Love deeper

I spent a few days on a tall hill, a mountain in Arkansas, appropriately named Mt. Moriah. It’s the third year in a row that my dearest sisters in Christ and mentors and I have made the trek, and each time we have been blessed with life-changing lessons. This year was no different. Some of us met discipline, and some of us expected discipline but received grace.

It was in the midst of a rain storm on the top of the hill when grace met me. I was desperate. I was there to lay my life on the altar of sacrifice, to see His face and to walk away dead but alive. I sat in the middle of the circle, begging Him to rid me of myself, to show me my sins, and to scold me for my failures. Only He was silent. If I could put the moment into words, we had a staring contest. Both of us looking at this altar and neither of us moving, only waiting for the other to. Finally I made a spiritual rush, took my place, laid out on a table, arms spread wide, fully submitted, waiting for lightening. It didn’t come. If God would “tsk” at us, this was that moment, and in my heart I heard three words, “It is finished.”

I sat up and listened.

“I love you, Leslie. You don’t have to get it to receive it. You don’t have to understand it, but you have to accept it.” I imagined Him looking me in the eyes as the lesson continued, “You spend so much time apologizing for your failures, and pointing out your flaws to Me when you don’t really get that I don’t see you through those things. You wait for my wrath, the same bitter cup of wrath and judgment that my Son drank in for you. He drained that cup. It’s empty. My justice was satisfied.”

I swallowed these Truths, and listened for more.

I am love. And, I love. Everyone. It’s hard for you to fathom, but I have just as much love for you as I do the most despicable ofcreation. I love the murders, the pedaphiles, the adulterers, the thieves, and I long for them to know this!”

I considered that as I recalled the scripture verse in Ephesians: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

How wide: You can’t escape it. We try. We cling to a million different things in the hopes that they will meet our needs, but they don’t and as far as we run, we find ourselves surrounded by His love.

How long: There is no breaking point. God doesn’t say, “I love you to this point and then you are on your own.” Our strings break, our patience thins, but His love goes on and on and on.

How high: You can’t attain it. There is not a bit of good that you can do that earns His love. It’s like building a tower, no matter how high you go, no matter how many materials you possess, you aren’t going to reach the end of it.

How deep: I think this is where we lose sight of His character most. We forget that His love can reach beyond any pit we find ourselves in. We think He can’t possibly want anything to do with us when we are struggling, tempted, or publically condemned. Or, more likely, we think He won’t redeem the greatest sin, the deepest obsession, the darkest evil. We doubt His love for the least of these. We gloss over passages that mention that Jesus spent His time with the “worst of sinners.” In our heads, we imagine tax-collectors and prostitutes, but it’s also highly likely they were murders and thieves, pedaphiles and molesters. I imagine with one look into His eyes, they were undone. His love was penetrable. He didn’t have to speak their sin, they knew who and what they were. He didn’t have to point them out because they were already pariahs. And still, His love reached deeper than that.

It’s hard for us to imagine. We stand in pride and say “Look at me. I am worthy before God because… “ and we rattle off a list of accomplishments, and God says, “So? I mean really, thanks for that, but if you didn’t do it for love, I’d rather you not do it at all.”

Love. There is a reason why it’s the greatest commandment and the greatest gift. When we set our selves free to love, we are free to live – without condemnation, without guilt, and without shame. When we spend more time thinking about what we can do for others instead of what we’d like them to do for us, then we really get the kind of love He is talking about. When you can look with the same endearing smile at the man that smells of urine and has no teeth as you can at the sweetest most innocent child, then I think we might be feeling it. When you can speak as encouragingly to the single mom stripper as you can to the stay at home mom, then you might be expressing His love.

I challenge you. Love deeper. Because, whether we get it or not, love is what it is all about. Nothing else we do matters, if we aren’t first, His love.

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All out love

One of the most memorable stories in Heidi Baker’s book, Compelled by Love, took place in London. I say ONE of the MOST memorable because the book is filled with amazing stories of faith and love and healing! But this story that I am about to relate…to use a phrase my college friend uses, rocked my face off!

Heidi is a passionate, loving soul. I haven’t met her, but when you read her words you hear her heart and you know. You feel amazing love from her. Her love for others led her to London at 17. Just saved a couple of years she found herself in London wanting to lead others to this wonderful Savior that as she says “ruined” her. That’s not a bad thing. I know what she means. When you have felt and experienced that amazing all-consuming passionate love from the Lover of your soul…you are ruined. Nothing else will ever measure up, no other love will take your breath away, and no human can compare.

In London she met a girl that was more like a man -strong and gruff, masculine and angry. She had been sexually abused and mistreated in a horrible homelife. She had run away but the past was still haunting her and taunting her. She would have none of Heidi’s love. She made that clear.

She also met a man, a drunk. He was hopeless and depressed. He didn’t want what Heidi was pushing. He was fine on his own, Jesus didn’t want him anyway. Reluctantly, Heidi realized that as much as she wanted to, she couldn’t drag them to forgiveness and grace and love…they had to make that choice. She prayed they would.

One night Heidi decided to try to talk to the girl one more time, but whatever she said or didn’t say set her off! They were in the stairwell of the apartment that they were living in and she hit her. Heidi said, “I love you.” She hit her again, and again through the pain Heidi said, “I love you.” Anger welled up and pain was unleashed and the girl was pummeling her, beating her with every lash of memory into her face. The whole time, through tears and confusion and severe pain, Heidi kept saying “I love you!” The man, drinking on his stoop, was privy to this whole scene. Awestruck he was unable to move as he watched her being beaten to death. Before it was too late, he yelled and frightened the girl off. He picked up Heidi, carried her to his apartment, and nursed her back to health. Her love for the girl was more than he could stand, and suddenly he understood that it wasn’t her love but Christ’s love in and through her! He wanted that Savior! He needed that Savior! And he found Him.

Heidi then says that weeks of recovery went by, and then one day there is a knock at the door, it is the girl. In her hands, she carried some flowers, and with tears she apologized and wanted to know more about this Jesus.

That is LOVE. All out love – that Paul talks about. He says in Romans 12:9-10 that our love for one another should be an all out love! Not holding back but giving all we have…the kind of love that the World cannot understand…the kind of love that is beyond comprehension or explanation…the kind of love that will allow someone to beat you to the point of death while you whisper, “I love you.” Irrational, crazy love…the kind of love that will take on the penalty for sins He never committed… that will allow Himself to be crucified on a cross a symbol of shame, reserved for the worst of criminals…that will speak through a deformed face as blood drips from His face, “Father forgive them.”

All out love.

That’s what He asks…that’s what it’s all about…that’s what we should be all about. Are you? Because I want to be, and I won’t stop until I am.