From the Inside of Love

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Love is a scary thing.
To love someone, whether it be your family, friends, significant other, or spouse, you have to be vulnerable. To re-quote Lewis, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” The more God gives me the capacity to love others and the more people He places in my life to love, the more I realize this… love hurts. Lewis was onto something.

On this side of Heaven, unconditional love does not exist. We can strive for it, but it will always be filtered through the fallen nature of our humanity. The brokenness will always remain while we are here on earth. The only way to stay safe from it is to shield yourself. The only way to keep from getting hurt is to build walls around your heart. The troubling thing about walls is the fact that they are two sided. When you begin to guard your love and build walls around your heart, not only are you keeping love out, you are impeding your ability to extend love. It becomes irredeemable. This is where vulnerability comes into play.

You have to be OK with the scars of your past. You have to be OK with your fears being exposed knowing that they are going to still love you when the ugliness shows. You have to be OK with the possibility of heartbreak. After all, if heartbreak didn’t exist, would we ever know what love truly is? Maybe, but it would be convoluted.

How much different would our experience with love be if we considered these things in the microcosm of Perfect Love that we display to each other in our everyday relationships?

Only careful evaluation and prayers for clarity will tell.

I’m reminded deeply of my conversion experience. When you take a man who is consumed with self-hatred, shame, and anger, it is impossible for him to experience any good emotion. Love becomes nullified in light of fear. That’s why our Perfect Savior leaves these words with us through John:

“…God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the Day of Judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.

You have to abandon fear and cling to the promise that Love exist to cast out fear, and God’s perfect love is not content with your fear. Fear has to do with punishment; love has to do with freedom.

I’m incredibly thankful that God abolished fear from being a controlling factor in my life.
It’s still a struggle, and much like many of you, I battle fear daily…
but His perfect love is casting it out. I hope to resonate this love out of the overflow of the Love of Christ. No matter what type of love it may be.

When we begin to change our perspective and see people from the inside of love, our relationships will begin to be less broken. When we anticipate great things instead of cowering in fear wondering what may be, and when we fight to be examples of the way we wish to be loved, the way we interact with others will begin to change. We’ll begin to look more like Jesus. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you a doormat. It does however free you from fear, and fear will make you its doormat. Fear will make you weak.

It took me a long time to trust Jesus. He broke me. He brought me to himself. He showed me what love is. He showed me how to love from His perspective. From the inside of love. I tasted that greatness. It both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. And I will never be the same. I will live of love. I will love others the way I want to be loved. I will love from the overflow of His redemption. I will do this till the day I die. And on that day, my prayer and hope is the legacy left behind will be one of someone who was not afraid to love well, love better, and display the Love of Jesus.

In everyday acquaintanceship, in friendships, in romantic relationships, in casual brushes with strangers, there is no such thing as an accidental encounter. His timing is perfect. But you must choose to love. You must choose to stop spending energy building walls and use that energy to build bridges. You have to choose to use that energy to love well.

As for me, I will build bridges not walls.

Choose freedom.
Abandon fear.
Leave it in the darkness,
Where it belongs.


Father,

Continue to draw me unto yourself. Breathe on me until my frame is knit to Your thought. Lift me until I see Your face and trust Your Almightiness without fear or insidious unbelief. Give me the ability to love others as you have loved me. May your freedom reign in this mortal body. May your perfect love continue to cast of fear.

Your Servant,

Matthew

 

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Is Dating Redeemable?

A few months ago I sat across from Ryan in a smoke filled room, the smell of subs and cookies wafting through the air. I nervously took a drink from my cup and he boldly (as usual) asked
“Well, you called this meeting. Who is she?”
Trying to be self-effacing and a little coy I told him
“Oh Ryan…there’s always SOMEONE… Besides, this is more about preventive maintenance than anything… Now what’s your advice?”
A sheepish grin came across his face as he gave me some solid advice on the ever elusive world of Christian dating.

I wrote Ryan earlier that week asking for advice and trusted counsel.
“When I meet a girl I want to pursue, how to I do that in a Godly manner?”
It boiled down to several items, but the most effective comment he made was “It’s not rocket science. Ask her on a date. Find out what she’s like in the context of community. Over everything else ask yourself; Is this someone I can multiply God’s Kingdom with.”

Is this someone I can multiply God’s Kingdom with? 

That thought had rarely crossed my mind. Countless other failed relationships went through my head as I fell into a state of remembrance.  How many of those relationships could have been saved or avoided had I asked myself that for even a second. (The temptation to feel regret was strong, but through all those relationships, I knew the will of God was being fulfilled in my life.) It really hit home and target a place in my life God has recently been peeling away at. The concept of longing. I don’t think I’ve ever asked myself this question, and I wonder how many of you have asked this question while seeking someone to date.

Is There Hope for the Hopeless Romantic?

I wrote previously on my tendency to be a hopeless romantic. A huge struggle for me over the past…well…since High School has been looking for emotional intimacy in relationships. Looking for someone to cure the brokenness in me. I longed for acceptance, assurance, and affirmation through dating relationships. But this outlook on dating never healed my brokenness, it only gave birth to more. Because of this I never really knew how to pursue or love a woman the way that I should and it ruined many countless relationships, but on a bigger note, I know I’m not alone in this battle.

