Tag Archives: love

The Language of Crying

As is customary for me on Christmas Eve, I can’t sleep. It used to be caused by the anticipation of Santa Claus stopping by to fill up the area underneath the Christmas tree. Let’s be honest: I was 22 or 23 before I stopped getting absolutely giddy about Christmas morning for that very reason, Santa or not. :)

For the past few years I’ve been unable to sleep for a very different reason (and thankfully a much better one). The story of God coming to earth in the form of a baby has gripped my heart in a new way (and a different way each year) over the past few years.

I began a bible study on the book of Malachi on Monday. One of the very first subjects the author of the study covers is this idea of “rhetorical disputation.” To quote the Grinch, “Holiday hooby whatty?!” It’s the concept of God saying something to his people, and his people automatically respond with something along the lines of a ‘prove it!’ mentality (in other words, they question it), to which God gives them one heck of an answer that more than proves his original point. The book of Malachi starts with God saying, “I have loved you,” and his people responding with, “How have you loved us?” Go read Malachi 1 for God’s pretty poignant response. The beauty of the statement is the verb form of “have.” It lends itself to meaning that he has loved them – period. Not, “I have loved you because you got your act together,” or “I have loved you as a result of the good works you do,” or “I have loved you because you’ve followed the rules.” If there was ever a nation that didn’t do what God said, it was his own people Israel! But the “have” there implies that God has already loved them before they straightened things out, before they walked the straight & narrow, and outside their efforts as humans. Way cool.

Malachi has had me thinking about the 400 year silence between the end of his book and the beginning of the New Testament time period, which begins with the birth of Jesus. And here’s what has struck me this year that I’ve never thought about before: The first time God speaks in 400 years, he uses cries and whimpers instead of intelligible words. A newborn baby’s first screams and shrieks outside the womb are the very first sounds to come from Heaven in 400 years! One moment God hasn’t spoken for four centuries, and the very next moment the silence is broken by childbirth. By this point, Israel wouldn’t have necessarily known what to even listen for when trying to hear Yahweh. They’d never experienced it. They were 400 years removed from the last time a prophet brought the Word of the Lord to the people. Who would have expected to listen for God to speak through one of our most common reactions to life, heartache, struggle, overwhelming joy, death, victory, a baptism, conviction, repentance, loosed chains of addiction, music, love, lost love, burning anger, sadness, life-altering news, and a host of other situations? It’s crying. He cries. Think about it: What better way to communicate to the world than with the reaction that is so common in so many circumstances that every human experiences at some time? It’s a universal language! The first time God ‘speaks,’ he uses a language that anyone could have understood: the cry of a newborn baby. John 1:4 – “In him was life (emphasis mine), and that life was the light of all mankind.” Life is never more apparent than the first few moments after a mother gives birth! It’s never more anticipated than then! And it’s marked with a cry.

If we need to know and see how personal, how real, how raw, how relatable, how tender, heck – even how forceful and strong (have you heard a newborn cry recently?! The little dudes don’t hold back!) our God is, we need to look no further than the manger and hear the first sounds that rang out from Heaven in over 400 years. Jesus’ cries were, in that moment, heard only by those who surrounded his manger that night, but they have echoed in eternity as the most relatable speech he could have brought to earth to begin his life.

And that life is full circle. He both begins and ends his life crying. One cry brought about the newness of life and the beginning of a 33-year-long journey that led to his final cries on the cross as a grown man, battling all of hell’s forces to save the wretches like you and me.

Our God truly is amazing, and he is so, so good even when our lives or situations are not. I hope you’ll take time this Christmas Day to consider Jesus’ cries, and to express to him the cries of your heart. He knows it. He gets it. Lay your heart’s cry at the manger, and listen for his. What a beautiful way to break 400 years’ worth of silence: the cry of newborn life.

Merry Christmas.

..Hannah

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Delight yourself in the Lord and he probably won’t give you what you expected.

