Strength to Love Friday, Oct 24 2008 

God’s been teaching me the importance of relying on him, for everything, in prayer.

I’ve seen this clearly in my relationship with Blake (a tool that God has consistently used to sharpen me!).

Let me admit something to you: it’s not always easy to love Blake. And I’m not just talking about feeling in love with him. I mean loving him in my attitude, actions and words.

Sometimes I get the impression (from resources on marriage) that all engaged couples see each other with rose-coloured glasses and are blind to one another’s flaws. Well, it hasn’t really ever been that way with Blake and I. From the start, Blake has been insistent about the idea that one of God’s purposes for our relationship is to grow each other as Christians (iron sharpens iron). So we’ve never really been all that “lovey-dovey”.

(Okay, maybe sometimes.

Love you more times infinity plus one…)

Since engagement, I’ve realised a few things about love: it’s not loving to grit my teeth and say the right things while harbouring bitterness, it’s not loving to put on a “mood” just because I’ve been hurt and my hurt feelings/self-esteem are not the best judge of whether an issue is worth raising.

Thus it has become a lot harder to love Blake sometimes.

But God is faithful and always waiting to give his grace and strength to those who need it.

That’s me! I need it!

There have been so many times lately when I’ve run to God in desperation asking for more patience, more kindness, more tenderness of heart; asking him to flush the sin out of my heart with his cleansing water once more; begging him to give me another chance to do the right thing; asking him for forgiveness.

As I look forward to a lifetime with Blake, it’s such a relief to know that God will always be there. Indeed, that my relationship with him is above all others. It gives me the strength to love Blake knowing that I am loved perfectly by my father in heaven.

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A New Conviction Monday, May 26 2008 

Lately God has really been driving home to me the point that I need to love others out of obedience to him.

I tend more towards the selfish, “rewards-based” kind of love. That is, I’m more likely to be loving when I am being loved by others.

It sounds logical. It sounds fair. And it is both of those, but it’s not right.

What happens is that I end up on a roller-coaster, going up and down depending on how others treat me.

I’ve particularly seen this in my relationship with Blake lately. He will be his normal, wonderful self and we have a great time together. I treat him well for a while, riding on that high. But then as soon as he gets a bit worn out (you know, like humans do) and misses a beat, I suddenly withdraw my affections.

I can’t keep going like this. It’s not kind to Blake, and it’s certainly not acknowledging God’s constant, unwavering love in my life.

In all my relationships, I need to treat others well out of love for and obedience to God, not out of some vain expectation that they will treat me well back.

(Appropriately-timed) Thoughts on love Thursday, Feb 14 2008 

As it swings round to Valentines Day 08 – my first ever with a boyfriend – you’d think I would be delighting in the fact that I finally have someone who wants to make me feel special.

But I’m not.

You see, this Valentines Day, I can’t help but think that our society has a double standard on love.

The past year has (thankfully) been very child-filled for me. No, I don’t have kids of my own, but for most of 07 I was able to spend time with a group of under school-age children while their Mums studied the Bible. And I have recently started a job nannying 2 lovely children a few days a week.

Being around children has taught me a lot about love.

When I first started with the group of toddlers, I became very easily discouraged. Some weeks I left feeling like I was at my wit’s end. I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Why weren’t they behaving like sweet little angels? Why did they insist on having something new to do every 30 seconds?

After a few weeks of feeling like this, I turned to God in prayer. I begged him to help me love those kids and to have abundant patience.

I can honestly say that I began to see them with new eyes. No longer did I feel like my role was threatened by one thing going wrong. I didn’t label them “naughty” in my head if they didn’t listen to me. I started to see them grow and learn new things. I saw the beauty that was in them.

It was truly amazing to share in their lives and to realise that my love for them did not have to depend on their behaviour. It was a constant. The choice was mine.

I’d imagine this is even moreso the case for parents. They have bad days when it seems like things couldn’t be worse, but they never doubt the love they have for their children.

I wonder… if we could somehow grasp this concept of love (unconditional, constant, powerful) and apply it to marriages, would there be less divorces?

I mean, while it’s quite normal for people to divorce over “irreconcilable differences”, who has ever heard of a parent abondoning their child for that reason?

We should not be so quick to attach love to behaviour, condemning the slightest change.

Now, I may just be young and naive for imagining that this could work, but I have hope.

If I can love a rowdy bunch of kids who have no desire to make my life easier or make me happy, then I’m sure all those married people out there can make more of an effort to love their spouses, even when they don’t benefit.

