I am again. Hello 4am. I’ve been up for two hours now, talking with and reading about my Savior. I don’t know why I occasionally wake up in the middle of the night, but I have a feeling it’s not usually just by chance.
Lately I’ve had a lot of questions. A LOT of questions. It’s been hard and overwhelming to process all of them and it’s taken a lot of time and self-care to make it through each and every day with the weight of all the questions marks making themselves known in my life.
What do I want in life?
What does this mean?
Who am I supposed to be?
What is my path?
How do I want to love?
How am I able to best love?
What is the “right” thing for me to be doing?
As I pondered (although maybe “agonized” is a more appropriate word to use here) over these questions, one thing kept popping up: love.
I’m a music major at school. When people ask me what I want to do with my degree it freaks me out because I honestly don’t know – I don’t have an answer to that at this point in time. I truly believe that God wants me to use music to reach people and to share His glory with the world. But, if there were a college degree in “Loving Others” I would switch in an instant.
Life is a process and it’s rarely ever easy. I’m looking at my life, at the people surrounding me – I have an amazingly strong tribe of Christian friends who love on me, guide me, and support me. And that is crucial to my well being – spiritual, emotional, mental, etc. But I’m also finding that, the relationships that challenge me and push me the most are the ones with the people in my life who are vastly different from me – they hold different world views, different beliefs, and they aren’t afraid to argue them or speak to them in my presence.
There are obviously core Christian values that I maintain and when someone crosses one of those boundaries, the relationship can become unhealthy. However, when the boundaries are respected and the other person is speaking out of love, genuine interest, and sharing their life with me – bring it on! I love to learn about how others view the world, how they make their way through life, and how they’ve come to whatever conclusions they’ve arrived at.
I whole heartedly believe that Jesus didn’t die for our sins and save us all so that we could ONLY be in communion with other Christians – people who share our values, beliefs, etc. I believe that God made all the sacrifices that He did so that we can be lights to the darkness in the world around us. We don’t have to go around campaigning for Christ in order to be His living hands and feet. In fact, I believe that we probably shouldn’t go around offering to baptize people on the streets or yelling bible verses at the top of our lungs – kind of a turn off, in my humble opinion.
But I do believe that we should live by our values and be living examples of how Christ loves the world. I believe that we should give others the benefit of doubt in times of questioning. We should always show forgiveness (although, we do NOT have to forget). We should offer to pray for others even when they aren’t Christian or even when they are hurtful to us. And if they say no thank you, we should pray for them in private. Our conversations with God are just that – OURS. We have an obligation to speak to the hurt, the fear, the sickness, the pain that surrounds us. We don’t need someone else’s permission to mention them in our private conversations with our Savior. We DO, however, need to show compassion, empathy, understanding if our beliefs make them uncomfortable.
I don’t know about you – but I’ve been there, at that place of discomfort. Raised in a Christian family, I don’t remember ever NOT believing in God, but yet somehow it’s only been in the past year or so that I’ve become comfortable praying out loud in front of others. I figure, if it took me 20 years to get there, I should offer some patience and understanding to others who may not quite be there yet.
I should show them some love. Because love is easier than hate. Love is easier than correction, reprimanding, holding on to grudges, etc. In the moment that we are called to love, it can seem like the toughest decision in the world – after all, we are only human and we are wired for reaction, not response, wired for speaking before we think, and acting before we consider consequences. Loving is a learned behavior and it’s something that takes work. But at the end of the day, I really do believe that it’s easier than any alternative.
There’s a friend I’ve made recently who is what I would call a “cold-feet-Christian.” He was raised in a Christian family but never formed his own, individual relationship with Christ outside of the religion and his interest in pursuing that relationship has since fallen to the way-side. I have to admit, embarking on this relationship is a bit scary for me – I’m not always the best at articulating my thoughts and feelings…often times I mumble my words and jumble all my thoughts. I don’t feel as though I am an “adequate” example of Christ’s love, but I so desperately want this sweet guy to know Jesus. So ya know what I’m gonna do? I’m going to treat him just like I treat all my friends – just like I’m trying to treat the entire world around me. I’m going to be the hands and feet of Christ – my words, my actions, my forgiveness, my compassion, my empathy. It’s all there. It’s been there all along. And just because there are vast difference between us and we don’t share the same fundamental values doesn’t mean I can’t love on this precious soul that God has gifted my life with.
Friends, we are called to love EVERYONE – not just other Christians, not just people who share our same skin color, our same time zone, our same language, moral value, etc. We have been called to lean in close to those who are different – to love them, to learn from them, to teach them, to do life alongside them.
I can’t even fathom the things I’d miss out on in life if I excluded people who weren’t inherently Christian or shared my same values. That’s not love. That’s not being the hands and feet of Christ.
Being called to love doesn’t mean that we’re called to change others. We can go around knocking people on the forehead with bibles like they do with that V8 vegetable juice in commercials on TV, but I don’t really believe we’d get very far. The best way to teach and show others about Christ is by living our lives based on His truth – based on His Word, His commandments, His love.
What do I want in life? Love.
What does this mean? Love others, despite ANY and ALL differences.
Who am I supposed to be? Love – the hands and feet of Christ.
What is my path? Love.
How do I want to love? Love like Jesus.
How am I able to best love? Love by giving everyone my whole self.
What is the “right” thing for me to be doing? Loving others constantly, consistently, and compassionately.
When people ask me what I want to do with my life they always tell me, “It’s okay to not know right now.” But that’s just it – I DO know. I want to love, love, love. I want to share Jesus with the world in all the ways that the world needs. I want to be His living hands and feet. I want to change the way Christians are viewed – not as bible throwing, judgmental, prayer-screaming folks, but as compassionate, loving, forgiving people who are open minded and non-judgmental.
We don’t have to step out into the world each day with the intentions of changing it – we simply have to step out in faith and stand strong in our beliefs – living as examples of Christ and His unconditional love and forgiveness. Practice whatever you preach, my friends. Our living example is the greatest teacher to those around us….after all, you never know who may be watching.
“It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, she said, is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.”
― Shauna Niequist
“Those who feel lovable, who love, and who experience belonging simply believe they are worthy of love and belonging. I often say that Wholeheartedness is like the North Star: We never really arrive, but we certainly know if we’re headed in the right direction.”
― Brené Brown
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. But this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
-John 13:34-35 (ESV)
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
-1 Corinthians 13:7-8; 13