Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Wounded to Love

Most of us are willing to love people but few of us have an experiential understanding of what it really means to love sacrificially the way the Lord loves us. How could someone leave the indescribable glory and intimacy of Heaven in exchange for a life of betrayal and torture on earth? If what you’ve experienced here on the planet is anything like what I’ve experienced, then you’ve observed the grand disparity between what most people would refer to as love and what we see in the love of the Lord Jesus. How did the Lord courageously endure the pain and suffering of the cross, in love? The uncompromising conclusion I have found was His willingness to be wounded for the sake of loving.

The issue each of us must wrestle through is our own willingness to be wounded. What we ultimately desire is love, and we’re well aware of the command of Jesus to love. But simple awareness of our responsibility does not produce the sacrificial living that births true love.

Love that doesn’t cost the lover is not love at all.

I’m often drawn to the story of Hosea, who among the prophets had one of the lowliest routes to Biblical fame. I’m not sure that if I woke up one morning and received a word from the Lord to go and marry a prostitute I’d be super quick to get out of bed that day. Doesn’t sound like my idea of building a spiritual fan club. But Hosea is obedient, and what is even more amazing is that after Gomer leaves Hosea and returns to her ways, God instructs Hosea to go again and bring her back. As odd as it all seems I can only imagine the pain and confusion that Hosea must have suffered. “God, isn’t there a better way to get the point across to Israel? Don’t you think we could just write it in the sky or something?” I can only imagine the Lord’s response, “No, Hosea I want you to know in the pain of the human experience what I feel in the eternal reality of the Lover’s experience. “You’re love of Gomer must cost you in reflection, what my love of people will cost me in my son”. Pain, suffering and trials – all these are the alibi and footprint of Love.

Is there no better way?

For many years we’ve been told the stories of brilliant soldiers, sons and daughters of Christ that endured great personal tragedy for the very chance to love as Christ loved. We’ve read passages like, “I’ve been crucified with Christ…” and, “I’ve resolved to know nothing but Christ, and him crucified…” and all along thinking that we have something beautiful to offer in the laying down of our lives. However you approach it, the undeniable truth is this: our death is His invitation to end all the selfishness and all the pride and all the failure. The doorway to life-abundant was hewn from the cross of life-forsaken.

Love breathes outwardly what it lives inwardly.

Our great folly in the Christian life is that it often requires a larger withdrawal of love than most of us have within our resources to pay out. The Apostle Paul stated it this way; if you cannot look into the eyes of the very ones burning you at the stake and have genuine love for them, then you’ve missed the entirety of living as Christ lived (I Cor 13:3 paraphrased). Did you ever wonder that “God so loved the world that he sent his only son…” (Jn 3:16) was followed by, “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him [Jesus] and cause him to suffer….” (Isa 53:10). Could it be that in the same way the Lord was pleased to wound Jesus for love’s sake, he could also be pleased to wound you and I? For, indistinguishably woven into the fabric of love is the golden strand of pain.

As Christians, if we do not choose to be willing to be wounded to love, then all else we endeavor to do will become irrelevant.

May we never feign love. May we never sow with our words what we refuse to reap with our hearts. Get alone and be honest with God. Wrestle with him through your fears. Confess that you’ve vested more in your ability to avoid pain, than in his ability to carry you through the great depths of love. Then, tell him that you are willing to be wounded. Give Him permission to injure you even before circumstance demands it, so that you might truly have counted the cost of loving sacrificially. Ask Him for a soft heart that will allow you to love freely, uninhibited and resonating with the powerful expression of Jesus Christ. Let us be a people that from our very deepest recesses are willing, even at great personal cost, to love beyond all recognition.

Our hearts are epic.

They were never meant to be hidden from the wilds of life. They were not designed to be stowed away in the cargo bays of our existence. They were meant to be challenged, motivated, stirred, impacted, even wounded. They were meant to lean into the wind from the bows of great ships, forging the vast ocean before them. They were meant to savor the highest highs and endure the lowest lows. We cannot harbor them safely in the confines of protected living. No, they must sail through experiences and face the perils of life’s voyage head-on.

We must risk living. We must risk loving. For if not, then what have we gained in our existence?

There will be those times and places when we will inevitably be wounded. These experiences will leave scars on our hearts. But the last thing I want to do is enter Heaven with an unscathed heart that has no scars from loving and losing. At the end of my days I expect that my heart will be strong, but not flawless, powerful, but not beautiful in the smooth untested sort of way. I expect that it will have a great many battle stories to tell of loving, losing, and loving again. And the deepest scars will be a testament to the things that I fought, and if necessary died for. Therein I pray will be found the wounds that came from the rescue of many lost souls. I want it to be so. Not because I am a masochist, but because I want my heart to bear the remembrances of a life that loved with reckless abandon.

May our great Heavenly Father who fashions hearts help each of us be willing to be wounded to love. This is the greatest commandment and doorway to loving as Christ first loved us. For when we’re willing to love even unto death, no fear remains in us and we truly become fully alive!