Monday, November 11, 2013

In Their Shoes

“Whoever walks without blame, doing what is right…who keeps an oath despite the cost…whoever acts like this shall never be shaken.” Psalm 15: 2a, 4c, 5b

Every culture throughout history has honored their warriors. There is something within the human heart that recognizes greatness, honor, courage and sacrifice. And while war is horrible and something that one of us as people of Faith wish would ever have to happen, the reality of our broken world is that there is sin and free will and evil and therefore, men and women are needed to protect the innocent, the weak, the powerless; to serve the common good and restore order from chaos and establish peace in places of hatred.

As we honor the brave men and women of our current generation and every generation still living that have proven themselves in times of peace and war by always being ready to serve and to sacrifice, we are called to support them and be filled with gratitude for what they have done. But how can any of us truly know what they have done. It has been said that to get to know a man you must walk a mile in their shoes. How many of us will ever wear those combat boots and go off to war or train for battle in peacetime, or go into places that most normal humans would run from—in order to help those in need? We can’t. And so we must be grateful for what we can hardly comprehend.

Except when we do anything in our daily lives that their sacrifice has granted us the privilege to do; the ordinary, and yet by virtue of their blood, sweat and tears, the now extraordinary tasks like voting and worshiping where and how we choose. Being able to speak freely, write freely, assemble freely—without fear of reprisal from the government. Being able to go to work, earn a living, choose a career we enjoy, raise a family, pay our bills, shop, go on vacation, etc., etc., etc.

When we do these things with reflection, with an understanding of how and why we are able to do them—why we are able to live in relative freedom, then we begin to walk a little in their shoes. Any honorable warrior serves for love of family and friends, for ideals of good, for freedom, for peace. So each day, as I walk about my daily tasks and routine, I walk each step in the shoes of one of our warriors who has made it all possible.

And I am reminded that I too, am called to greatness—a greatness that comes from walking in the shoes of others each day as a follower of Jesus Christ. All of us are called to be honorable warriors in the army of God in the battle of good versus evil. May we allow the grace of our Lord to fill us with His courage and Spirit to be ready to do anything necessary to fight sin and temptation in our own hearts and throughout the world.

Dear Jesus, please bless all of our veterans and their families, who have sacrificed so much to serve others. Help me to be inspired by their example to fight sin in my own life and to be victorious with You on the last day. Amen.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Love’s Capacity

“Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen our hearts…” 1 Thessalonians 3: 11-13a

Do you know what unconditional love is? It is love for Love’s sake.

About six months ago my youngest child was born. And for the first month or so all she could do was eat, cry and poop. She couldn’t smile, couldn’t talk, couldn’t walk. She was not able to laugh or smile. She couldn’t hug me or look me in the eye. In fact, she didn’t even seem to recognize me in any special way at all.

And yet I loved her. I loved her with a love so deep, so consuming, so fierce—all I could was hold her and cuddle her and take care of her. And I got nothing tangible in return. There was nothing she could DO to make me love her more or less. I received nothing in return for my love for her, except the joy of loving her. And that was enough.

As we get older and we experience more of the pain and reality of life, as we see firsthand the effects of sin and witness rage, manipulation, jealously, pride, selfishness and greed, we begin to lose sight of unconditional love. We can be tempted to believe that it doesn’t exist. We begin to believe the lie that we are only lovable when we do something good or achieve something remarkable. We begin to love others not based on their inherent worth and dignity, but based on what they do for us..for what they give us. We can end up spending so much time and energy building layers of protection around our hearts that eventually we entomb ourselves in the bitterness and loneliness of isolation. Ultimately we can even forget the love of God, the love of Love Himself.

We can also be fooled into thinking that love has limits and that we can’t love everyone. We give up on marriage because we fear a love so total, faithful and fruitful. Or we only have one or two children because we assume that we can’t give equal amounts of love and attention to more children than that. Perhaps we engross ourselves so much in our daily tasks, be it school, or work or home, so that we don’t have to face the lack of true intimacy in our relationships with family and friends.

In and of ourselves, it is true…we are not capable of loving without limits. Relying on our own meager efforts, gifts and energies, we cannot do it. Because we are finite, our ability to love does at some point reach its capacity. And yet, when we immerse ourselves I the infinite and unconditional love of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…there is no limit to our capacity to love. When the love we seek to give and receive flows from the Love that is always giving and receiving, always self-donating, always unconditional, always now and forever…then we too, can live in a world with limitless love.

Like with a newborn infant, we learn to love for Love’s sake. And nothing more. That’s when our hearts change..and the world changes with it.

Dear Jesus, please help me to live in the reality of Your unconditional, always-present love so that I can love others without limits. Amen.