“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love. I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” –I Corinthians 13:1-7
The past few years I’ve been constructing an elaborate suit of fig leaves leaf by leaf. Every time I face an insecurity or a challenge, I find a way to “deal” with it on my own. Vanity. Leaf. Pride. Leaf. Jealousy. Leaf. I’ve built up so many ways of dealing with my shame and sin that I’ve covered myself in this shoddy, temporary construction, using it to hide from God and His plans for me.
But in running from God, I run from who He is. Which means I get further away from the Holy Spirit and true Love.
For the past year, I’ve been meditating on 1 Corinthians 13. You know, the “love” chapter. The one read at every wedding ever. “Love is patient, love is kind…” That one. When I read that chapter, I realized that I have lost that in my life. All the fruits of the spirit? Yeah, I’m bankrupt. I’m that clanging gong, the “nothing” the chapter speaks of who gives away everything they own but without a spirit of Love. So I set out to try to rectify that. On my own. I mean, sure, I prayed about it. But I part-timed church. I part-timed community. In essence, I part-timed God. That never works.
I think I figured if I started volunteering and reading “Christian” books and the Bible more and stuff like that, I could “find” the love I was missing and magically it’d appear. Because somehow I could make God appear in my life. I could choose Him and be in control of how He came into my life. I’d pray for feeling, pray for discernment, for wisdom, for more love. But… nothing. Just…more clanging, more empty actions, more poverty. Not to say God couldn’t use my actions in the lives of the people I was serving, but I wasn’t going to “get” anything out of it.
And then, this Christmas, I ran into an old friend who seemed to drip love. Not niceness. Not politeness. Just… love. He was open and fearlessly giving. My spirit recognized its old self – the person I’d lost years ago when I started constructing that fig leaf suit. I saw God’s heart in someone else, and it was amazing.
That one interaction sparked a desire for change in me. I didn’t want to be the person who drank because she thought she had to… who wanted to party because it was what I was “supposed” to do… who was super trendy because people would like me more… who cared about the appearance of things more than the heart of things. I wanted to be real, honest, and stripped down. And I wanted that love.
Since then, I took a chance on God. I finally sought the community and the friendships God wanted for me back in college. I took a leap of faith and showed up at church – regularly. I stopped drinking for a while, in faith. I made a conscious choice to seek out other believers, to find this heart that I was missing. To make myself known at church. To open myself up and become vulnerable. And God’s met me at every turn. He’s never let me down.
I’m still seeking that Love, and I’m not there, yet. But I know that I cannot get that love on my own. I can’t just make it appear in my life. I can’t be the great Love that Jesus was on my own. But as I submit parts of my life to Him, as King…as Protector… as Teacher… as Savior and Redeemer… I find hope and peace and kindness. I feel that love surrounding me. And if God is that love, I feel Him all around me, seeping into every aspect of my life. And it feels like coming back to life. It feels like resurrection.
Now, I feel like I’m at the beginning of an awesome journey. I’ve spent so many years sitting on the sidelines, contemplating the next best move, the motives behind my sin, and how to fix it. But Jesus said to follow. Just… walk. So I’m walking. And I pray that this time I don’t stop.