On Saturday I began the “Scripture challenge” that’s going around Facebook right now. You post one passage a day for five days, and you tag two new people each day to do the same. Truthfully, I find things like that to be hokey, but there was some conviction for me: What could I possibly post that’s more important than the Word of God? I’m not trying to pull a Jesus juke here, but seriously. Sometimes passages are what others need to hear because they’ve lost a lot of hope. Sometimes they cut us where we need to be cut, but there is always the promise of being renewed, rebuilt, and restored. In an effort to not “Jesus juke” the challenge and make it sound like life is peachy and perfect, or that God is a wealth, health & prosperity God, and being a Christian means happy trails all day long, I’m instead posting a passage each day that I hear quoted rather often and with good intentions, but generally the understanding is lacking or the verse is taken out of context. So if you missed them, check out Day 1 and Day 2.

Day 3 – Psalm 37:4

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Disclaimer: I LOVE this verse and I’ve learned a lot about it over the past few years as it has continually resurfaced in my life in a number of circumstances. Although I’m looking at how we take this verse out of context, I’m saying all of this as someone who definitely got it wrong for a longer amount of time than I’ve properly understood it. I also loathe this verse in a way (not overall – but… well, you’ll see), but I’ll get there.

If you were to look only at this verse and only at the translation to English, what does it look like this verse says? Well, basically, if you delight yourself in God’s ways and if you follow the rules, it will end well for you. You’ll get what your heart truly desires. This verse is alluring…almost tempting, is it not? It’s like we’re given the secret to winning the spiritual lottery. If I delight myself in God, he’ll give me everything I want.

When I first sought to gain a better understanding of this verse (as I assumed it was the equation to winning that spiritual lottery I talked about), the first question I asked myself was in comparison with the entirety of Scripture, is my understanding reinforced elsewhere in the bible, or do I perhaps have a famished understanding of this verse?

If we’re honest, the view that following rules equates to abundant blessing is not backed. The Pharisees followed the rules. Need I say more?

The second question I had to hound after was what do key words in this verse actually mean in the original Hebrew? All too often our English version just doesn’t do the Hebrew language justice. That’s not to say that we haven’t come as close as possible. Translations continue to be written that help give better insight to what the original language and message said. However, there are words in Hebrew that are too rich to put to English words – we don’t even have words that accurately describe some Hebraic text. Our language pales in comparison (which I find to be stellar)! So let’s break it down into two parts:

1. “Delight yourself in the Lord…”

“Delight” (עָנַג, pronounced aw-nag) literally means to be delicate or feminine (Strong’s, עָנַג.) It carries the idea of being pliable or sensitive.  In this particular context, it means to be dependent upon God and to derive one’s pleasure from Him.

Following the rules while trying to make ourselves ‘happy’ about it and being pliable in God’s hands are two vastly different concepts. One requires a pulse and some will power. The other requires a relationship. Instead of trying to force ourselves to be happy or ‘delight’ in following what many see as a rule book, perhaps we should spend time getting to know the One who inspired the whole shebang while we read into his Word (which starts to look a lot less like a rule book the more we’re in relationship with God). True delight in God – a true desire to be pliable in his hands – requires that we seek him. It requires that we be as intentional with him as he has been with us. Half-hearted obedience is just as bad as full-throttle rebellion.

A few verses…

Psalm 63:1 – You, God, are my god, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

1 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Jeremiah 29:13 – You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Psalm 27:4 – One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.

Philippians 3:8 – What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.

Please catch this: When we seek God whole-heartedly, sometimes it costs us everything. Delighting oneself in God is not a matter of emotion: It’s a matter of commitment. Is Psalm 37:4 an invitation to a moment in time or is it a command with a promised blessing behind it?

2. “…and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The term translated “desires” (מִשְׁאָלָה, pronounced mish-aw-law) refers to petitions or requests (TWOT, מִשְׁאָלָה.) Do a Google search and you’ll quickly discover that in ancient Jewish culture, the heart was the very core of who someone was. We closely link our emotions with our hearts and thoughts with our minds. Not so for the Hebraic culture. Everything was an overflow of the heart. Both emotions and thoughts flowed from the heart. What we know, feel, and will we ascribe to the mind. They would have ascribed it to the heart. It is considered the very seat of emotional and intellectual activity. Proverbs 4:23 suddenly has renewed meaning: Guarding the heart insured it being physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually guarded, not just emotionally or mentally.

