What’s Love Got to Do With It?
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Every ounce of me wants to write about the Holy Spirit Retreat (HSR) and Alpha goings on. In fact, I’ve started this post about 14 times, but I’ve realized that today isn’t the day for a HSR recap. Too much is still unsettled internally for me to be able to write about it with any coherence at all (imagine the usual incoherence of my writing multiplied by 10, then mixed with that feeling you get when you’ve accidently fallen asleep only to find your children jumping off the couch and sitting on the table eating Wheat Thins — not that I’d know what that feels like… uh, anyway). So, instead of cognitively vomiting all over this post, I’m going to talk about the gift I received on Friday, before the HSR ever started.
The weekend started early for me; I took Friday afternoon off so that I could hang with Red while Angie accompanied TD to the pumpkin patch on a school field trip. While TD and I get a decent amount of alone time when we do Man Errands, Red and I don’t get quite as much. So getting to be still with her and give her my undivided attention was just a beautiful way to de-stimulate after the work week. Her language usage is a little behind after a plethora of double infections in her first year, but her recognition of what you’re saying to her is just dandy. It made for a great early afternoon.
When she went down for her nap, I was able to grab some paint and hop on the scaffolding to get some more painting done on the new siding. It was gorgeous Friday afternoon, so being outside by myself, getting to pray and think and rest in His presence was invigorating. The calm, easy time that I spent with Red was transitioning to calm, easy time with God. What does that mean exactly? Well, on Friday it meant me asking Him a lot of questions, mostly about what He was doing with my Alpha group, but also about some of the other relationships in my life. Then me listening to the answers He gave. Quiet time. Heart softening time.
After a while, Angie and TD returned so I cleaned up my painting in order to spend time with them. When I got inside, I checked my email quick to see if anything had changed on who was coming to the HSR. While I’d gotten no emails announcing a change in attendance, I received an email from a friend that was completely unexpected. Not sure what I’d find within, I opened the email to find a Spirit led, grace filled confession. I was absolutely blown away and it humbled me immensely to see my prayers answered in his words. The more I read, the more I was blessed by his humility.
In Luke 4, after announced his ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth by reading Isaiah 61:1-2 and interacting with the crowd there, Jesus mentioned numerous Spirit led prophets in stating that a prophet is never accepted in his hometown. Like all Jesus’ teachings, there are more levels than one knows what to do with, but one of the obvious lessons from Luke 4 is plainly seen. Here, Jesus returns home to Nazareth after resisting Satan in the wilderness. While Jesus traveled through Galilee, his authority was obvious. But the people in Nazareth couldn’t see the authority he carried or the Father he was reflecting — they just saw the son of Mary and Joseph — because that’s how they’d always known him. They couldn’t see the Spirit in him because they couldn’t see past his flesh.
While things are a bit different now because the Spirit is available to us all, where before Jesus’ death the Spirit only came upon certain people (typically prophets). I think my friend has been stuck in a position like the Nazarenes that knew Jesus from his childhood. While the changes in my life have been apparent to many since emerging from my time in the wilderness, it’s hard to accept the spiritual transformation of a person when you know their old self so well. A few months ago, when my carelessness led to me making a mistake that upset my friend, it was easy for him to agree with the accuser and see the old Ryan. While he thought he was writing my changes off, he wasn’t really writing me off at all — he was writing off God’s ability to change who I am. See, that’s the thing with evil: my friend wasn’t trying act contrary to God’s character. He thought he was doing right because it felt right and seemed right and, maybe to the letter of the law, was right, but it wasn’t based in love and therefore was not Jesus. Now, the beauty of all this is that God led me to keep my mouth shut (evidence that shutting me up requires an act of God). Instead of pointing this out to him, I started praying for him to let God guide him on this issue. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is much more powerful than any rebuke I could have given him. So the fact that he sent me an email and stated all this without me saying anything was extremely humbling. The Holy Spirit works to unify us, we just have to trust God enough to stay out of His way. My prayers had been answered emphatically.
I’m excited for my friend because he has everything in place for God to use him in powerful ways, he’s just not been able to consistently stay out of his own way. In fact, it’s his desire to be faithful that often is the problem. Too often doing something for God instead of resting in God and letting Him use us. It takes considerably more submission and a faith that God sees order where we see chaos — submission and faith that develop through adversity. My friend’s humble email of submission, saturated with confession and oozing with the Spirit, strengthens my hope that he’s coming out of the wilderness armed with a new power to submit more fully.
In a culture that teaches us to attack and tear down people who make mistakes while trying to change for the better, who do you represent? Are you a reflection of love to that person or a reflection of self-centeredness. I’m learning how to be that reflection of love; God knows how good I can be at self-centeredness. For a long time I honed my ability to tear people down when they were in the midst of growth. In this case, my friend’s email was an act of love that both showed his submission to God in his life and acknowledged the Spirit’s power in reshaping mine. To receive that act of love hours before the HSR was simply breathtaking and I cannot state powerfully enough how thankful I am for it.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:1-8