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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Choice of Love

Everyone falls in love at one point or another. Some people are love sick, some people get puppy love, and yet others have been hurt by love. In all the stories of love, swooning, and heartbreak it seems that love is something that just happens to us. It is something that drops down from the sky, knocks us on our tuckus, and sends hearts floating around our lovely heads. I’m in love, we proclaim. I can feel it! I can’t stop it! It just is! Love happens to us, it takes our breath away, it makes life worth living.

But what if we choose to love. Can we choose this emotion that causes our hands to shake and our hearts to quicken? We can and we do time and time again. I choose to sit next to my mother and struggle through a conversation about the weather. Alzheimer’s makes relationships difficult but because I choose to love her even in this state I endure the non-conversation. I chose to love a client and guide her through treatment even though her past was so riddled with evil behavior I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I choose to interact with homeless people and invite them into my home even though their bodies are layered with months of grime. I choose to chit chat with my lonely neighbor lady even though I know I won’t be able to walk away for at least 20 minutes. When I’m upset with my husband I choose to make dinner and bring it to the table instead of throwing it at him. Choices to love are made everyday.

Somewhere a missionary is cradling a disabled infant no one wants, whispering love into her tiny ears. A victim is reaching out and forgiving her offender, ministering to his family who has suffered loss. Somewhere there is a nurse washing the feces off a patient with a gentle hand and a smile and not the slightest indication that anything is amiss. Somewhere a couple is adopting a 12-year-old instead of the infant they longed for because all children deserve to be loved. Someone holds the hand of a man dying from AIDS, someone is working an extra shift as a volunteer at a soup kitchen, someone is patiently listening to an overly emotional teen, someone is giving a stranger a ride home in the rain, someone is mowing their elderly neighbor’s lawn. People around the world choose to love the people they feel nothing for. Choosing to love and forgive your enemy or choosing to loose a little of your own dignity to save another’s are not easy tasks. Our flesh cannot carry them out. Our flesh cannot choose to love for long before choosing ourselves again. But when we are filled with the love of Jesus Christ, that love can pour out of us onto others. That love can give us the ability to do things that our flesh can not. The love of Jesus enables us to love when we’d rather not.

That brings me to another choice and another love. I choice to love Jesus. While I readily admit that falling in love with Him is irresistible once a heart knows the unconditional, sacrificial love that Christ has for us, even when we don’t know Him, continuing to love Him is a choice. The first time I fell in love with Jesus I was 16 and it was definitely that head over heels, emotional type of love. It was overwhelming to be drenched in Jesus’ light. It was overwhelming to know that I could be loved so much even though I was an awkward, confused, ugly teen. My response to Christ’s initial urging was automatic; it was emotional, and it was consuming. But consuming puppy love doesn’t usually last and as a mature woman of 24 I recommitted my life to Christ in a quiet apartment, after much calm and rational (though at times passionate) discussion. While I had never abandoned Jesus in the 8 years since first professing Him I hadn’t lived for Him. I had lived for the emotional, touchy-feely, aspect of Him. Truth be told if Jesus was any other guy He wouldn’t have stuck around, He would have dumped my overly emotional, needy, noncommittal, lukewarm, contradictory ass long ago. But He was in it for the long haul. He waited for me to grow up. He spoke to me through trials and challenges and taught me that true love is sacrificial.

So there are those who don’t understand why I do or don’t do some of the things I do. It doesn’t always make sense why spending time reading the Bible is so important to me. To many, it doesn’t always make sense that sometimes I can’t keep myself from talking about the love and freedom that comes from knowing Christ. It doesn’t make sense that I look inward to find the things that keep me from loving more completely. It seems torturous to make myself aware of the selfishness and pride that resides within me and go through the painful process of ridding them from my life. It seems silly to hold myself accountable to my sins. But I want to be obedient. I want to love Jesus as much as He loves me, which is impossible, but I still want to seek it. I want to please the One who rescued me. Not because He demands it, or because I fear His wrath, or because His love is conditional, but because I owe Him so much more than I can give. Because He has given me the greatest gifts (and continues to bless me) that I have ever known. When people are married they support their spouse’s endeavors and dreams even when others don’t. Husbands and wives seek to please and serve one another. Before I married Mark I became espoused to Jesus and my marriage with Mark wouldn’t work without my marriage to Christ.

When have you chosen to love when you didn’t feel like it? What choices have you made that other people don’t seem to understand?

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