All right so let me throw some of my own thoughts in here. So what about ‘desires?’ I’ve wrestled with this verse recently due to the way God is currently shaking up my life. He knows that I think it’s a desire of my heart that I be married one day, but he’s getting ready to place me in a situation where that isn’t going to be much of an option. I’ve come back to this verse time and time again and told myself, “Just follow him. Trust him. Have faith in him. He’ll work this whole thing out.” Honestly, I think I’m lying to myself because I don’t think I’ve had a full understanding of this verse. Go with me here for a second. The psalmist tells us that God will honor our delighting in Him by graciously giving us what we are asking of Him from the very depths of our being. But here’s the issue: What we think are our deepest desires may not be so. I guarantee you that someone who considers their deepest desire to be an amazing career is not at the root desire. I guarantee you that someone who longs for marriage is not at their deepest desire. I guarantee you that someone who wants their shot at center stage is not recognizing their deepest-seeded desire. These are ways that those desires manifest themselves, but they’re not the root, because we all know there’s more to life than a great career, a marriage that will eventually end (because death will do you part), and fifteen minutes of fame.

So what if this verse speaks to a command to embark on an incredible journey? Not that any of those things are bad – please don’t get me wrong – but what if it shouldn’t stop there? I think this is where we have to recognize that we are not our own. Sometimes we don’t even fully recognize what our deepest desires are. For me, I think my deepest desire is marriage because I’ve convinced myself that that’s the only way I’ll ever truly understand intimacy (something I tend to cringe at, regardless of still desiring it). But if my deepest desire is truly intimacy, and I’m continuing to delight in God by allowing him to mold me, and mold my desires to what his desires are, then maybe the best way for me to understand intimacy isn’t through marriage. Does that make sense? As I allow myself to be clay in the Potter’s hands (as opposed to the clumpy dirt balls I often try to be…), he’ll likely continue to mold me in a way I didn’t anticipate. The clay never has a say in what it becomes. That’s the potter’s job.

If we’re truly allowing him to mold us, he becomes our desire. It’s really that simple. When we delight ourselves in him, he gives us what our hearts desire most, and that’s him. Whether or not we’re in a place where we are willing to recognize that, it’s true. We’ve just tried to shove a lot of things into a God-shaped whole in our hearts. If we rely on him and derive our primary worth, pleasure, and joy from him, then he’s the desire. The promise is not that we’ll receive whatever we think we want. The promise is that we’ll receive what we truly, deeply want…and coincidentally, need.

Just some thoughts. I’ll leave it there.

Pray. Seek. Do.

Soli Deo Gloria.

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Stop using prayer as a cop-out.

I’ve noticed an interesting dichotomy between the people of the Bible and the people of today (other than the addition of iPhones, lack of 12-year-olds herding sheep, etc). Read about David, Joseph, Noah, Rahab, Abraham, Caleb, Esther, Joshua, Peter, Paul etc and you’ll find a common denominator:

They did something.

No, really. They did something. They didn’t just pray about it, or pray about it for two months before doing something (at least not that I’m aware of).
They didn’t pray about it and then go ask their accountability partner, D group leader, youth pastor, or friends to pray about it.
They didn’t pray about it and then decide they needed to sit down and study Scripture (or, well, the Dead Sea Scrolls..) for a few hours.
They didn’t pray about it and wait for God to write a sign in the sky.
They didn’t pray about it and talk themselves out of doing something hard.
Not all of them even took the time to pray about what we know them for: They just did what they knew they needed to do.

Stay with me. If the hair on the back of your neck is standing up, just stay with me. Far cry from most of our modern-day Christian culture. Far cry from my life, to be honest. I have a habit of asking God why things are the way they are. Sometimes a little out of spite, and other times I’m legitimately asking why something is going down the way it is because I’m searching for clear understanding. I think God really gets a kick out of it when I ask “Why?!” and then pray for understanding or patience. I think he shakes his head and chuckles every time. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past few months, it’s that when you pray for a character trait, or even a fruit of the Spirit, God doesn’t give it to you. Ever. But he gives you situations where you can choose whether or not you’ll practice those traits, learn, and grow. Our relationship with God isn’t 50/50. If that’s how we view it, we miss out on a lot. Our relationship with him is 100/100. We give 100% because he has already given, and continues to give 100%. And that means a willingness to just do what he tells us to, when he tells us, which would be the exact same for every God-follower:

Go and make disciples.

