Loving without agenda

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We all want to love and be loved….we were created to cherish healthy relationships. The ones that make us feel safe, secure, and worthy.

But what about those who cannot love because their past keeps them trapped? Entangled in bitterness. They have witnessed too much disappointment. Betrayal. Too much loss.  Many hold their hearts at a distance because love is too good to be true. For them love is vulnerable and can be used as a dagger pulled out of someone’s arsenal at any moment.

To my dear friends who feel this way, accepting and giving love just is not possible. If you have ever watched someone try to love you but can’t, you know what complete helplessness feels like. You can hear their hearts screaming, “When are you going to leave too? When are you going to take advantage of me? Why would you love ME?” and they push you away, sabotage the relationship, and heap anger on you for all the other people who have hurt them and are not around to take the lashes. In these relationships, we are called to love deeply…..just as we love those who reciprocate. If we don’t, who will break down the walls? Who will chip away at the hardened heart?

We want to sit and wait to be APPRECIATED. We want our love to be accepted, nurtured, and returned. But what about those who cannot? The children in foster care who have been taught by life that being loved is not possible EVER. The children who were raped and are now prostitutes because they were taught that sex is all they have to offer and continue to be beat by their pimps and johns. The children who were given crack for their tenth birthdays by their drug dealer parents and have learned that if your parents won’t protect you, who will? The moms raising special needs children who have been shunned by the playgroup because “that kid” throws too many tantrums and “that mom” is too needy and now she drinks too much and turns off her phone. The shallow, materialistic prima donna  who degrades the manicurist and the grocery store clerk out of her own brokenness because she knows her husband is cheating on her but she won’t walk away because it would be an end to her extravagant lifestyle. The teacher who went from encouraging and uplifting to mean and stern in one year because she is taking care of her dying husband and resents her job because she has to stay to keep her insurance. The child sitting at his mom’s bedside while she takes her final breaths and is screaming inside  that God sucks and this is too hard. The CEO who was told by his dad his whole life that he was worthless and now takes advantage of people to make lots of money and earn the respect of his father and who is repeating the cycle with his own children.

What about them? Do you run the other way? Do you refuse to look them in the eye? Do you gossip about them with your acceptable friends?

The kind of love that Jesus talks about is sacrificial, often painful, and always inconvenient.

And how do we continue to give and not grow weary of rejection? How do we not take it “personally” when we feel attacked? We cry out to God and He hears us. We stop making it about us and realize that the other person’s heart is more important than our own need to be accepted. We love like Jesus loved and expect nothing in return. And we decide that we will do it all again tomorrow. And the next day. Jesus will so fill our emotional tanks that the constant withdrawals by others won’t deplete the resources. Our cups will overflow because of what HE has done. And when people tell us we do too much and that we need to rest and take care of ourselves, we will smile inside because we know where our strength comes from and who the Giver of Grace is. We will know that if we are connected to the Source of our strength, we are unstoppable.

And once we have loved like that, we will never be the same. The gift is not in the giving but in how it changes us.

“Weeping can stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning. ”  Psalm 30:5

 

Entering into the darkness….

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We spend a lot of our lives thriving for “success.”  We brag about successful children. Successful husbands. Successful businesses. But what is success really?

Many Americans have sold out to the idea of “success” as looking a certain way on the outside, regardless of how it looks on the inside. Monetary and superficial standards dictate where someone or something falls on our “success continuum.”

Successful=========================Unsuccessful                pretty, rich, follows social rules            unattractive, poor, outsider

We gravitate toward the successful and try to emulate them for many reasons. To make ourselves look better by association. To gain something. To feel acceptable.

What if we were drawn less to the powerful and more to the powerless? Isn’t that what Jesus did?

We like to watch shows that depict darkness- don’t all the Disney movies have some sort of dark side? What about CSI? Batman? Very few forms of entertainment lack a good/evil theme. And we pay to see it. But then we look at Scripture and realize that God calls us to live in a way that shines a light in the REAL darkness and what do we do? Flip on the TV, grab a bag of chips, and watch another episode of Criminal Minds.

I challenge you with this idea……you will find more “success” in the seemingly “unsuccessful” than anywhere in the Fortune 500s or the beautiful people on Wall Street.

But first we have to define “success” in a true and authentic way.  I believe that where we have gone wrong is to think that “success” is ever really achieved. In the world of ministry where seemingly spiritual people enter into the lives of people who have been broken by drugs and domestic violence, we count them a success when we can parade them around cleaned up, oh-so-spiritual and what appears to be a life void of problems. That is not success- that is a lie. Life is messy and every day brings challenges and temptations. I know it does for me and for the mom who has years of prostitution, drugs, and domestic violence.

If we judge people as acceptable when they “get it all together” we give them no room to fall. As a result, they prop themselves up to please us and not themselves or they lie to us so that the image we have of them is not shattered and they have to face FAILURE. I have seen many churches parade around their new Christian as some kind of poster child of spiritual perfection- like a before and after that leaves no room for failure.  At times, the church has prostituted people the way pimps do on the streets.

The reason I know? I struggle with it. I want to believe if I offer and addict or a stripper or a foster child a beautiful home, a family, and a stable life that they will fall down in gratitude and realize what they had been missing all their lives. Unfortunately that does not happen. Why? Because change is slow and difficult.

So what do I think the answer is?

I have learned to cherish the small wins. The daily victories.

In the past 3 days, two people who were both in my life for different reasons went back to a way of life that is familiar- drug use, abuse, and all that comes with that lifestyle. Am I discouraged? No. Am I hopeful?Yes. Is it well with my soul? Absolutely. Why? Because I know that a person’s choices are not a reflection of how “good” I was at loving that person. I know people go back to what they know until they are ready. And I definitely know that a childhood full of egregious abuse causes a person to struggle to cope with life’s challenges.

In the last three days,  I have also met with women who are being reunited with their children after really hard work, dedication, and grit when it all seemed impossible. They live day to day knowing that life is fragile and temptati
on is real. I know to embrace them during their victories and embrace them during their struggles.  I cannot have a barometer of “success” and “failure” because all of us face daily doses of both…..at least if we are honest with ourselves and others.

DSC_1317To say I am proud of the overcomers is an understatement. To say I deeply love the ones who have fallen is more than the truth.

Love does.