Those People I Live With

1 Corinthians 13:3 (Amplified)
Even if I dole out all that I have {to the poor in providing} food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing.

(The Message)
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

I know what you might be thinking. She is going to tell us how all our good work and trying means nothing without love. But I’m not! Smile…I believe that point is clear for all of us, but my heart is touched this morning on a different point. Let me explain…

I love Lysa TerKeurst. I mean, when I see her in Heaven one day I am going to hug her. A good, tight squeeze. She shares so honestly in her writing and I have been so encouraged by her willingness to be “real.” I have read a couple of her books and I subscribe to her blog. This week she has been writing about trusting God to help us when we come unglued with our kids. (Insert: she has a new book titled “Unglued” coming out in August) Anyway, one of her posts this week was about the mad rush and tension on school mornings. The yelling. The frustration. The guilt. See why I love her?! How many best-selling authors still write a blog and fess up to yelling at their kids in the morning? Of course her intention is to encourage us to let God help us manage our emotions in life and she asked readers to share ideas and thoughts in their comments.

As I quickly read through some of the comments, one in particular snagged at my heart. It made reference to spending a little time in the mornings before school cuddling with smaller kids, filling their “love tanks” before the day begins. This idea of a love tank is not brand new to me as I vaguely remember this idea from a book about marriage I read years ago. We all have this “love tank” inside and when the needle dips toward empty we act out, become frustrated, angry, etc. I appreciate the reminder in this woman’s comment. My little people have love tanks, just like me. And sometimes all the bickering and whining and stress are symptoms of empty, or near empty, love tanks.  Yikes.

As I write this post my oldest daughter is sitting on the floor playing her ds lite with our neighbor friend, Molly, who is staying with us for a few hours today. Leah and Leighton are still sleeping (it’s 8:21 what is up!) so I have had a few minutes to chew on this love tank line of thinking a bit further. And as I ponder, I am reminded of how I cannot give away what I don’t have. Neither can you. Before I can fill anyone’s tank, I need my own tank filled.

I like how the Amplified version of the verse above puts it…but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing. And how The Message describes us as “bankrupt” without love. Bankrupt! As in empty account! Nothing to draw from!  But what if we look at this verse from a slightly different angle today? Yes, our actions and do-gooding and religious performance gain us nothing if not done because of love, but what do we do with that truth? What do we do with ourselves when the truth is alot of what we do, even with good intentions, is not done out of or with love? Being real…how do I gear up for another year of crazy hair, go ahead and eat your breakfast, I bought that outfit you are going to wear it, come on we gotta go or be late kind of mornings when even though I want to fill my girls with good stuff it often turns out, well, not good. Sigh.

Except!

Except I might just catch a glimpse of my own bankrupt status and realize I cannot offer my girls the good stuff, fill their tanks with God Love, if my own take is getting pretty low. And what am I supposed to fill up with, anyway? God, give me more patience, strength, self-control? Hmmmm…see I kinda see these “fruits” of His Spirit as byproducts that happen and grow in me as I am filled up with Him. His Spirit.  So, I’m learning to visit the station as my own day gets started for a fill-up with God Himself. God is Love. The Bible says so, check it out: 1 John 4:16-17 (NLT) We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgement, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.

Here’s what I get this morning. I can’t give to my children, or anyone else, what I don’t have myself. I can give them my sometimes sweet but often broken attempts at fruit living and grow more frustrated and disappointed with myself. Or I can practice (because it’s a journey!) putting the madness on hold and take the time to be filled up myself. To go to God for love. For learning how to live in Him and let Him live through me. 1 John says as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. Perfect meaning mature. Goodness, doesn’t that sound good this morning? A steadily maturing love in our lives.

I sure can’t conjure it up. Can’t earn it, can’t really calculate how to get it. Tried all that but doesn’t work because in the end I would inevitably credit myself.  What I can do (and find does actually work!) is choose to put my trust in His love. I mean make a choice outside of the hymn-singing, response time on Sundays. A choice that involves going by the station. Taking off the cap of my heart and saying,  Here I am, God. A perfectly imperfect mess. Please fill me, take hold of my heart, help me to hear what You hear and see what You see, give me Your perspective. I don’t want to live this day bankrupt of Your love. I don’t want to live frustrated, scraping the bottom of my barrel for kindness, patience and wise words that I don’t have at the ready.  I believe God is eager to fill us when we are eager to be filled.  Sometimes it’s thunder and the ground shakes and we are left speechless.  But most of the time it’s the peace in a gentle breeze He blows across our hearts…calming us…reminding us of His nearness.  His “I will never leave you” kind of love washes over us and we just whisper Thank You, Jesus.  Our day can begin with a promise for His power as we listen for His voice.

As best I can tell so far in living and reading my Bible, it’s out of the overflow of my own heart that I give to others. Especially when I get “squeezed.”  I realized a while back my efforts and performance meant nothing without the right motives and heart, and would produce little that lasts. And I realize there is so little I can do about it on my own. I don’t naturally have within me the stuff of supernatural giving and love-tank filling, but when I set my focus on the God whose Spirit wants to fill me to overflowing, the God who is Love, I get excited! Hope surges. Oh yes, this can happen! I’m not responsible for making the supernatural happen in my crazy day or personality quirks (come on we all have rough edges). The supernatural is God’s part.  It’s Christ in me.  My part is stopping for my own fill up first so the Supernatural One can spill out of my ordinary day and I can give away the good stuff, the good fruit, of His love.  Starting with those people I live with.

Most definitely.

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