I talk with older teens in the youth group quite a bit about the concept of God’s will because most of them start freaking out about “God’s will” during second semester of their senior year when the eleventh hour is upon them. Natural and understandable for a Christian kiddo. But I tell them all the same thing: God’s will is huge. It’s not confined to one pathway. God doesn’t lack creativity to the point of only being able to work out one path for every person. God’s will is huge, and he gives us a lot of choices (because love is a choice). He’s already told all of us what his will is: Go and make disciples. Go and make disciples working as a barista in a coffee shop, in a manufacturing facility as a laborer, as a dentist cleaning teeth, as a pediatrician working with kids, as a teacher shaping young minds, as a computer geek who shows neverending patience when a clueless person such as myself calls & asks for IT help.

God’s made it pretty clear what he wants us to do. I’m not sure why we need to spend extravagant time praying about what we already know we should be doing.

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The ‘L’ Word: The world will hate you for it.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” -John 15:18-20

 

Warning: If you have sensitive feelings, you might want to click that X up in the corner right now.

I’ve had it up to my nose with this crap about loving people in a sense that we are to accept all behaviors. If you’re a Christian and there isn’t a single person in this world who hates you because you have a biblical worldview, then perhaps you aren’t defending the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus to the degree which he seems to expect. The verses I just quoted seem to be pretty darn explicit with how this whole following Jesus thing works. Sometimes you’re going to look like a jerk because you have chosen to accept, defend, respect and honor a Scriptural worldview. If you don’t agree with Scripture and you don’t like the teachings, then stop calling yourself a committed follower of Christ (that was NOT a passive aggressive comment to any single person. I believe this about Christianity in general). You’re going to have to look like a jerk at some point because you have to take a stand for one side or the other. Being a “martyr” for the sake of others’ feelings is nothing but cowardice and lukewarm faith.

I’m going to provide a little push-back on my own view. I’m wrestling with a lot of what I’ve already talked about/will talk about in the rest of this blog. I’m not trying to prove my own opinion as the correct opinion. I’m simply goin’ with Scripture here, folks, and I’m working it out as I go. Anyway.. Push-back..

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:34

We turn to this passage a LOT in Christianity, as we definitely should. What we should not turn to, however, is a worldly definition of love. Does this agape love mean that we accept any and all opinions, belief systems, or even personal definitions of love? I can’t say yes to that in good conscience. Brotherly Christian love does not allow unbiblical, worldly things to stand in the way of their brother’s life. Loving one another does NOT mean accepting any and all behaviors. It doesn’t mean never offending people. When people have gotten in my face over something in my life that needed corrected, was I offended?! Yeah! Who enjoys being told their lifestyle is wrong?! Would it have been loving to let it go by the wayside and for them to have never said anything? Actually, that would have been the exact opposite of love: fear. Fear that they would offend me. Fear that perhaps I would push back on what they were saying. Fear that they’d choose the wrong words. But allow me to quote a lengthy, but amazing passage from Scripture (I would normally just reference it, but I want to make sure you read this). From 1 John 4:7-21…

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 
We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

You cannot have fear in love. You cannot love God if you hate your brother. I’m led to believe it’s difficult to love your brother if you fear loving him. So, how do we know what love is?

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” -1 John 3:16

Love means laying down one’s life. Commitment. Sacrifice. Servanthood. Love does not mean accepting what any definition or personal opinion has to offer. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it does not mean embracing alternative lifestyles as acceptable. It doesn’t mean sitting on the sidelines and never getting involved in defending the Gospel. It doesn’t mean you get to go to church on Sunday morning and be let off the hook. It doesn’t mean you get to justify your bad behavior with excuses. It doesn’t mean you get to say yes to Jesus and no to his teachings! If we are to love Christ above all else, then that means EVERYTHING better be submitted to Christ: our views, our opinions, our definitions, our lifestyles, etc. It means that because Christ laid down his life for us, we do the same for him. We put it all on the line. We lay our reputations on the line. We lay EVERYTHING on the line. Why? Because that’s love, guys! That’s love! Being willing to totally die to self and live through Christ!

