First off, Happy Easter everyone! This is the day that we remember our Lord who saved us. The day that Jesus was resurrected. The day that He saved us all.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead..” 1 Peter 1:3
I attended the sunrise service at my church today. It was beautiful waking up to the sunrise and standing among fellow believers as we praised God for the sacrifice of His Son so long ago. So many centuries ago, but God was with us then and has been with us ever since and never will He leave us.
On my way home, I passed a pond, one that I pass at least three times a week, so to me it’s not anything special. But this morning I glanced over and the whole thing had a layer of moving fog on top of it. At first I was like, cool the water’s warmer than the air, making some steam, that’s pretty sweet. I kept driving but was compelled to turn the car around and stop on the side of the road to enjoy this early Easter morning gift that God gave me. I could see Him so clearly on that pond. There are just some things that He puts in front of you that you have no doubt are His way of just brightening your day and showing you a little of Himself.
It was a peaceful day for the most part. My good friend and I also had a great conversation over some bagels, which by the end I was in greater understanding of my purpose and how God is using me. When in doubt, God aways shows me the light and helps to affirm that though I may feel lost sometimes, at that moment I am on the right path (or the opposite, I need to get myself back on the right one, haha).
But then later this evening, my world was turned upside down again. My family and I were on our way back from Easter dinner and out of nowhere and in the most unexpected place possible, I saw the person that I moved to my current city to avoid seeing; to try to bring some healing into my life. God has done so much the past year to help me to move on and heal my from the inside out. But for the second time, I have had unexplained times where I have seen this person (from afar – they don’t see me, I just see them and am far enough away that we couldn’t possibly speak) The first time was in a crowd of at least a thousand people. Today, it was on a median strip 5 minutes from my house, in my city!! I have tried to fathom what possible reason there would be to have been put through that pain again, but I have come to the conclusion that there is not other reason but an attack from Satan. And on what better day for him to try to mess with our lives but on Easter.
Obviously I know that you do not know the story behind why all of this is so painful, and it does not need to be told. But my point is that we need to be aware of when God is putting a challenge in front of us (which very well may be painful) or if it is an attack from Satan. God puts us in painful situations but He works all things for our good. I don’t know for sure if this is what I think it is. But for now, I know that there is no explanation that I have for the 5 minute window that I happened to be driving by that median and the time that this person was standing there for me to see. Coincidence? I don’t believe that.
Satan may try to break me down but I will recognize that he is out to get me. When things with God become closer, Satan is going to do whatever it takes to drag you away again. We have to be ready.
Have you ever heard the expression “you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family”? Sometimes the hardest people to love in life are our own family members. It takes a great deal of patience, understanding and forgiveness to love someone who you may not agree with or just plain drives you crazy.
I have been blessed with a loving family. Loving parents who would trade the world for my happiness. I do feel close to my family. I feel like I can tell them anything and they know that I am there to listen to anything that they are going through. But I still struggle to love them the right way. What is the right way? I wish that I knew because so many times I know that I fail. I can go to work all day, listen to and love my co-workes, love my friends, love the strangers in the grocery store, but when it comes to my own family, I have a really hard time. Sound familiar to anyone?
Since going to college, being away from home for 5 years and now living at home again, there have been major changes. I have changed a lot and it seems that life at home has stayed the same in a lot of ways. My family wasn’t with me through all the changes I went through. Yes, they heard about a lot of them, but when you start to grow into who you are, apart from your parents, it’s hard to be understood sometimes (or most of the time). I find myself getting mad at my parents a lot when they don’t see things the way that I do. When they just “don’t get it”. I get frustrated and have started to just not even bring certain topics up. I feel like 90% of our conversations turn into some kind of disagreement.
Lately I’ve been stepping back and asking myself, “am I loving my family or am I trying to force on them what I think they should be?” (which is honestly what I get mad at them for). When I try to change their opinions about things, it is because I love them and want them to see life the way that I do, in a way that will change theirs for the better and help them to have the hope that I now have in God. BUT that’s not love. Love doesn’t try to change people. Love loves. Period.
Let me just stop for a second to give you the definition of love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4″
So how can we love people better? How can we love our families better? I’ve talked to so many people in the past couple years who are seeking so hard after God and want to love everyone and just want to serve to the best of their ability. But…I ask them about their families and almost all of them are purposely trying to be as far away as possible and “don’t want to deal with that”, they say. “My family is just too dysfunctional” “They just don’t understand me or my beliefs and I’m tired of trying to make them understand.” These are things I hear from so many Christians.