Happy Valentines Day.

Contentment vs. Passivity Thursday, Oct 18 2007 

While I was home on holidays a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of hearing my pastor preach on 1 Corinthians 7 – that seemingly enigmatic passage about singleness and marriage.

He prefaced his sermon with the fact that he was working through first Corinthians expositorily, and this is a passage frequently covered topically. He also said that he might have “glossed over” (read: not fully explored) some of the more detailed issues because of time constraints.

So, despite the fact that I was only hearing one sermon from a series, I found the teaching very helpful and, in a lot of ways, different to teachings I had previously heard on 1 Corinthians 7.

The basic thrust of the message was that Paul is telling us, as Christians, to be content with the stage of life we are now in; to not long for some other situation that may seem “holier”. Apparently, this was the Corinthians’ problem: they kept thinking that singleness meant that a person was more holy. Naturally this was creating problems in the church.

I think a nice summary of Paul’s point is found in the following verses:

17Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him. 21Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave. 23You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. 24Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.

1 Corinthians 7:17-23

What a freeing message – nothing we do (not circumcision, not uncircumcision, not slavery, not freedom) affects our salvation and holiness. Holiness is something that we get through Christ.

I think I always struggled with this chapter because it has often been used to preach “the gift of singleness” idea. That is, the notion that by merely being single, you are gifted and somehow better off than married or dating people.

Now, I realise that Paul says single people can focus on pleasing God better than married people can. I don’t dispute that. I do, however, think it requires a correct attitude in the heart of the single person.

They have to want to live to please God. Your life is not automatically more pleasing to him merely by being single. You have to want it and you have to pursue it.

This is something that I struggle with a lot. I heard, in a great talk the other day, that in God’s eyes, you are either single or married. There is no dating, courtship, engagement. There’s single and there’s married, and there’s ways we’re supposed to behave in either situation.

Often I find myself thinking that certain problems would just go away if I was married to Blake. Common thoughts include “We wouldn’t struggle sexually if we were married” and “If I knew we were going to be married, I could be more committed to solving arguments.”

But Paul advocates something different. He says to be content with where we are. To not wish we were somewhere else.

However, I think there is a difference between contentment and passivity.

The content person actively seeks God and how they can please him, no matter what the situation.

The passive person lives in fear that their life is not pleasing to God and, therefore, doesn’t actually achieve much.

I guess this is still an idea I’m wrestling with. I just know I used to think that desiring marriage and even pursuing it would be considered wrong as if it was somehow an indication of discontent. I’m seeing that contentment doesn’t mean standing still and living in fear. It means making choices and trusting God to guide you. It means knowing that your future is secure in Christ and feeling free to live life to the full.

Progress Sunday, Sep 2 2007 

So it’s the end of that week. We are back together.

I feel good, but apprehensive.

Confident, but tentative.

Confused, but so aware.

Thankful.

It’s hard to think of what else to say, how I can explain my thoughts better than that.

This time apart has been beneficial and we are looking positively toward the future.

Cutting off my right hand. Thursday, Aug 30 2007 

I realise that I haven’t written anything for a while. That’s probably due to busyness and perhaps also feeling a bit self conscious about my thoughts.

This will be the most personal post I’ve written on here. The poem labelled ‘Tears’ is pretty personal, but so obscure that only a few people will really know what it’s about.

In recent weeks, my boyfriend and I have struggled a lot with sexual sin. We know it’s wrong, we know all the theoretical and Biblical reasons under the sun for why we should stop, but we continue to sin in this way against God and each other.

The thing with sin is, it doesn’t just confine itself to one area of your life, content with the ruin and destruction it causes there. It seeps through into all the areas of your heart. It breeds selfishness and anger and hatred.

( I realise that putting my trust Jesus’ death on the cross means that sin no longer has power over me, but it still has real life consequences, which is what I’m talking about here.)

Jesus has some pretty serious words to say about sexual sin in his Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

– Matthew 5:27-30

I find it so easy to be passive about my sin. My thinking would go something like this: “Oh, I know my right hand causes me to sin, but it’s not really that often. And even when I do, it’s not so bad. Remember what I used to be like? Well, I’m not like that anymore… doesn’t that count for something? If it really comes to that, I’ll cut it off, but I can’t see me needing to…”

And yet here I have Jesus, Son of the Most High God and Lord of my life, telling me to cut off the things in my life that cause me to sin. NOW! Not if the sinning continues, not if it gets worse, not if people start to notice.

If it causes you to sin, cut it off.