A love that accepts anything and everything isn’t supported in Scripture. It just isn’t. If you have a problem with this, then go take it up with God. The media wants you to accept everything. Political correctness wants you to accept everything. Tolerance wants you to embrace and accept everything (unless it’s Christianity – because those nutjobs are intolerant, so we’re going to say that we need to be tolerant of everyone but the intolerant, therefore shooting our own logic in the foot. Real tolerance would tolerate the intolerant, but that must be beside the point). Nowhere, NOT ONE PLACE to do I read that Jesus accepted sinful behavior with open arms. How many times do we read about him saying, “Go and sin no more,” or, “Go, leave your life of sin.” How many times?! Quite frankly, Jesus ticked a lotta people off! He died to make the unrighteous righteous, therefore constantly pissing the Pharisees off because they thought they had their acts together and deserved first place. If he died to renew the sinner’s life, then we spit in his face if we choose to continue our lives without allowing Scripture to critique and correct our lives. We deny love if we elevate others’ feelings to being above Truth. Many walked away from Jesus because they couldn’t accept the Truth he brought. John 6: Jesus says that unless you’re willing to eat his flesh and drink his blood, it’s a no-go (verses 53-58). But what happens after that?

“On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
  From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
  ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the worlds of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. ” -John 6:60-69 (emphases mine)

Let’s make something crystal clear: Jesus let the people walk away. He gave them a choice as he did/has from the dawn of time. Love is a choice. Love is an action. Why did Jesus let MANY of his disciples walk away? Because crapped out, half-hearted, half-interested, half-committed, lukewarm, do-it-when-it’s-convenient, do-it-on-my-time, Sunday morning faith is NOT what this guy is after! Having a handful of people willing to go the distance is of far more value than having droves of fans who show up for a concert and then leave. Christians, we need to nut up or shut up. Jesus didn’t have a bleeding heart when they didn’t stay. Why? Because following him is hard and it takes being willing to be hated by all others as the price. While he absolutely wants everyone to walk the narrow road, he himself said few will walk it. Few find the gate so small. Following Christ is about surrendered perseverance. It’s defined by endurance. It isn’t like a microwave. It isn’t instant. It isn’t simple. It isn’t easy. Not because loving Jesus is hard, but because living in a world unfathomably complicated by sin is what is hard. We have confused the two. Obedience shouldn’t be viewed as something that takes strain and pain. Obedience to Christ should be easy, yet it’s complicated because we must battle fleshly sins at the same time. Following Jesus ain’t hard. Dying to yourself, however, is impossible without obedience and surrender.

I’m not saying go out and attempt to get people to hate you. I’m not saying that at all. What I am saying is that if you’ve had the opportunity to defend the Gospel and you’ve passed up on such an awesome opportunity, then maybe it’s time to put the cares about others’ opinions of you on the back burner and bring the urgency of the Gospel to the front. Every time we choose to not defend that which is Right, True, and Just when we know it’s needed is a laugh for Satan. It’s another victory for him. It’s another crack of the whip on the back of the Savior who died for us.

All that being said, allow me a moment of narcissism. Allow me to bring myself back into this picture.
There are few times, if any at all, that I’m unwilling to go toe-to-toe with someone who wants to slander and slash the Christian lifestyle, the Bible, etc. Not because I claim to have wisdom or knowledge about anything, but because I do think I am capable of removing the veil of culture and popular Christianity from over my own eyes. All that being said, my presentation of the Gospel isn’t one that’s always super attractive. I don’t sugarcoat a darned thing. I’d go as far as to say I might be confrontational (which is totally unrighteous and not cool if it’s prideful) in a bad way at times. I’ll step on the feelings of others because I just. don’t. care. It’s not that I don’t care about the person, but I just don’t care about hurting feelings because that seems to be ALL the rest of the world cares about. What I care about is a clear view of the Gospel. I care about Truth. I care about peoples’ salvation, not their happiness. I care about the Gospel being defended intelligently in a time that tries to skew it to fit personal lifestyles. I care about the Gospel being defended when those who know absolutely nothing about it try to act like they do. Reading the Bible really isn’t all that impressive. Anyone who is literate can do that. Applying the Bible, understanding the context, culture, language, and time period in history when it was written all need to be present when drawing conclusions about Scripture. That’s what gets my heart racing. Nothing will wake me up more than someone providing a pathetic definition of love, Christianity, faith, etc. I’m far more critical of those who claim to be followers of Christ than I ever will be of those who want nothing to do with him. Why? I don’t expect the dark to behave like the light. I do, however, expect the light to shine in the darkness. Christians, please. Understand that you do no good in choosing to never stand up for the Gospel. When you stand face to face with Jesus, is he going to ask you, “Why didn’t you tell them? Why did you stay quiet when you knew there was injustice, when you their behavior was wrong?” I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Saving people isn’t your job. Let Jesus do that. Telling them about him and defending Scripture is your job.

