At our last Tender Hearts meeting my friend, Caralee, shared a wonderful devotional with us. Sometimes it just takes someone else reading something to you - for you to really get it (at least that's the case with me).
She read "A Gut Honest Look at Love" - (proverbs31devotions).
I don't want to repeat a habit that I've had from the past where I expect unrealistic things from those I love. I used to hold out the little cup of my heart to my husband, "Will you fill my empty spaces? Will you do that one really romantic thing that makes me feel like I'm the most terrific and special woman in the world?"
Then I would hold it out to my children, "Will you fill up my empty spaces? Will you do something that makes me look really good as a mom so I'll feel a little more validated?"
Then I would hold it out to my friends, "Will you fill up my empty spaces? Will you provide something today that makes me feel more included and significant?"
Maybe Christmas is an odd time to consider such things.
Or, maybe this season celebrating Jesus is the perfect time to hit the reset button on my sometimes frail heart. Love is a tricky thing. Our hearts were created to crave it. But misplaced expectations from love can wreak havoc in a person's heart.
God proclaims in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that love never fails. And in the quietness of my heart that verse makes me squirm a bit. I see love failing all the time. Or do I?
If my only view of love is what it will give me, love from others will fail me every time. It's not that love fails. It's that other people were never meant to be my God. Even a great husband, wonderful children and a thriving ministry can never truly fill me up, right all my wrongs, and soothe those deep insecurities. Not at Christmas. Not at any other time of the year.
No, I can't read 1 Corinthians chapter 13 with eyes hungry to see what love should give me and then demand it from those around me. I should read those steadfast Scriptures with the realization that this is the kind of love God gives to me. And this is the kind of love I can choose to give to other people.
I can choose that my love will be patient. My love will be kind. My love won't keep a record of wrongs. (Ouch - that's a hard one, right?)
I can choose that my love will protect and persevere.
And I can choose to lay the cup of my heart at Jesus' feet and stop twirling, twirling, twirling...hoping- demanding- that those around me do things for me they were never meant to do.
Interestingly enough, when I read 1 Corinthians 13 again this morning I found an odd yet perfect verse toward the end of this chapter. "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me" (verse 11).
Yes indeed. How funny I never connected that verse about putting away childish things with 1 Corinthians 13 - known as the chapter of love. Oh how we have the propensity to grow in other areas while keeping such a childish, selfish view of love.
Love isn't what I have the opportunity to get from this world. Love is what I have the opportunity to give. And I guess there's no more appropriate time to remember this than Christmas.
This really hit home with me as it has never done before. It's so true. I have lived much of my life much like she described -- holding out my cup for others to fill it. When all along NO ONE would ever be able to fill it completely - except Jesus. I love her line: It's that other people were never meant to be my God. Wow, when you really sit down and honestly think about it --- how many times have you made other PEOPLE your God? I am quite ashamed when I think about it. In my younger days, it was boyfriends (who at the time I thought were the be all to end all of my life), it was my social circle of friends (who I felt like I had to impress at all times), it turned in to my daughter (who I adored and put at the top of my list), then along came my wonderful husband, Mitchell. When we first started dating and even during the first years of our marriage - I was all consumed by Mitchell. If we had an argument, I couldn't concentrate on anything else during the day. I expected him to fill my cup to overflowing! He told me -- you should love Jesus first, then me. I will never be able to fulfill all of your expectations and needs. He was correct. I had to realize that God is my God. No one else. Not that I do not adore my children, intensly love my husband, and enjoy the warmth of my friendships -- but only one person can come first. Once that choice is made ... your life is shaped. At least mine is ... it is completely different now that I have TRULY put God above all people and things. Believe me, I know how life is when other people and things are put first ... and this new way is SO much better!
Reading this devotional has made me think more about love than I have in a long time. How true it is that so often we keep a childish view of love ... love me! love me! love me! Hello - God loves me! What more can I ask? The God that created the universe, created life ... loves ME!
And we are called to love others - with patience and kindness. My goal for 2010 - is to stop, listen and love. You may never know how your expression of love towards someone else might change their day or their entire life.
Lots of love - to all of my wonderful friends!