October 9th, 2009

Learning to Love

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Learning to Love

And now a post about something real.

The past three years haven’t been my best. I had a lot of expectations about what I thought should happen, and when they didn’t happen, I didn’t respond well.  This seems to be a reoccurring pattern in my life. When we graduated from John Brown, the plan was to stay in Northwest Arkansas for two years and then move to Seattle to go to grad school. So I lived a temporary life. I didn’t invest in anything. I didn’t make new friends. I just survived until we got to the next thing. But then we thought we were pregnant and that rocked our little world. We weren’t pregnant, but we thought that maybe we’d like to be. So, Seattle went out the window and babies flew in. I also applied to grad school at JBU. School didn’t work out and neither has a baby. In April, we began the process of looking for a house, which was also unsuccessful.

I can see now why those things didn’t work out. If we’d had a baby, or a house, or I’d been in grad school, we wouldn’t be able to move to Germany within a few months time. But, at the time, I didn’t know that. With each new disappointment, I withdrew from God. I started to doubt whether he had good things for me and whether he loved me. Believing lies, that’s also a recurring pattern in my life. I began to look more at my disappointment and sadness and less at God’s goodness and faithfulness. I withdrew. That’s what I do when I don’t know how to handle something. I withdraw into myself and away from real life.

So I’ve been living the past few years inside myself, wailing about how awful things are, which is completely stupid.

Lately, I’ve been realizing how much my life has been about me—what I want, how I feel, how bad things are, how unhappy I am. This weekend, I was reminded of how I want to live my life. I was reminded by a sermon and my sister-in-law Hannah and her fiance, Ash.

We went to church with Israel’s family on Sunday evening. The sermon was on vision. When it started, the first thing I thought of was love. I want to love people well. Obviously, that is a very broad vision, and perhaps not a vision at all, but when I think about my life and what I want to spend my time on, it’s on loving people. I want to be an example of Christ’s love. I want people to feel accepted and safe and free when they’re around me. I don’t want people to be uncomfortable, or feel judged or rejected. I want them to know they are loved, and I want that love to point them to Jesus. I can’t do that if I’m complaining, or mopping, or criticizing everything because I’m so unhappy. I need to look outside myself, to God and to people. I need to stop putting myself first and start caring about other people. And I need to stop trying to figure out what to do about people and just accept them as they are. But this love has to manifest itself in the tiny things of life or it’s pointless. So, I need to actually listen when people talk to me. I need to stop moping around my house and start cleaning it, so I can invite people in if they stop by. And I need to encourage people with my words.

One of my spiritual gifts is exhortation. I love to speak into people’s lives about who they are and who God wants them to be. I love to share what I see in others and how I see them growing. But when I’m focused on myself all the time, I think I tear people down rather than build them up. I focus on all of their flaws and what annoys me rather than seeing them as God does. Being around Hannah reminded me that I want to build people up with my words. She’s a very encouraging person and somewhere in the midst of all of her compliments and kind words, I remembered that I want to be like that! I want to be able to delight in people and with people. I’ve not done much rejoicing in the past few years and I want to rejoice with others! I believe that one of things God has called me to do is build others up and speak words of truth into their lives, but I am not capable of doing that when I’m believing the lies myself and am wrapped up in my little self-absorbed cocoon.

I am really bad at doing these things—loving people and building them up. I suck at it. A lot. But I want to try. I’ll probably always be bad at it, but I believe God can use me if I allow him to. I believe he can help me to love people and he can give me words that bring life and light and truth to others. So far this week, I’ve failed. I already forgot that I wanted to live like this, but I remembered yesterday. And I remembered today. Hopefully I’ll remember everyday and I’ll actually love and encourage, not just think about it.

4 Responses to “Learning to Love”

Comments

  • So amazing how we can get wrapped up in what we want in life and stop looking for what God wants. I am so excited to see where God is taking you.
    What an honest post!! :O)
    God loves to use our gut-wrenching moments and He used Yours to minister to me today!

    Thanks girl!!
    Gina

  • Gennie says:

    Mostly related to the first part of what you wrote, I recommend reading a book called The Lies We Tell Ourselves by Chris Thurman. I used to be REALLY good at telling myself lies, then believing them. Now because of his grace, I suck at that : )

    Love you guys.

  • Hannah says:

    Dani,
    you encouraged me through this post! I love you so much and am so excited for all God is going to do in and through you. You are a mighty woman of God and there is nothing you cannot do! This next swain of yours and Israel’s lives is going to be an amazing one for you guys 🙂 love you

    Hannah

  • You amaze me in your insights. You have so much to give. Keep writing. It is so good. Thanks for being transparent. MommaJ

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