It makes me start thinking. God calls us into uncomfortable places and what better way to teach us how to love than with our own families? What better way to teach us patience? We can’t just jump ship when the going gets too tough. We will constantly be in search of the next thing to keep us afloat. I get so frustrated seeing this happen in so many lives. And of course in my own.
Our families need our love just as much or more than anyone else. I’m not saying we’re all called to dedicate our lives to ministering to our families but I do think that we should take just a little more time to think about what loving them really looks like. I pray every day about how I can better love my family. Not just as a whole, but as individuals. Sometimes that may mean just listening. And instead of jumping to our own defense every time something is said that we don’t agree with we can stop and just let God handle it (because he will). Our families are not our projects. And I know a lot of us have a lot more broken families. In the midst of darkness there is light. And we can help to bring that light out if we just learn to love people in the right ways; to see them for who they are and not what we want them to be. Not everything is going to be comfortable and we can’t run to the next comfy couch when this one gets too hard. That couch will eventually lose it’s softness and we will have to find another one. (Maybe a bad analogy but you get the point!)
One more thing to think about: We don’t have to worry about finishing the plan or even being there to see the best part. We are just called to love. And to trust that God has the rest.
Sometimes I wonder what we think we are really here for. If it is not to give others the care and love that they deserve, what else is there? We are to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. In the love that we have for God, and the love that He pours into us everyday, it is easy to love others. Loving another human being is not a burden or a “job”, it is something we should want to do because we recognize the ways that God loves us. God loves us despite our imperfections, our hurts and the things we’ve done to ourselves and other people. Forgiveness is the most freeing gift we can ever be given. And everyone needs it.
Now I do want to set one thing straight though.. So many people that I have talked to think that Christians view non-Christians as lost souls who just do everything wrong and and won’t ever be right until they confess that they are sinners. Now that just sounds demeaning (in my opinion). Yes, we all need forgiveness, unless you think you’re perfect and i’m pretty sure nobody would raise their hand and say that they were. We need God’s forgiveness for many reasons. For one, not to go crazy. Human beings strive for perfection, whether we think we do or not. We want to be liked, we want to be loved, we want to be taken seriously, we want to be respected, we want to do what we enjoy and enjoy doing what we do. Who doesn’t? But to be honest, do we get what we want in these ways all the time? I know that I don’t. I do know that if I didn’t have God, I would be so hung up on trying to find these things (and failing) that I would start to wonder what life is all about. You have to realize that as much as you deserve these things and as much as you strive to find them and think that you are doing all that you can to achieve them, you will fail. It’s just as simple as that. I am not at ll trying to be pessimistic, in fact I am trying to show you the complete opposite. God knew we were gonna fail. He knows we need Him. Despite what we think we need in life, what we think will make us happy, God knows a heck of a lot better than we do. And He totally shows us. We just have to learn how to see Him and learn how to really listen!
So, we all know that our deepest desire is to be loved and accepted. That’s what God wants for us too. He does love and accept us, not matter what. But it is still our duty to love and accept other people; to care for them despite what we think. If someone is nasty to me, I don’t walk away, I have learned to see their hurt and it only draws me closer. People need love and sometimes they don’t realize how they need it. It’s up to us to love them the way that they need to be loved (And I don’t mean be all mushy). I mean really listen to them and give them what they need (not want) but need. So many people just need to be listened to. That’s a way to love them. Don’t you want to be listened to?
I get frustrated when this care and love are not returned, which in many cases it’s not. But you know, that’s okay. I know God provides more than enough love for me (and all people) and I can rest in that. I can stop fighting human nature and just let God love me. He calls me to love other people. He never said it would be easy. He said there would be suffering involved. But through the suffering, there is joy. The joy in giving of yourself to help someone else see the world in a different light, in God’s light.
This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to visit one of my favorite places. God blessed me with a little bit of surf, awesome friends and amazing weather for November! It was like a mini-vacation. God promised to transform us through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:12) and sometimes He does that best when we simply, Be still and know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10) These were some of the last words that my grandmother ever spoke to me before she passed away about 3 years ago. She knew how much I ran around trying to find meaning and never just slowing down to just know God. Back then, I didn’t fully comprehend those words, and I guess I still haven’t completely because God keeps showing me new ways of understanding this. They sound so simple but can teach you so much!
I flipped open my Bible this weekend and happened to look right at that verse again. Even when I think I’m “stilling” myself, God tells me again. haha.