3 Things I Learnt From My Year of Love
2015 was my Year of Love.
That was the theme, the focus and foundation. I wrote about it, thought about it, was challenged by it and used it to guide my decisions. As I sit on the deck of our house watching some of my kids play handball, the neighbour’s chickens forage for food and listen to sounds of my wife and more kids baking gingerbread in the kitchen – I am sure that I had no idea what this year would hold. I learnt a lot about myself, my relationships, how God has wired me and my purpose in life. I also came to a deeper understanding of how little I know about anything; that God is mysterious and His love equally so.
With that disclaimer allow me to share with you the three most significant things I learnt from my Year of Love.
1. Opportunity for the revelation and expression of God’s love exists wherever we care to look.
This year, more than ever, I was confronted by the people and behaviours I find most difficult to love. Faced with such people and circumstances, we can choose to lament their existence or engage God’s love. ‘Love is a choice’ can serve as a cliche or it can inform how we live in each moment. Throughout my Year of Love, I didn’t consistently choose well. However, I have become increasingly aware of the opportunity for love amidst the chaos, mess, despondency and violence that surrounds our lives.
Love should motivate us to action. Love should cause us to confront thinking and areas of our lives that are indifferent. My personal challenge is less about those in obvious need – the marginalised, forgotten, excluded, oppressed – and more those who should know better and reflect a clearer example of Christ’s love. This year I have made more considerable effort to engage such people, to listen and endeavour to understand their viewpoint, to question and gently challenge, in love. To move people from a hardline stance to at least being willing to consider and even empathise with another person’s experience. In doing that, it has also required me to reconsider the motivations for my opinions and behaviours and to become increasingly more forgiving and humble.
Love is far more inclusive, unifying and powerful than we want to believe. Love is transformational. The problem with that is we don’t like to change. We only like change if we get to dictate what the change is and the means through which the change will take place. It is here that we find ourselves faced with a choice. Love or indifference.
2. Doing the ‘right’ thing without love very quickly becomes the wrong thing.
In 2015, social and political discourse and diatribe have centred on ‘truth’ and what is ‘the right way’ to address global issues of displacement, immigration, and cultural integration. Anyone with an opinion and the will to broadcast it is apparently declaring the ‘truth’ (or their version of it). Except the truth is not an opinion, ideology or policy. The truth is God made flesh. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” and, as such, truth can only be viewed through the person of Jesus Christ.
Similarly, “God is love”. We cannot separate truth from love or love from truth. To do so, at the very least will result in a half truth. Half truths have a significant human cost. Half truths are the foundation of political expedience. Half truths lead to men, women and children being detained indefinitely with no hope of release. Such an outcome is, quite simply, wrong. And the weight of evidence suggests that too often our response is indifference rather than love.
Our tendency is to consider everything as left or right, black or white, our side or their side. Love offers an alternative. Love is the third way. Viewed through the lens of Christ and love, we should be able to identify solutions that rise above self-interest and political expediency. Love creates possibilities, opportunities and paths that the rational mind often misses or refuses to consider.
3. I have no idea how to love, or what love truly is, without Jesus.
Love is possibly the most overused and least comprehended word in the English language. It is also the most confronting, least understood and the most desperately needed aspect of faith.
My Year of Love has taught me more than anything else that I am only capable of grasping what love is and how I am to love through and with Jesus. Jesus gives love meaning and form. He is “God with us” and as “the visible image of the invisible God” Jesus embodies love. Through Jesus, I can begin to understand the unfathomable, unquenchable, and irrepressible nature of love. Through Jesus, I can discover what it means to be pursued by love. With Jesus, I can begin to embody love. Without him, love is merely a philosophical idea, a curious feeling or another pop song.
Jesus’ example, teaching, life and presence is the foundation, formation and expression of love in and through my life. Outside of that, I am indifferent and operating out of half truths. Or as Eugene Peterson puts it, far more eloquently than I, “I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate”.
There you have it. A journey and work in progress. If you have participated or engaged in my Year of Love in any way, shape or form – thank you. I hope and pray that you would continue the journey and discover love’s transformation in increasing moments and opportunities.
As for next years theme? Stay tuned for my next post.
image credit: Death to the Stock Photo.