I’ve always had this idea that love should be easy. It seems that as you get to know people, love should naturally flow.
My experience has matched that assumption only at the beginning of a relationship. When I first meet people, especially those I’m drawn to, love flows easily. I have a natural affection toward that person.
But, as time goes along and I begin to really get to know them, their weaknesses and blind spots become more apparent. This is when the natural flow of love slows or comes to a halt.
I've recently done some reflecting on my growth in this area over the years. If I had to order and title my different stages on this journey of learning to love, it would be as follows:
Self-focused: I was in relationships so that I would be loved and I was only concerned about getting my own needs met.
Judgment: Then, I grew out of that narcissistic stage, but it wasn't much better. I was able to see others instead of only myself. But after getting to know people, I would see their insecurities and blind spots and become frustrated with their lack of awareness combined with a lack of pursuing growth and wholeness. The result was that I wasn’t able to love, because my frustration led to judgment, and the judgment would hinder my love. I am not proud of that, just being honest.
Allowing people to be: Eventually this way of loving was called out by those around me and I saw my judgment as unhealthy. I matured enough to realize that everybody is at a different place on the journey. The frustration turned to a form of compassion and love. I say a “form of” because, even though it was growth in the right direction, it was not the kind of compassion and love that God has in mind. I thought I was doing a good job of loving people where they are and allowing them to be, and it was a step in the right direction, but God wasn’t going to let me stay in this place. God asked me to take another step forward in how I love.
In September, I was on a retreat and we were sent out to spend some time with the Lord. We had a series of questions to ask God and then listen to him regarding how God sees us as well as some questions regarding loving those around us.
This is what I heard from the Lord regarding how I love:
“Get rid of the judgments. They might be true, but let your love break through those barriers, leap over and love, don’t withhold love. When the barriers arise, jump over!
This was a whole new vision. Such a helpful one. I responded by journaling:
“I need your grace and power to do this Lord, but I want to take this on.”
You see, I thought I was loving people by allowing them to be where they were on the journey, but my judgments about them were putting up a barrier between them and me.
I really thought I had grown in not being as judgmental, and I think I had, but this was another level. God was asking me to release those judgments, to jump over them as if they weren't even there.
So this is new for me, it's still pretty fresh. I’m excited to begin implementing this vision as I can see how loving it was for God to give me this new awareness to help me become a better lover of others. If I were to ground this experience in Scripture, I would say this was the Helper that Jesus promised to send, helping me by bringing awareness to one of my blindspots. I took the time and created space for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to work. I "put up the sail", and the wind blew that day and took me to another harbor. Now I have the choice if I am going to stay in my "allowing people to be" stage or if I'm going to jump over the judgments and step into a 1 Corinthians 13 type love that God is asking me to give. It really comes down to obedience at the end of the day. I have to step into this transformation and make the consistent conscious choice to lay down my judgments.
This is another tangible example of putting off the old and putting on the new. The old way is my default, my “second nature”, and I am now going to be partnering with my Sherpa to develop a new “second nature”.
Do you believe people can change? Do you believe transformation is possible? Heck ya it is, we just have to go after it!
Take some time to reflect on how you are as a lover of people:
Can you resonate with my experience of people becoming harder to love the more you get to know them? Judgment became my barrier, what’s yours?
Sit with the Lord and ask him what he thinks about how you love those around you. See if he gives you any new awareness of how you could step more fully into the 1 Corinthians 13 type of love.