Real Love

Christian faith has always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Believing that there is a God who created this world we live in feels as natural as breathing. I could no more stop believing in God than I could stop loving my wife. I know that because of Adam’s sin, I’m fundamentally flawed, and that I need to be rescued from myself. I also know that Jesus is God and that he left heaven to come down to earth to rescue me by giving his own life in my place. I know that in trusting him to forgive my sin and turning away from those sins, I have become clean in the eyes of God. I know and believe a lot of things. It’s just been a long time since I’ve really felt anything. I’m in seminary and that does a great job of increasing my understanding on an intellectual level, but there’s just something about a faith based almost entirely on intellect that is wrong. I know I’m supposed to love God with all my mind, but what about the part of loving him with all my heart and soul? Heart love seems deeper and truer than just head love.

For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel again. For some reason, I’m on the verge of tears now when I start really thinking about God. What I’m starting to feel again is love. I think my eyes are being opened. After several very difficult years with trials and difficulties dragging me deeper and deeper into self pity, I’m starting to feel God’s love again. Not because those situations have changed. The trials are just as bad as ever. I’ve been so wrapped up in myself that it’s been hard to see that Jesus loves me.

When you’re a kid it’s easy to believe that Jesus loves you in a real way. As you get older and go through more of life it can start to seem like he loves you out of principle because it’s the right thing to do. People in the church make you feel like love is a conditional thing. You have to act, dress, speak, and vote a certain way to earn the approval of other Christians. I know this is a blanket statement that is wrong in a lot of ways, but it’s how I’ve felt. I’ve based my feelings about Jesus love on the love (or lack of love) I’ve received from the church. When my paycheck from the church hasn’t been enough to stretch across my bills, it’s made me feel like I wasn’t valuable. I’ve felt like a lot of people in the church have seen me as a means to an end. Like as a person I wasn’t that valuable outside of what I could do for the church. These people may love me in a way, but I definitely haven’t felt like those same people really like me. And somewhere in my head, I got the church’s version of love mixed up with Jesus’ love. Like he loves me as much as I deserve to be loved. That’s a pretty depressing thought considering how undeserving I felt.

There’s some kind of profound change taking place now though. I’m starting to feel like Jesus is not someone who just loves me in some kind of cosmic God way. If I met him face to face, I feel like Jesus would really be interested in me. He’d want to know my story. He’d ask me about my hopes and dreams and he’d really listen while I rambled about my frustrations. He’d let me get angry and once I calmed down, he would look me in the eye and tell me the truth. He would smile and I would see on face and in his voice that he really liked me. He would rebuke me, too, and he would tell me that I have prejudices against some church people that I need to deal with. He would tell me there are other people out there who need love and that he wants me to love them the same way that he does. I think he would tell me what my gifts are and why I have them, and help me know how to use them. He would point out very clearly how God has taken care of me through all these years, all the things he’s protected me from and all plans he has for me.

I want to know Jesus the way that Bill Bright did. When an interviewer asked him about Jesus, Bill Bright just broke down and cried right there at his desk. I want to love Jesus like that. I want my heart to break when I think about how unconditionally he accepts me as I am and at the same time wants me to become more like him so I can love other people the same way. I repent of letting other people define my self worth. God is getting into my heart and showing me how to love by showing me how loved I really am. Real love is something beautiful and magical, but it’s hard to put into words. I think I’ve been trying to hard to understand, without letting myself feel. There are parts of the Christian life that I don’t think you’re supposed to understand. You just have to know and believe.