I love to run! I know, I’m one of those people. But, I really do love it. Not because it comes super easy, but because I’ve learned how. I started running when I joined my high school cross country team. In the beginning, I hated it. But, as I learned how and got stronger, I eventually began to love it. There’s absolutely nothing that compares to a runners high.
So much about running translates into my walk with Jesus too. Anyone can run. And, anyone can run a hill. But, the ones who are steady on the uphills are the ones who pick up their feet, pump their arms and dig in on the way up.
This is painful to admit, but my uphill season right now is choosing to love others.
As in Jesus love.
Not the fake, Sunday morning “look like we love each other” love. I’m talking about the kind of love that responds lovingly even when my son is throwing a massive fit. Or when someone doesn’t act or respond the way I want them to. Or my plans for life don’t play out the way I envisioned them. Or someone else’s poor choices start affecting my life.
Meaning: acting and responding in love in the imperfect moments of life.
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them”
This verse stings. Because, if I’m really honest with myself, my struggle to love others is hindered by me. My needs, my wants, my rights. And this me-centeredness can’t reside in the life of a believer.
So when life is hard and children throw fits or a spouse speaks unkindly or you’re overlooked for a promotion or life plays out in bizarre ways – what are we to do? Use circumstances as our excuse to not love? Decide that being loving in this moment is not my calling or gifting? Or waive this opportunity away by detailing how you were raised by an unloving person?
1 John 4:19,
“We love each other because He first loved us.”
You see, I can chose to walk around wounded or mad that things didn’t work out like I wanted or that someone didn’t treat me fairly and, in reality, chose not to love. Or I can reflect on His love for me, allow the Holy Spirit to heal my brokenness, make me less like myself and ultimately more like Him. The result will always be a deep love for others (1 Peter 4:8). Just like I had to learn how to run, we can learn how to love others like Jesus by growing in our heart knowledge of Him.
The question, then, begs to be asked: will we allow God to take our head knowledge drive it down into heart knowledge? Will we allow Him to take us through the uphill seasons of life and will we do the hard work of applying all the things many of us know in our heads? Because at some point, we have to do this – all of us! We must resist the urge to simply sit in church, read and attain head knowledge. We must walk it out and apply it.
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life … For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3-8 NIV)
Isn’t that the goal in all of this? Don’t we want to be known by our love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)? Don’t we want our great love for others to be effective for the kingdom of Christ? For our spouses, children, family, and friends to stand up and recall our selflessness?
What if we looked around and saw we’re all running the same race and started cheering each other on? What if we truly celebrated someone else’s joy, rather than choosing the slippery slope of comparison which always turns to envy? What if we stopped pretending and allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and real? What if we chose to take our frustrations, disappointments and hurts to Jesus in prayer, rather than lashing out in the flesh?
Then, by His grace, we would become oaks of righteous (Isaiah 61) that provide much needed shade to an afflicted marriage, a hurting child, a wounded friend, and a dying world.
Yes! Let’s run to be shade. It holds eternal value.