So here I am, in the middle of a week (maybe longer) of “just friends” with my boyfriend.

We decided that spending some time apart (though, not ignorant of each other) would be the best thing to help us get our lives and hearts back on track.

It’s been really difficult, and also confronting.

I am made alarmingly aware of my own selfishness when I want to wallow in my hurt and self-pity, when I expect people to treat me with sensitivity (despite not telling most people about our little break) and most of all, when I want to end this and just go back to the comfort of a relationship.

Perhaps my selfishness was a big part of what created our problems in the first place.

I never realised how hard it would be to get rid of sin once it had become so settled in my heart. Although, Jesus never did say it would be easy, pleasant, or even comfortable.

He said it would be painful. As painful as cutting off your hand or gouging out your eye.

It does hurt at the moment, but I am trying to be more like Jesus, who paid the ultimate price out of love.

I’ll let you know how it goes at the end of the week.

 

::EDIT::

Here are some of the lyrics of songs that deal quite well with this issue, and which I personally love:

Let it all out
get it all out
rip it out remove it
don’t be alarmed
when the wound begins to bleed…

and you said I know that this will hurt
but if I don’t break your heart then things will just get worse
If the burden seems too much to bear
Remember
the end will justify the pain it took to get us there

– ‘Let It All Out’, Relient K

 

It’s better off this way
To be deaf, dumb and lame
Than to be the way I am, I am
It’s better off this way
Than be groping for the flame
Than to be the way I am, I am
– ‘The Way I Am’, Jennifer Knapp

 

How to Build a Fire Thursday, Jul 5 2007 

I was thinking today about something I haven’t thought about in detail for a while.

Fires.

Here’s something you didn’t know: I’m trained as a bush fire fighter. Yep, I completed my basic training years ago. I haven’t been out to an actual fire in a while, but I still remember some of it.

The most useful thing I remember from my basic training was the Fire Triangle diagram. Here’s a rough version:

fire triangle

 Basically, a fire needs all these three elements to keep it going: heat, fuel and oxygen. If one of the elements is missing, the fire dies…..it cannot be sustained. In fire fighting, we were taught to eliminate one of the elements to destroy the fire.

I’ve been thinking about how love is kind of like a fire.

(I’m just writing down my thoughts…..its not perfect, but stay with me!)

Love Needs Oxygen

Know what happens when you put a glass over a candle? The flame dies out because it was starved of it’s oxygen; smothered to death.

I think the same thing can happen in relationships. You find someone you really like and, naturally, want to spend all your time with them. When you do this, you don’t allow room for love to grow.

In my experience, you soon find yourself resenting the other person for small, annoying things or feeling trapped.

Give love the oxygen (or breathing room) it needs to develop into a steady flame.

Love Needs Fuel

I was building a small fire in the backyard with my brother and sister the other night. Normally, we would take the time to carefully build the fire so it would last: we’d start with some scrunched up newspaper, place some pieces of kindling on top and strategically position the large blocks of wood over this to keep the fire burning steadily when the kindling and newspaper were gone. But this particular night, we just wanted the quick intense burn of the newspaper; the sudden burst of heat and brightness and the mad frenzy to get more paper before it died out.

Love needs the right kind of “fuel” if it is going to last.

What are you putting into your relationship?

Are you doing lots of fun, exciting things? Or are you laying the spiritual and emotional foundations for love?

Now for a cliche: What you put in is what you will get out.

What you use to fuel your relationship is how it will be defined.

Love Needs Heat

Okay, so here’s where I get stuck. I’m not exactly sure how “heat” translates into a practical part of this analogy, but I’m going to say that it is linked with the “fuel” aspect.

Something else I remember from fire fighting is the power of ‘radiant heat’. When you’re out at a fire (or controlled burn), staring at a 3 metre wall of flame, radiant heat is what makes you want to shield your face (and all your exposed skin for that matter!). The fire is so hot that you can’t bear to look at it, let alone get close.

I think relationships like this are dangerous, mainly because they are intense and, consequently, short-lived.

They leave deep wounds and deeper scars because the couple didn’t shield themselves from premature emotional committment.

I guess my advice in this area would be to pace yourself. Be warmed by the fire, but don’t reach into it.

I think the most important thing to realise is that love is a choice, not a feeling.

You choose whether to love someone and what type of love that will be.

I should add that I’m not an expert. These are just my thoughts and random musings, so I could be way off.

For the ultimate example of love, who can beat God?

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.

– 1 John 3:16a