Brokenness attracts brokenness, but juxtaposed to that is the fact that HOLINESS ATTRACTS HOLINESS. This is where I believe a lot of the stress comes from during the dating phase. We are all looking to be loved. We all have an inkling of the hopeless romantic in us, and we all want someone to do life with, after all, even God himself said “it is not good for man to be alone

But when it comes time to pursue, Men are clueless. and more recently than ever, I believe people in the Church are cluing in on this. They are beginning to see that well intended lovers of Jesus are clueless when it comes to pursuing a woman, or how to react when they themselves are being pursued by a man.

A helpful article came out by Marshall Segal on Desiring God titled When the Not Yet Married Meet. I highly recommend reading this article whether you are single or not. It’s incredibly encouraging content on Christian dating.

One of the best points Segal made went like this:

Look for clarity more than intimacy.

Just to wet your whistle a little bit, here is a snippit from his blog post:

The greatest danger of dating is giving parts of our hearts and lives to someone to whom we’re not married. It is a significant risk, and many, many men and women have deep and lasting wounds from relationships because a couple enjoyed emotional or physical closeness without a lasting, durable commitment. Cheap intimacy feels real for the moment, but you get what you pay for.

While the great prize in marriage is Christ-centered intimacy, the great prize in dating is Christ-centered clarity. Intimacy is safest in the context of marriage, and marriage is safest in the context of clarity. The purpose of our dating is determining whether the two of us should get married, so we should focus our effort there.

In our pursuit of clarity, we will undoubtedly develop intimacy, but we ought not do so too quickly or too naively. Be intentional and outspoken to one another that, as Christians, intimacy before marriage is dangerous, while clarity is unbelievably precious.

It is natural to want to be loved.
It is natural to want to feel valued.
it is natural to seek affirmation.

However, if you are seeking affirmation in a relationship, you are feeding into your broken nature. If we spent more energy pursuing clarity, perhaps we would see less brokenness in Christian dating.

But what does it mean to seek clarity in a dating relationship?
Ryan summed it up very well in the statement he mentioned earlier:

“Is this someone I can multiply God’s Kingdom with?”

If we pursued that thought rather than
“does this person make me feel validated/loved?”
Christian dating would be less broken.

Pursue clarity rather than intimacy. The rest will fall into place.

Single Followers of Jesus, can we begin to make this our goal when we start to pursue romantic relationships with our fellow believers?

Can we work together to redeem dating?

I’m eager to see what God does through this new phase of life and through the advice of smarter men than myself. I look forward to one day having a God glorifying dating relationship that turns into a God glorifying marriage.

Do you have any thoughts on the topic personally? I would love to hear them in the comment section below.


Helpful Resources:

When the Not Yet Married Meet : Dating to Display Jesus
Behind the Blog: Christian Dating

Taming a Romantic Heart

I am a bit of a hopeless romantic. I often find myself thinking about love and what it means. I don’t think that being a “hopeless romantic” is a bad thing, but there are times when I have to dial it back a good bit (anyone who knows me probably certainly knows this). I am easily captivated by beauty.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how much of my captivation is fueled by an appreciation of beauty, and how much is fueled by a desire to be loved. There is nothing wrong with attraction or the desire to be loved when kept in check. But these things can quickly cross over into the realm of idolatry.

I have to often step back and evaluate where I am in my relationship with Jesus when I feel lonely or when I find myself dreaming about the ideal relationship. All of these ideas come from a place of brokenness.

A major question that has been helpful in taming a romantic heart:

Is my longing to be loved overpowering the love that Christ has already poured out on me?

So, hopeless romantic Christians, Let’s take a step back together and evaluate where our concepts of love are coming from.

Are they worldly in nature?

Are they based off of our own ideal relationships?

Is what we’re longing for realistic?

Are we looking for the perfect man or woman to give us the kind of love that Christ can only give?

After that quick heart check, it may be time to go before God and repent. If you need to do this now, please take the time to talk to God. I’ll wait 🙂

We are fallible creatures, meaning that we are not perfect. Heartbreak will always exist until Jesus comes back. There will always be broken relationships and families. There will always be a longing for temporary satisfaction when there are pleasures forevermore at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:11).

Let’s evaluate this together and become better about finding our identities in Jesus rather than some form of ideal relationship. I believe that God want’s us to be in healthy relationships one day , but I also believe that if our hope is set in a relationship and not in Jesus then failure is eminent.

Only from the overflow of Jesus love in our own lives will we be able to extend an unbroken form of love to a future significant other.

So, when you are lonely, cling to Jesus.
When you are tired, cling to Jesus.
When you feel unloved, cling to Jesus.
When you feel unlovable, cling to Jesus.
When you are tired of being single, cling to Jesus.

He wants your identity to be rooted in Him, then it will be possible to tame the romantic heart and see through the noise to what God has promised.

Cling to Jesus.


Scripture to Consider:

Romans 8:35-39

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”