“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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.”1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
“Love like there’s no tomorrow, and if tomorrow comes, love again.”Max Lucado
I want you to read that Bible verse again. But this time, I want you to insert your name where it says ‘love’ or ‘it’. It’ll sound something like this – “_____ is patient, _____ is kind. _____ does not envy, _____ does not boast, _____ is not proud. _____ does not dishonor others, _____ is not self-seeking, _____ is not easily angered, _____ keeps no record of wrongs. _____ does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. _____ always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” How does that sound? Do you recognize the words you’re saying as pertaining to you or do they sound foreign? I hope for your sake you recognize the woman you’re reading about as yourself. But if you’re at all anything like me, a sinner, a selfish human, a 21 year old hormonal girl, then you might not even recognize who you’re talking about.
God recently popped me in the back of the head and put me in my place. And wow oh wow did he shake me down to my core. For over 3 years now, I’ve worn a WWJD bracelet on my wrist. And for about a year, I’ve worn the response to WWJD as a second bracelet on my arm. The response is simple – HWLF. He would love first. Wow. That hits home. You would think that by now I would know what Jesus would do and I’d follow in his footsteps and do it, too! But if I’m being totally honest with y’all, I don’t love like Jesus. Like I mentioned just a few sentences back, the Lord seriously put me in my place recently. I thought I had been loving the people around me so hard. But I wasn’t. I was impatient. I was not kind; my words were definitely not kind. I was envious, I was boastful, and I was proud at times. I am sure I dishonored folks, I most definitely was self-seeking, I was angered pretty easily, and I did, unfortunately, keep records of wrongs. I typically don’t delight in evil, but I’m sure I did some of that, too. I was not protecting, not trusting, not hoping, and I was not persevering. In every single way, I was the opposite of love. I was listening to human Anna and her wants, and by doing that, I wasn’t loving the people around me. I thought I was, but the Lord shook me to show me the truth of the situation – I wasn’t being love. And the reason for that is because I was more filled of myself than I was filled of Jesus. If you read that verse but put Jesus’s name in each blank, it makes sense. Jesus is all of those things because Jesus IS love. On the contrary, humans aren’t love. We are selfish to the core. As humans, it’s hard to love others, but for Jesus, it comes naturally to Him because it is simply who He is. He cannot not love. Us humans on the other hand, it’s easy for us not to love. And unfortunately, speaking for myself, I’m not as loving as I should be most of the time.
This past month the Lord has shown me that I need to put aside my other desires and strive for love. I’ve had to ask the Lord for a lot of help over the past month, but I truly, desperately, down to the core desire to love others like Jesus loves others. I know it is oh so difficult to put aside our selfish tendencies, to put aside our control, to put aside the desires for our lives, but in order to strive for love, you have to put aside everything not of love. It’s not easy, let me tell you! Even while writing this very blog, a friend hurt my feelings and instead of being patient and forgiving, I hurt her back. But because of this blog and the Lord’s conviction, I was able to catch myself and ask her for forgiveness. She didn’t mean to hurt my feelings. I know that because I know her character. Never the less, my feelings did get hurt and I hurt her from my hurt. I am so glad I was able to catch that before it ruined a good friendship. And I’m thankful she forgave me as well. Other than this one exception, over the past month I can tell you I have been more loving to those around me (and myself) than I’ve been in a very long time. Old habits are hard to break! But how did I make this change, you might ask? First Corinthians 13:4-7. I took a white board and wrote the verse on it with my name in love’s place. Every single morning before I leave my apartment, I read that verse with my name out loud. Every morning I tell myself that Anna is patient and Anna is kind. I tell myself that Anna does not envy nor does she boast and she will not be proud today. Anna does not dishonor others and she does NOT self-seek, instead she looks to the needs of those around her. I tell myself that I will be slow to anger today and if someone does me wrong, I will not keep records. Today, Anna will not delight in evil, but will rejoice with the truth. She will protect, trust, hope, and persevere today. Anna is going to be love today. AND Y’ALL this has helped so much. I can’t tell you how much love I feel for others around me. I’m not seeking to love others simply to feel loved in return, like I used to do. Now, I seek to love others simply for their benefit. Telling myself these things really helps me embody these characteristics. Where I was quick to be impatient or to anger, whether that be in class, at work, or with friends, I am now (more) patient, (more) kind, and (more) gentle throughout these situations. And praise be to the Lord.
