Originally published Thursday, 16 February 2017.
Coffeeshop counters are filled with felted cupids and red glittered hearts. Men walk the streets of Palo Alto with bunches of flowers pressed into hands.
I lift my face to the sun as I walk. Justin is close, this partner of mine who pushes me toward love more than anyone else I know.
And it is hard. Love. The kind of love that tears at your heart until surrender comes. I’m not doing this right, I’m sure.
“Iron sharpens iron,” is what Justin reminds me. And he pushes, and he challenges. He can tell when I’m stuck and don’t know my way out. And he does that dance of knowing how to pursue me and give me room.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
And it is uncomfortable. And I want to run. But I need this–someone to pursue me–encourage this stubborn me toward God. I need someone to show me Jesus in the flesh–what love looks like when I am running the other way rather than doing the one thing I know I need to do: fall.
In relationships, we hurt each other when we let our own big self get in the way. (And this is my special talent.) So I listen to Justin’s words, and I ask for God to help my heart be soft. I don’t like it–that place of tension. The Holy Spirit whispers in my ear, inviting me toward a new place. And all I want to do, instead, is stay right where I am. Even though it is more painful, more lonely, more dark.
But I can’t stay here.
I want to be where the light shines. I do. But when I hear words I don’t want to hear–true or not–it is so hard to not have my heart be hardened. It is hard to not be stubborn. It is hard to not be right.
It is a lot of work, this clashing of wills, this battle for more than peace. For love–even hope–can be turbulent too. And it is only Jesus, who is not afraid of turbulence, who calms the storm.
I didn’t know this is what love could look like–that the fighting for another person’s heart doesn’t always mean turning the other way, hoping for the best, and not doing a thing. When we see someone we love turning away from God, rejecting the full life He has for them, it will do no one any good to do nothing. It is our job to love. And love isn’t always neat and pretty and a bouquet of roses in tight, clenched fingers on a sunshine-filled, clean city street.
(Although it might just be that too.)
Love is being reminded it is okay to let your fifteen year old son, who is pushing and pulling to find his own way, go. Even if it feels awful (for you) when he falls. Love is being honest with friends and telling them that really, actually, you are not okay. Love is being bold, letting God’s words be more than words but action. It is listening, yes. But it is also responding to what He says. For what good is a word from God if we forget the Word is alive within us? It is up to us to respond–let the Word take shape in us. Then, only then, will it live.
My Spotify dashboard today offers two playlists: (1) “Valentine’s Day Love,” the first song offering the crooning of Ed Sheeran; and (2) “Anti-Valentine’s Day,” with Adam Levine belting out “Animals.” Each playlist represents a story, the story of love fought for, surrendered to, given up on, or lost. I’ve decided to go with the “Valentine’s Day Love” playlist. It’s got Jewel and Bryan Adams, with a chaser of The Lumineers and The Verve and Sister Hazel. Good stuff.
Love is heartbreak and hope. Love is battle and surrender. The story I want to tell–that I lived a life revealing love that was heart-won and true. I want to listen more to God’s truth, but, most importantly, I want to act on what I hear Him tell me, too.
How are you stirred toward action . . . toward love . . . this day?