I have listened to many people talk about love over the years. Only recently has love begun making sense. As we grew up, we bought into the notion that love is a feeling of warmth in the heart and a perfect mutual relationship with equal input from both parties. We thought that with love for one another, we would never disagree or be at odds with people we loved. We assumed that love magically removed discord, hurt and pain by inputting softness and sweetness. So imagine our surprise when we fought the most with people we loved. How could that be?
Through my journey, I have listened and talked about love. Now I clearly see that I have missed many things. I discovered depths of truth I did not expect and great sadness in myself and others. I found many broken hearts like mine that needed healing hidden behind thick walls for protection. I realised that:
I cannot force someone to love me; people have a choice to reciprocate or not.
Love is not a feeling because feelings fade over time.
Love has to be modelled and taught because it is so complex.
Love is not limited; there is room for many people: family, friends, and community.
Love is different things to different people
Love never keeps silent
Today I can confidently say that love is a choice because everything about love is a CHOICE.
A choice to stay
A choice to leave
A choice to give
A choice to receive
A choice to share
A choice to care
A choice to rest
A choice to awaken
A choice to rise
A choice to sit
A choice to learn
A choice to grow
A choice to check-in
A choice to check on
A choice to hold
A choice to let go
A choice to speak up
A choice to keep quiet
A choice to follow
A choice to lead
A choice to protect
A choice to provide
A choice to submit
A choice to obey
A choice to follow in the footsteps of Christ
I still grapple with elements of love because I see new complexities daily. There are now shadows I had refused to deal with that I must now face. There are realities of life that demand confronting so I can share real depth with my generations. There are questions I face every day that need the honesty to overcome. I now know that if we do not talk about the things that confound us about love, we leave the next generation with a false view of life that can severely hamper their lives.
I can only say one thing, And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:13
I CHOOSE love daily, even though I don’t understand it fully.
Everything happens and works out for my good according to the plans and purposes of God and my living out my life. It is no longer enough to just be saved and going to heaven. Our lives must produce more of God every day or at least remain like him so that our walk would not be in vain.
As I write this, I am reminded of how everyone who did anything significant for God in scripture, had an encounter with God and changed permanently.
Abram became Abraham the father of nations and we are still his lineage. Sarai became Sarah, the mother of nations. Daniel and the three Hebrew boys were committed to their walk with God they could only be accused of sin aligned with their faith like when they prayed and who they obeyed. They were willing to lay their lives down for this God even if they couldn’t guarantee he would come through for them, and God showed up in full force.
Jeremiah believed in his calling and accepted it after the encounter in Jeremiah 1:1, and nothing remained the same. Ruth listened and acted in accordance with Naomi’s instructions, and she became part of the lineage of Christ. Rahab the prostitute identified the spies as spiritual men and stood in the gap for them providing cover and a way out for them and salvation for her whole family. She was also mentioned in the genealogy of Christ. Peter was transformed from a scared man who denied his Lord to the leader of the largest evangelism campaign ever seen in that day.
Saul had a transformational encounter on the road to Damascus that shifted him from a devout pharisee to a leading follower of Christ and the greatest missionary to the Gentiles in his day. Stephen was identified as an honourable man and given responsibilities that he did diligently until the day he was stoned. He did not flinch or run from the stoning rather held onto his love for God and the vision he saw of the heavens as they slew him.
Several times I have asked myself, why did they have such major transformations yet so many of us today seem to have more of a lip service commitment to God. We go through a spot or stretch of trouble, and we doubt the goodness of God yet no one, and I mean absolutely no one, who did anything of “maana” that is, worth, for God had it easy. I do not discount that sometimes life is hard, and the road is dark but surely, I say to myself, if Christ could be sweating blood and in distress when he was in Gethsemane praying, what makes me think I won’t have days like that?
I too struggle with the walk because there are parts of me that are still coming into alignment. I recently was having a period of feeling overwhelmed and as I went for a walk alone in the evening, I realised that I need to commit to simple daily actions and be consistent until that matter changed and the move to the next one. I realised that impatience and frustration will only bar me from becoming all I need to be because I must BECOME who he says I am before I can DO what he needs me to accomplish in His name.
Every time I thought about the haves and have nots, I would think about extremely rich people sipping champagne in their homes overlooking pristine green lawns just beyond their swimming pool. Or people living in leafy suburbs, who ever created that phrase, with two or more expensive cars in the drive, children in high end schools with trips abroad and holidays at exotic destinations. People living lives I envied.
