It's time to pull up your chair. Do you know you have one here in this space we call Soli Deo Gloria? You do. It's reserved every week only for you. This place would be different if you weren't here and we miss you when you are gone. This is a place filled with women who seek to honor your words, you heart, your tears, and your laughter. Scooch in close. You won't want to miss a word.
She talked about her book and how it all came about and I listened intently as she tells me that for her, the homeless are still hard to love. But in that there lies the point: God wants us to love even though the effort it will take us is akin to climbing a mountain.
She asks us "where is your heart? Who are those whom you find easy to love? Who takes a whole other kind of effort?"
And I make my list. Unfortunately those who fall under easy are in smaller number than those who fall under difficult. Immediately, I start to feel guilty. What is so wrong with me that I cannot love without abandon? My eyes search for answers and meaning as they shift from one name to another. I draw a line in between the two categories and one underneath all the names and then I label them.
I am afraid.
I am not afraid.
Those who I find difficult to love I fear will hurt me. Or I fear that somehow I will not be able to love them enough or in the right way. Some of them, I just don't know how to help them and so I give up my opportunity to love them.
And under these two short sentences, I write a third:
I've made it all about me.
I shake my head because this year God has been showing me that so much of what happens in this world is.not.about.me. To find yet another area in which I still need refining can be a bit heart-breaking. I am determined not to stay in this place of discouragement and so I ask Him for a Word.
I see John 18: 11 written in my head and I open my bible to find this:
"But Jesus said to Peter, 'Put your sword back into its sheath.'"
Peter has just cut off the ear of Malchus because he is the high priest's slave that has come to arrest Jesus. Peter doesn't want Jesus to go. He is afraid. And so he lashes out. He tries to protect what is his. And so, he doesn't love.
Put away your sword, Jen. You see, I often cannot love because I am choosing to protect myself from real and imagined hurts. I choose to lash out first because somehow I think this will cause me less pain and less suffering. I choose to dictate what I will do and what I will say and who I will love because I don't want this command to love your neighbor as yourself to cost me too much.
It comes down to a step-by-step, moment-by-moment decision. I can choose to become hard or I can choose to become soft. If I can allow Jesus to go before my decision, if I can remember that He loved despite very intentional pain and suffering aimed directly at Him, if I can remember that this life is not just about me and my feelings, it makes it a bit more fathomable to live in love. I want to remember that in spite the fact that Malchus came to bring harm to Jesus, He still reached out and healed his ear. Without even being asked. (Luke 22: 51)
I'm still scared.
When I protect myself, it usually ends badly. When I allow Jesus to protect me, I may still get hurt. But God uses that hurt in the end to bring freedom, to turn me closer to Him, to refine out more of the impurities that keep me from living in the fullness of His beauty. Allowing Jesus to protect me may mean that when the phone rings, I don't answer it because He tells me not now. When someone brings forth unsolicited criticism, I take those words to Him before I pull out my weapons of judgment and harsh words to use against my accuser. When I start to shy away from someone who looks different or helpless or mean, I ask Jesus to help me see them as He does and ask Him first if there is anything He would have me do instead of thinking that I've just got to get away.
And as I type this today, I realize that often, the person from whom I need the most protection from is myself. Because it is me that cradles the lies in my heart to which other's hurtful words cling. It is my own disbelief of the promises of God that leads to the cracks in my faith foundation. It is me that goes into my corner licking my wounds instead of baring my soul to the Healer whose words are better than any bandaid fashioned in this world.
It's time to hand over my sword. It's time to let the Healer and the Lover in.
What about you? Do you self-protect? How do you tangibly let God protect you in the face of a hard and hurtful world?
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I am so happy to see your face here at Soli Deo Gloria. Did you know we have small groups? As SDG has grown, it started to lose a bit of the small community feel. As such, we have groups that visit each other and leave comments for each other on SDG days so that you don't feel lost in this big blog world. Would you like to be a part? If so, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you are new here, please put "I am new" as your caption so that we might give you a proper welcome.