I could make a list of to-do actions, motions of “love” toward enemies. I could resolve to fight down envy the minute it strikes, to “do love acts” toward unlovely actors, while not forgetting “kind” gestures and “thoughtfulness” toward nearest and dearest…
But that (alone) won’t do it!
All that might not even be love!
Love is patient, kind, etc., descriptions of not just outward actions, but of inward state of heart.
All forced outward motions look uncomfortably like 1 Corinthians 13’s beginning: the hard big truth that love is NOT outwardly attractive yet hollow acts of eloquent words, mountain-moving changes for the whole world’s good, even giving body, soul, and pocketbook (and all within them!) toward others’ benefit.
Love produces such actions, but other motives can too. Flatterers, schmoozers, and hypocrites all can act the actions, for even nefarious, self-serving ends.
So just forcing right deeds from my muscles, myself alone, won’t manifest true Christlike love!
Then what will?
Love is patient, kind, finds joy in truth… Where else have I seen those words? Galatians 5:22. Fruit of the Spirit.
What spirit? Whose spirit?
But the Spirit, dwelling, filling, within. If it (He) is dwelling and filling!
I can’t produce love by mere actions. Love is the producer, not the product. And love can’t arise from my sinful self. Love comes from God. God in Heaven, God (Christ) in me. It’s part of the fruit of His own Spirit. Without a fullness of that Spirit, there’s not enough oil of love to overflow, to spill love out on others.
So, first and most important: more of Him, of His Spirit, filling, taking over. Top priority.
But ah, such striving rages…
They wrestle: Two at odds, vying for predominance — within my being, struggling of late — much like those two babes wrestling in Rebekah’s womb, likewise in Tamar’s, battling for first place, competing for birthing.
Seemingly not just two wee babes within me, however, but an entire crowd! Selfishness fighting Selflessness, Irritation combating kind Patience, Weary-with-well-doing opposing Perseverance… and so on. All vying for birth in my thoughts, then my actions.
Seeming multitudes. But really, two entities only: Me (me-thoughts and me-actions), seeking birth by my spirit, versus Christ-in-me (Christ-thoughts and actions) deeply desiring Holy-Spirit-wrought birth from my new person.
Three short months back, so different it was… Really! Outside offences rolled over and off me, so much more easily, as strength kept growing within. Evil-wishers so seldom could stir a “rise” of anger, fear, or self-pity. Enemy arrows failed so often to penetrate a stronger-armored me.
Why? Then I was gathering to myself more “hours,” and clinging to them: set times of drawing near Him who is all perfection and Who bears out all good that can ever come through me. And though I noticed this changed state after while, as prayer times grew more numerous, fixed, and certain, not till December’s residue of chaos left January poor in November’s inner wealth… not until then did the difference fully strike me.
So number one for me right now, prerequisite to producing Spirit fruit, IS the Spirit, of God Himself, Christ in Me, cultivated carefully by draw-near effort, watered by repeated douses of time.
How can I give what I have not gained? How can I gain the life and love of the Vine?
Closer, ever closer to the source, the only place I can draw into my own heart the love to give.
8 thoughts on “Love: Where to Start?”
Beautiful! ‘Love’ is my one word for the year…and these are such good points about it.
Thanks for sharing, and for linking up over at Count Me Accountable!
Oh! The perfect word! My word is “closer.” I guess the two really go together hand in hand, don’t they? And God “just happened” to put me next to you at Count Me Accountable today. 🙂 Thank you for your kind comment. Love is such excellent aim for a year. God bless it mightily!
Sylvia this is beautiful. Love is the thing. Loving God. Loving ourselves. Loving our friends. Loving our foes. Receiving God’s love. It is by our how well we love can we tell how much transformation is happening in our lives. Thank you so much for sharing this timely and important word. You always do. Love you my sister.
So good to “see you” here! That’s God’s timing, making words timely! 🙂 I love how I see that all the time! Thank you for your kind encouragement, dear sister. God bless!
This is such an introspective post. I was struck by a reading in Dark Night of the Soul where St John of the Cross talked about beginners in virtue sometimes loving worship, prayer and penance because of the sensual feelings they get from participation in them. St John says this may be dangerous (the arousal of the physical senses during worship) for if something doesn’t arouse the euphoia it may be mistaken as from the Devil. Feelings can really mislead. Our displeasure should not keep us from where the Lord wants us to go.
On the other hand, difficulties in penance, self flagellation or other severe deprivations can lead to pride if the one performing the acts judges others not doing them as less than they.
I was struck with the idea that we should not base our relationship on feeling, but in obedience. St John says it is when we get to the place where we are not looking at anyone else, when our eyes are solely on Jesus that we really see ourselves. We get to depths of penance where we see who we really are and we can’t bear to see who we really are. It is then His grace breaks through and we truly learn how to humbly go about our way in the world: in humility preferring others more than ourselves.
I got to a place in prayer recently where I brought back some memories of childhood and saw myself for the monster I was. It was really frightening. I get this, but only fleetingly. This treatise on the darkness is really showing me things I had never even thought about “going deeper” and “walking closer”.
Having put all my thoughts together in your comments column here helps too. Thanks!
Such good comments here. Methinks you really ought to make them a blog post. They give me lots of good reminder and food for thought, and I’m sure they’d do that for your other readers, too. So true that we need to be careful not to be seeking and loving feelings we can hope to get via worship, prayer, etc. And how penitence can become pride, even as it masquerades as humility! Sometimes we are exercising the greatest faith by hanging tight in trust and obedience when we *feel* the least. Thanks, and God bless!
Last summer I did a series of posts on the fruit of the Spirit. We simply cannot exhibit any of the fruit unless we cling to the vine.
I will have to look for your posts on the fruit of the Spirit. So true. It IS, after all, the fruit OF THE SPIRIT, the fruit of the vine. Thanks and God bless.
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