It had always been clear that I did not belong to the haves and I needed to aspire to become one. We were taught to pursue possession and position with the intention of getting away from our roots of struggle and make a better life. This gave rise to clusters of things that would divide us into haves and have nots including education, place of origin, residence, type of home, tribe, languages spoken, place of work, position to name a few.
So imagine my surprise when my eyes begun to see another dimension.
In reality there will always be people who have more than me and those with less. There will always be something to aspire to, something to let go of, something to dream about and something to intentionally grow into. Unless I adjust my realities and perceptions I will always feel like a have not even when I have abundance with and within me.
We were raised to pursue recognition for power and influence but what if I already have so much more than I could ever dream? What if the things that cloud my vision is my world view? What if I need a different set of eyes and ears? It is quite simple…I must look at life from a place of gratitude and appreciation of what I already have. I must adopt a focus on tracking the good in my life will shift my focus and make me a better person to live with and be around.
I never thought I was a have until I realised I was.
It became apparent that I have many blessings that others don’t. Let me explain. If I have a roof over my head and a warm bed, I am a have. If my child can go to school every term with minimal stress, I am a have. If I can smile and celebrate life with people I love and appreciate, I am a have. If I still have a guaranteed job in this season, I am have. If I have peace of mind right now, I am most definitely a have.
If I have food on the table and water in my taps, I am a have. If I have hope for tomorrow and faith it will all work, I am a have. If I have a place to keep learning and growing, I am a have. If can take a holiday every once in a while, I am a have. If I have access to higher education when I need it, I am a have. If I have money to travel to and from work and other places I am a have. If I am loved deeply and truly, I am a have.
I am a have because I can get into a vehicle and travel to another county to work of visit friends, I don’t have to worry about my child being bored and hopeless because he is still able to access school and e-learning, my family is still together and adjusting well to spending so much time around each other.
Reality check: having isn’t about possessions, money or power.
Too often we are preoccupied with what we don’t have and spend our lives complaining about it yet we are in a good place. It is all about perspective and understanding. In Genesis the children of Israel were invited to live in Goshen and escape from the great famine God had predicted through Joseph. They came to fulfil the prophesy God gave in Gen 15:13 that they would be in captivity for four hundred and thirty years.
In Exodus we find them leaving Egypt in victory but later wandering the desert. They spent so much time complaining when Moses asked for their freedom and Pharaoh became obstinate. They spent even more time complaining about food and water in the dessert yet they were loaded with jewellery and fine linen. They were led by a pillar of light and cloud, they had manna provided every day and had the greatest signs and wonders of God provided for a whole people. They were in the sweet spot with God’s plan yet they complained and whined a lot.
They didn’t realise they are true haves…the one’s in God’s heart.
I must realise that I am a have because God loves me, created me for a reason and has given me a lot. I must understand that to him who much is given much is required so God has a big plan for me that I must rise into. There are places of growth in all of us to be fullness of the plan of God and I can only attain them if I stay close to him no matter what. I am a have because I have options and not because I have famous people around me.
As I look around and realise that I am a have because I cannot walk away from the plan of God. I am a have because the patterns of my life are building to a climax that must attain the will of God. I am a have because God has richly blessed me with life and love beyond measure.
Things come to a head when I must accept that I am a have then make my life count.
To think of myself as a have not changes my balance and sense of life and leads to complaining like the Israelites and we all know where that landed them. I must choose to be different and change my life and help others do the same. There are a few things that will make a lasting change to the state of my heart:
Acceptance: Appreciate what I have and have had in the past
Joy: Choose to be content with what I have and grateful what whatever else God is about to bring my way.
Speak out: Notice and stand up for those who have less and need an advocate.
Give: Find someone to share the bounty of my life with.
It is incredibly easy to hold on to people and things too tight to remedy for our inner turmoil.
Do you have relationships that are challenging or have failed because of being tight fisted? Do people in your life say you are clingy? Have you described someone as high maintenance and demanding? Have you been described as such? What could the cause of this be?
I spent time digging into my life and found that whenever I was feeling lost and lonely or I was dealing with difficult things I had a few default responses. I would hold on tightly to the people around me and use them to validate my feelings; I would pretend to be okay but inside there is a war raging driven by anger and sadness because people couldn’t see my pain; I would stand in the corner terrified by my life and expect people to see I wasn’t okay so they would come and ask. How did I expect that to happen if I didn’t speak up?
