The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
Except when it’s not.
You know when it just doesn’t feel so easy?
To love God.
To love friends.
Or your community.
You know when this verse stops being inspirational and starts feeling a bit heavy?
You know when you’re too tired to even think about loving well?
When all you can muster is a heart emoticon?
You know when you’re too disappointed to try again?
Or too embarrassed about your mistakes and failed attempts at love?
And you cringe at how warped and selfish your motivations are.
Sometimes, you’re all out of ideas. All out of inspiration. All out of hope.
Yep, I get that.
There are times when life leaves me feeling bleuggh. This is definitely not a word but nonetheless, it’s how I can feel.
And in truth, I’m a bit jealous when I watch how my kids love.
Because they seem to love so freely. They genuinely congratulate and encourage with such ease.
‘Mummy, did I hear you say someone has eaten all their dinner? Well done! I think they deserve a sticker for that. I think I might just hug you now. You are my best friend!’
There’s no manipulation. No Conditions. No control.
There’s usually no concept of time or schedules or pressure. They love with pure abandon – a way of living life that’s all in, 100% here and now- let’s do it.
‘We’re going to the big waterfall today? Great! Do I need to bring goggles? How deep is the water? Shhhh, let’s just look for fairies. Wow, what’s up there? Let’s have a picnic here. This is so brilliant.’
They love passionately, with heartfelt concern and kindness.
‘What? Someone is hurt? What happened? Why? Are they ok? But will they be alright? How do you know? Let’s go visit them. Let’s make them a card. Let’s pray for them.’
They have a love for detail in a way that we adults have lost. They devour the new, constantly discovering, constantly awestruck. Is there anything more beautiful than watching kids find a load of ants in the garden?
‘Oh mummy! Look mummy! COME AND LOOK AT THEM!’
They love to laugh. They enjoy a good giggle fit over absolutely nothing at least five times a day. The latest thing that cracks my kids up is a book called ‘Poo, is that you Bertie?’ which, I must add, neither of them has read or owns, they just laugh at the title. Of course, it’s even funnier when you insert your own name instead of Bertie. ‘Poo, is that you Noah?’ Oh, the merriment.
They have no social etiquette or boundaries. They just include and invite others in, all the time. Noah proved this yesterday in a clothes shop. As I paid for my t-shirt he popped his head up over the counter and said to the girl-
‘But guess what, we had a bbq last night. With all the sauces. Do you like sauce? What one do you like?’
And the two of them had a lovely little conversation which he initiated entirely on his own. Maybe he was the only customer who spoke to her all day, asked her a question and waited long enough for the response. I don’t know.
But don’t they love with such joy and gentleness and innocence?
Like recently, my kids watched Bedknobs and Broomsticks, sitting on the sofa, holding hands. Following the movie, Noah asked-
‘Do I have a magic bed, mummy?’
‘No’ I told him, ‘we got yours in Ikea.’
‘Hmmm, I would really like one.’
‘Where would you go on it, Noah?’
‘Nanny’s house’ he said.
They love to make you happy. They love to give gifts. Is their anything more precious than watching a child create something and then proudly offer their work of art to you? A painting, a sandcastle, a heap of Lego, a posy of weeds….’Here! This is for you! I made this for you!’
Now, please hear me – my kids can also drive me nuts. There are plenty of ‘unloving’ moments and crazy meltdowns. There are many apologies and timeouts and counting to three in the big scary voice.
But mostly, my children seem to ooze light. They ooze love. None of it seems like much effort. None of it ever seems forced. None of it has an ulterior motive. Light just leaks out of them. They can’t help it.
And I read something in Travelling Mercies by Anne Lamott about how we follow a brighter light than the glimmer of our own candle. I love that. Most days my candle feels exactly like that- a feeble, flickering glimmer. Where I see love and light spilling out of my kids I wonder what spills out of me…
I’m guessing a lot of control.
A fair amount of pride.
But here’s the thing.
Yes, love is hard. To love with abandon or no self-awareness? To sacrifice my own needs for another? To encourage, invite and include? To love boldly, passionately? All straight up difficult.
But isn’t it more important to look to the light that is brighter?
Doesn’t He lead the way in love?
If I focus on the success or size of my own feeble flickering light, haven’t I missed the whole point?
Isn’t it about following a light that has promised to remain in me, to shine through me, no matter what?
Doesn’t He have the power to make my feeble flickering light so lovely?
Doesn’t He use my brokenness and weakness to allow His strength and glory to spill out?
I always make this faith thing about progress. I always make this love thing about perfection.
When both are always just about believing.
Believing in His love and light and power- that’s my inspiration. When I shift my focus to Him I give Him room to change me, to work in me.
And that’s when I hear Him whisper-
Believe you need me.
Believe I’m the answer.
Believe I can work in you.
Believe I can use you.
Not a perfect version of you. Just you.
Believe I can use your glimmer of light for the Kingdom.
Believe I can breathe fresh life into your soul.
Believe I lead the way in love.
Believe. Believe. Believe
Madeline L’engle writes,
‘I have to try, but I do not have to succeed. Following Christ has nothing to do with success. It has everything to do with love.’
And so the other night the kids and I were having some quiet time before bed, just listening for God. They love this. They love being snugly in their bed. They love the quiet and the closeness. They love that I believe the Father can speak to them.
Autumn said God put a picture in her mind of a really big pink and red heart.
And I asked her, ‘What do you think that might mean, Autumn?’
‘I think He wants me to know He loves me’ she said.
Sometimes, when I’m finding it hard to love, I just watch my kids.
Their light and love point me to Jesus. It inspires me to believe in His words again-
‘As you have the light, believe in the light. Then the light will be within you, and shine through your lives.’ John 12:36