This isn’t a one time fix. That’s why I included the word ‘more’ in there. Every single day for the past 31 days, I’ve had to read that personalized verse to tell myself these things. Because I personalized that verse, I’m able to recall the things I am striving to be throughout the day. This doesn’t guarantee a 100% loving Anna throughout the day. No. I still get impatient & want to seek the things I need and want. BUT because I’m striving for love, I know that I must put away anything that contradicts that verse. I’ve been able to change my response to situations around me to be more loving. You can either respond to situations or react to situations. Reacting to situations is questionable. Reacting can either be good or bad. But responding to situations, that’s where the love is. I can’t control anyone or anything but myself. So knowing that, that’s what I focus on. If I can think about my response to a situation and respond in a love filled way, I’ve handled the situation the way Jesus would. And that is what striving for love is all about. I’ve read this Bible verse for years, probably thousands of times. But only a month ago did it hit me. In order to strive for love, you can’t just be one of those characteristics. You have to strive for them all. Does that sound impossible? It might. And that’s because it is… without God.
You and I can strive all day every day to be love, but unless we get the Lord involved, it won’t work. We will still be self-seeking, proud, impatient, and not hopeful. But if you ask the Lord to help you strive to be love, that’s where the real change occurs. Ask him to give you strength, give you patience, give you JESUS. If Jesus is already all of these characteristics (and more), doesn’t it make sense to not only seek the characteristics He is, but to seek HIM? I see striving for love as an equation. Maybe that’s the math lover in me, idk! But the equation is this: (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) + God = love. If you just read the Bible verse every morning, you’ll never fully be love. But at the same time if you ask the Lord to help you be love, but you don’t do anything practically, you’ll never fully be love, either. You must follow in the practical footsteps of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; You must, each day, practice the characteristics of love found in the verse. AND you must also lean on the Lord to help you in this process. Apart from God, nothing is possible.
And that’s something the Lord made clear to me (and is still revealing to me daily) throughout the past month. I can strive for love all I want, but if I don’t have both parts of the equation, I’ll never fully love the way I strive to love. Do you feel as if you are loving and it’s not being received? Do you feel as if you’re loving so hard and you’re not being loved back? Have you stopped loving someone because you felt like you ran out of love? Go back to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Remember that true love doesn’t love to receive love in return. It loves expecting nothing in return. True love perseveres through all the ups and downs of life. If you feel as if your love is running out, realign yourself. Just like I thought I was loving those around me even though I really wasn’t, check your equation. Are you loving with only half of the equation? If so, then you’ve got something to fix! Love loves like there’s no tomorrow, and if tomorrow comes, love loves again (paraphrased from Max Lucado). Remember that you cannot do anything on your own. To really strive for love, you need to have both parts of the equation. Which part are you missing? I was missing 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. I was asking the Lord for help, but I wasn’t doing anything about it. That’s where I failed. Now that I’ve applied practical steps to love in addition to asking the Lord for help, I am seeing a huge change in how I love those around me. And I am SO excited for where the Lord is going to take this love and who he is going to allow me to love on throughout this journey. Girl, put down all your selfish desires and strive for love, true love. I genuinely believe you will be so much happier. When you love expecting nothing in return, you can’t be disappointed. You will only be happy knowing that you’ve successfully loved those around you. Look back at the equation. Make sure that you’re applying the characteristics of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 AND asking the Lord for help. Then, and only then, can you truly love the way He asks us to love. And that kind of love is something special. Not only will you be a happy girl, but those around you will also be happier, too. Girl, strive for love. It’s so rewarding.
PS- Speaking of loving those around me, I’d like to ask that you please pray for an evangelism opportunity I have to witness to someone special. Please pray that God will soften her heart and she will be receptive to the message, that God will give me the words to speak with her, and that soon we will all have a new sister in Christ!