I was stunned to realise that I wanted my people to be mine and no one else’s.
I wanted monopoly over their lives and attention. I wanted them to drop everything and come to listen to me regardless of where they are. I wanted them to answer my calls and messages immediately even during work hours. I wanted them to just know internally when I wasn’t ok and o know the actual thing that was ailing me. I wanted to be the focus of the lives around me that were core to my survival.
In time I had to realise that no one can be forced to be around me nomatter how much they say they love me and no one can really understand me unless they have an interest in doing so and have a divine instruction and revelation to stay around. Why? We are all special and not everyone is built to live and deal with us. There is a specific core. I also realised that this kind of connection is a two way street so I wanted their attention and devotion I needed to be willing to return the same attention and devotion.
I remember telling a friend, and I may have said it here, everyone in my life is categorised.
The journey to wellness and balance demanded a shift to a more realistic view of me and life. Everyone has a place and each place as a sense of expectancy to a certain end. It means that those in the inner circle have greater access to my inner sanctum and can ask questions and demand accountability. The further out one gets the less access they have to personal information. Why? Not everyone needs to know and not everyone can handle the inside of me. Sounds simple enough no?
My people and I can read each other from a distance, from the tone of a message or unction in the spirit. The part that really fascinates me is how deep the freedom to call one another out goes. There is little we can’t talk about and lots of strength we share one to another. We are driven to see each other become better people so where there is foolish we address it, sadness we assess and engage it, challenges we resolve them, joy we celebrate loud, long and hard.
The caution though, is to remain an individual even as part of the tribe.
Sometimes, when the journey has been long and arduous, it is easy to lean into people so much that they become the ones living our lives for us and directing every step. This isn’t healthy. Pillars are important to a building but they aren’t the whole structure and the same applies to our people. It became a stark reality that I needed to find and make space within and around me for myself and my people to feel free to be away and be confident that they will come back and the experience would make us stronger.
It has been quite a learning to curve to understand and accept that my people have friends and support pillars outside me and I cannot change that. In fact, these outside engagements could be the key to making our connection deeper. Even harder was the ability to give them the freedom to not only be away, but also to be silent even for months on end trusting that when they resurface we will be able to reconnect. (The silence for months is my current lesson…wah!!!) This applies to friendships, family connections and even marriages. So often we think that unless we do everything together in marriage we aren’t a unit now I know that to be rather false.
I found that, having and pursuing personal interests on one’s own adds incredible depth and variety.
It has been hard to realise that I may not know everything about every member of my tribe, but I must be grateful I at least know most of the things. The thing that gave me the most freedom was the realisation that these other friendships and interactions add so many dimensions to our connection through diverse experiences, interactions, ideas and expressions.
It also dawned in time that if I want to rise as an individual who is part of a strong tribe, there are people in my tribe who want the same. Could I be the one holding them back by my application of behaviour, culture and traditions that are archaic and non-beneficial? As I have interacted with more and more young people, I also realised that there are things we are the older generation see as the bedrock of relational stability that mean nothing to them because they don’t have the same social context as we do. This forced me to think through finding ways to connect with people around what is important to them and show them what is important to me.
So I say love deeply, connect honestly but hold loosely.
Holding loosely demands that I deal with the fear, anxiety and pain within me that demands I have certain people and conditions around me for stability. Holding loosely means I must address and resolve the internal sources of uncertainty that make me feel imbalanced. Holding loosely means I trust God to know and orchestrate the right elements for my growth and rise. Holding loosely means I have to trust that the value I give to my tribe is enough to keep them coming back. Holding loosely means that when a member of the tribe needs to leave, I can allow them that privilege without guilt trips and fear.
Holding loosely means that I can admit when I need help and find it even if it means looking for it externally. Holding loosely means I take responsibility for my inner state and do all I can to resolve the challenges and build strength. Holding loosely means I love, accept and forgive me first then share the same grace to my tribe and the rest of the world. Holding loosely means I am can forgive and move on even if the other party isn’t exactly repentant because forgiveness is for me. Holding loosely is letting go of the pain and learning to live without expectation but full of expectancy. Holding loosely is learnt over time and gives freedom to love oneself and grow into the most beautiful version of myself.