Valentine’s day is upon us and regardless of your feelings on the day, one can’t help but think on love. I myself fall into the camp that views Valentines as an over commercialized day that is the black Friday for Hallmark, flower companies and chocolate handlers. Even though my husband always goes out of his way to show his love for me, the reality is, at this point in my life, I have spent more years single on Valentines then I have with someone. Perhaps that contributes to a more cynical view of the day. Regardless, I do enjoy the after V-day sales!
After V-day inevitably comes all the questions and comparison games, what did your love get for you? As though the measure of someone’s love is on the number of roses you received or the perfectly curated Instagram photo of all your gifts. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those things. I love flowers and chocolate just as much as the next person and I am happy for you if that is how love is showered upon you. But love based on performance is often not an indicator of true love.
We live in a world dominated by numbers. How many followers you have on social media. How many views a Youtube video has had. How many “likes” a picture received that you posted. From house keeping to nursing to top executives, our over all performance, for the most part, is based on numbers. We have year end reviews and our salary is based on those reviews. If you want a raise or bonus, you will probably work harder to improve your performance to get that. The message we receive is performance = worth. Analytics and data are everywhere we look, breath, think and feel and can easily contribute to our feeling of worthiness, if we let it.
I am a people pleaser and recovering perfectionist. For years I spent chasing love based on performance and running from the only love that isn’t. Thoughts filled my mind such as if I could get to a certain weight then someone would surely fall in love with me. If I could be like the other girls who I saw that seemed to have what I considered at the time “true love” then surely it would happen for me. If I could do everything “the right way” then surely I would be accepted. All the while I was running from the love right before me. A love that transcends time, money, and performance, the love of God. I have tested His love, ran from it, been angry at it. But I can tell you this, no matter how far you try to run, no matter the suits of armor you try to put on to protect yourself, it will always find you.
The answer to it is, how you chose to allow this love to consume you.
Redemptive love is often not too pretty. There are hurts to work through. Mindsets to over come. You have to pray for a different way to see yourself and people. It is easy to allow the hurts of yesterday to disable you from experiencing the true love that awaits.
We also live in a messy fallen world. One of the thoughts I had to overcome when I found my way back to God was the lie that I will never be good enough. And to be honest, there are days I still struggle with this. I will never be like so and so because they never left God and did things “the right way.” They appeared to be perfect and in my mind I thought if I looked perfect then surely my brokenness wouldn’t be as evident.
Often times the church, in our own humanity, does celebrate this perfectness more than it does the messiness. Because who wants to see messy? We want to see the picture of perfect families sitting on a pew. We want to see the picture of the perfect couple on Facebook appearing to live life to the fullest. It’s hard to see the newly divorcee who hasn’t seen their kids in a few weeks and is struggling to figure life out. We want to wave our magic wand and fix it to match the picture in our head of what we think their life should look like and maybe that’s our issue. Rather than trying to be in control and trying to fix everything, we just need to love people right where they are at, regardless of their past and let God handle it.
After my husband and I got engaged we went through some hurtful events based on decisions / situations that had occurred in our past. Things we thought were under the blood of Jesus. I will not go into details of what happened, but please note that I have prayed through this and no longer harbor hard feelings. However, there was a lesson through the hurt that God wanted to teach me about His love.
Prior to getting engaged I had spent the previous 6 years working hard to bring my life in accordance with God’s word. I was heavily involved in church, and looking back, while I did not realize it at the time, I realize I somehow equated my performance to gaining me acceptance. Yes, God did do a tremendous work in my life but I also unknowingly held the belief that if I looked and played the part enough then I would be accepted. After getting engaged, it felt as though my dedication and performance was nothing but my past seemed to matter a whole bunch. A past I had tried so hard to protect myself from so it didn’t come to haunt me again. The events of our engagement news played out in a hurtful way. I cried many tears. I had to crawl my way back to finding God and His love while simultaneously planning a wedding and enjoying one of the happiest moments of my life. Having become an expert at shielding myself from hurts that happened through the church when I was younger, I thought I was past all this. Turns out I wasn’t. Hurts I had learned to build barriers around so I thought no one would ever hurt me again. You can change the players in the game, but until I learned the strategy to win, (which turns out, is not based on my own ability) if I did not learn to let God’s true love in, I was the only one who was going to keep allowing myself to lose and get hurt. It was a viscous cycle that God was so desperately trying to rescue me from. While I had been on the right track to find His love, I was still viewing it through the wrong lens. I was viewing it through the lens of my personal performance.
Now after 4 years of marriage, of working through past hurts, of allowing the armor I had so carefully put on to be disarmed, I can say I am more in line with God’s love. That situation not only changed my view of God’s love but also gave me a different lens through which to see people. I strive for kindness now more so than I ever have before.
I am not saying not to have convictions or standards. What I am saying is to have love in how you implement what you believe. If you cannot show love to someone who is trying, but doesn’t fit into the box that you created in your head of what it should look like, then all of your testimony and outward appearance is for nothing.
While I would like to think this is some new phenomenon that I experienced, I was reminded in my daily Bible reading, currently in the book of Romans, that God knew this was going to be an issue from the start. The tendency to focus on one self and the law versus on the power to love and overcome that resides within us from God himself. In essence it was a form of rebellion as I was bringing just as much hurt on myself, if not more, by trying to protect my own self through the mentality of performance based love rather than surrendering it over to God and letting Him take control.
From the Message Bible Romans 8: 5 – 6
” Those who think they can do it on their own, end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them – living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God.”
I want to live in the spacious free life God has intended for each of us in His unending, unwavering love. Not making it all about me, my hurts that I so desperately hung onto and the selfish ambitions of my flesh.
I leave you with this quote from Bob Goff I saw this week on Instagram….
“Our problem following Jesus is we’re often trying to be a better version of us, rather than a more accurate reflection of Him.”
Chose love. Chose kindness. Chose a caring heart. Speak Life into situations. They always win over numbers!!!
Happy Valentine’s Day!