You know I believe in loving hard; I keep that no secret. Love with every ounce of your being and give yourself over to be love.
But what about when love...is hard?
There are, at any given point in our lives, at least a handful of people we've crossed off our love list for one reason or another. There are opportunities that come up, and something about them pings us in the heart and it drains us until we feel like we've got nothing at all to give, least of all love. We can look around us and conclude, "I don't even like all these people. Today is not a day for love."
Yet, love is His greatest command. It is how people come to see Jesus with skin on, when we choose to love. You want to be Jesus, don't you? (I know, right up until Golgotha...or the pet peeve of a person across the room...and then you're out. Right?)
People need love. At the precise moment that you don't feel like you've got any to give them, that is when you both need it most. As much as we feel otherwise, the problem with love is never the unlovable; what makes love a problem is the unloving.
Certain people are just plain tough to deal with. We all have them. Friends. Family. Enemies. Frenemies. It's easy to excuse ourselves, to find some reason why we shouldn't owe them love. We grumble and mumble and fume within ourselves about the way they just get under our skin, and we decide we can't - and don't want to and don't have to - love them. To cover it with holy words and coat it in a lesson, we smugly proclaim, "You reap what you sow."
Let's quote another verse, instead: Love. Love your God. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies.
And love is rarely easy. Jesus said we could all love those who love us, but how would that be anything at all? Even the heathens do that. If we profess to know Jesus, then we love everybody. And it's hard. And sometimes, it's so hard that it looks like work.
It is work. When we choose to love, love is working. Not only in the lives of those we choose to love, but in the lives of we who choose to be loving.
Listen, the only reason we get so protective of our love is because we've all been stung. Something in the love-needing stings something in us, some hurt that hasn't healed. Maybe you feel like they are ungrateful or just using you. That's merely touching a place in your heart that's hungry or that fears being emptied. It's stinging that place that feels like it's giving everything it's got and not getting any return. Maybe it's someone who, in a time when the tables were turned, had no love for you. That's just opening a wound of loneliness or abandonment that hasn't been healed. Maybe it's someone who has never given anything to anyone and never even uttered a simple thank you. That's touching that place in you that longs for recognition, for someone to notice what you're giving and acknowledge your contribution to the world.
Every tough choice to love can be traced back to the wounded heart of he or she who must choose to be loving. That's all that's stopping us.
How, then, do we love?
We choose to love and let love work in us. We open our hearts to the pain and the hurt and the grief they must experience at love lost, love abandoned in a less-than-love world. We find a way to take our lovesick hearts to the well of the holy remedy: to Love itself. Because if we're waiting around for the world to sufficiently love us before we give any back, it's going to be a long wait in a loveless world with a naked Jesus running around looking for some skin to put on. And soon, nobody's gonna know what love is.
We have to go back to Love itself, to Love personified in this Man, Jesus, and in our Creator God. We have to lay our wounded hearts before them and let them answer the emptiness that pains our love. We have to know that when we fear being emptied, He is the one to fill us up. When we felt alone or abandoned, He still was here. When nobody seems to notice what our love means anyway, He does. Whatever woundedness the mirror of the unlovable reveals to us, it is our responsibility to take that to Love and place that in Him so that we can choose to be loving.
When we do, it's hard to believe what happens. Love. changes. everything. And everyone. It softens the heart of the unlovable. It heals the wounds of the loving. It gives Jesus some skin in the world, lets them know what He looks like in flesh and blood. And lets you - the loving - know what it's like to get Jesus under your skin. It's a win-win-win-win proposition.
Life gives each of us countless opportunities to make a tough love decision. Choose to love hard...even when love is hard.
Who needs your love today?