When it is we who need to apologize and repent, He comes to us.
With flowers in hand, He offers us a fragrant bouquet of grace.
I returned to California in 2014, after being away for 9 months. I had many experiences and adventures in that short time which included six months of living in Catania, Sicily. I was returning to the States to file for my long-term visa with the Italian consulate and planned to return to Sicily as soon as possible.
I was a bit bummed to have to return to California after only being away for 9 months. However, I was eager to get the visa process behind me and I was also more than happy to get to spend some time with my family and friends.
One friend in particular…
While one of my closest friends had kept in touch really well while I was away, what I didn’t realize until I returned was the extent to which her life had changed in the nine months I had been gone. Since I had left, she had: lost her job, had a new boyfriend, her daughter was now in school, she had more responsibilities as well as a lot more social engagements.
Before I left, she was almost always at home. She worked from home and had flexible hours, especially since her daughter wasn’t in school yet. I could always count on her being available whenever I dropped by.
Nine months later, this was not the case. She now had a full schedule and in her limited free time, when she wasn’t with her boyfriend, he’s pretty much all she could talk about.
My hope and expectation had been that I would get to spend a lot of time with this friend while I was home but this unfortunately, was not the case and I definitely share the blame.
I thought for sure this friend would make it a priority to spend time with me knowing I would only be around for a little while and then I would gone for good. But her schedule was such that she didn’t have much flexibility to it anymore and the growing bitterness I had in my heart towards her for not making more time for me, spoiled much of what time we did have together.
During these months, the Lord, in His gentleness, pointed out to me how I was the one in the wrong for being bitter towards her. He also showed me that being bitter and resentful won’t entice anyone we love to want to spend more time with us.
As I was pondering these strong yet gentle prods the Lord was giving me with His Shepherd’s staff, it occurred to me that Jesus never pursues us with bitterness and anger. Even when it has been weeks since we’ve made it a priority to spend time with Him or when we have stood Him up a 100 times in a row,
He never pursues us spitefully or with a sharp tone of voice or lengthy lecture.
But always with grace.
As Romans 2:4 says:
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”
It is His kindness and grace that make us want to repent, to change our ways and draw near to Him.
When someone we love disappoints us, it is natural for us to withhold our love from them. We get huffy and rude and short-tempered, as if these behaviors will entice the person to repent and apologize for how they wronged us.
Has that approach truly ever worked well for you?
I know it hasn’t for me.
And yet we still do it.
This is one of the ways being filled up with God’s love bring us freedom…
…freedom to love others unconditionally, without needing anything from them.
…to love others like God loves us.
When we realize we are fully, completely, forever loved with a love so perfect, healing, life-giving… we don’t need to seek love from anyone else. We can love others whether or not they choose to love us in return.
God relentlessly pursues each of us… but always in love.
No beating us over the head or giving us the cold shoulder.
Just perfect, never-ending, always trusting, always hoping, always believing, always persevering love.
When it is us who need to apologize and repent, He comes to us, with flowers in hand.
It surely is not easy, but that is how He wants us to love one another…
Free of charge.
If love isn’t free, is it really love? Doesn’t it have to be given freely, with no strings attached to be called, “love”?
This is an on-going lesson for me.
I have my share of people in my life who have hurt me. And I don’t feel much like reaching out to them. But I know I have done my share of hurting others too. We all end up hurting one another from time to time. And what we need above everything, is grace. Both to give it and receive it. When we, in our imperfectness, can forgive and extend grace, we are showing others a little taste of what God is like.
His love is radical, transforming, overwhelming, empowering, healing, liberating, rejuvenating, purifying, perfecting, it casts out every fear, it is stable, sure, eternal, unshakeable… relentless.
I am not saying loving others with God’s love is a walk in the park, but it is a worthy pursuit. And when we get our supply of love for others from Jesus rather than trying to muster it up ourselves, we can be sure our supply will never run dry or diminish even the smallest bit.
Know you have a Lover who is relentlessly pursuing you, in perfect love. He wants to transform you with His love and make you to be a relentless lover, just like Him.
It starts with receiving His love though, only then can we love others with the love we ourselves have received. As it is written:
“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
We must be loved before we can love.
Receive it. Give it away. Repeat.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”