Love requires some sort of battle. The cross told us that much. I’ll leave you by asking this. What are you fighting for? Are you even fighting at all? Or maybe, are you even willing?

Pray. Seek. Do.
..Hannah

 

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The “L” Word

I have been giving love a TON of thought this summer. I’ve been mulling over how our culture uses it, how God’s church uses it, how I use it, how the media uses it, etc. and I have come to a conclusion: Most can’t come up with a definition, and those that can have given some pretty crappy definitions that aren’t even definitions at all (more on that later).

As of right now, I’m planning on doing a few blogs on this topic, but maybe not all one right after another. To try to cover multiple facets of this in one blog would mean this would be the size of a short novel. This particular blog will cover the way we Christians use the word “love” when it comes to dating relationship and marriage.

A few weeks ago I found myself in a discussion over Deuteronomy 22: A chapter that covers the punishment for things like taking advantage of a woman, consensual sex, etc. Some of the final few verses delve into the punishment for the “rape” (if you’d like to know why it’s in quotes, it’s because we CANNOT apply our definition of Western, brutal, vicious rape to the Hebraic word that is used. There is NO biblical evidence for applying such a definition) of a woman who is not pledged to be married to another man. The punishment is that he is to pay the girl’s father 50 shekels and he must marry her and not divorce her all the days of her life. He is to care for her from there on out. Wait, what? A man rapes a girl and she has to marry him? Yeah, loving.

Actually, yes.

Remove your adorable, butterfly-giving, heart-racing, OH MY GOSH HE’S WONDERFUL! feelings and definition of love. Don’t even bring that to the table because that’s nothing but crap. Humor me and assume that you don’t have a good definition of love if you have even the slightest hint that you might think love might fit the definition I just gave. If you define love as being thrilled to be around someone even when you’re bored, if you define love as finishing each others’ sentences and then giggling about how you must be so wonderful for each other, if you define love as having found that one person that just makes you “feel” different, then assume you’re someone who doesn’t have a decent definition of love. Just humor me for a second.

Back to our raped Israeli girl.
Let’s talk about a shekel. This was not a coin. The rapist did not pay 50 coins of silver. Consider a shekel to be equal with a pound. Fifty POUNDS of silver. This was not one month, two months, or even two YEARS worth of wages. This could have been as much as TEN YEARS’ WORTH of wages. Find me another culture in this time period that would have punished so severely (or even at all) for the rape of a woman. Keep in mind that during this time, women were NOT highly valued. For there to be this big of a punishment was huge. And that wasn’t it: he had to marry the girl. If he didn’t, she had one option: prostitution. Virginity was so highly valued that if a woman wasn’t a virgin, she was worthless. She was dirty and had an irreplaceable flaw. Prostitution was the only option. Now that she had had her virginity taken away, she couldn’t be with another man. For him to have to marry her, support her, care for her, etc. is, again, a consequence of his actions…and that’s ON TOP of having to pay fifty shekels. Tell me something.. If he is spending a decade of his life paying for what he has done, don’t you think the father is going to keep a close watch on how his daughter is being treated within the marriage? With reprimands this extreme, how often do you think rape even occurred?! In the end, is this not itself love?

Ah ah, wait. You’re saying no. You have picked up your definition of love again. Put that thing back down, I’m not done!

What if love has absolutely NOTHING to do with emotions? I don’t mean that there is just a small part of love that has to do with emotions, I mean there isn’t a single darn thing that connects love and emotion. But how could that possibly be true? Don’t we as Christians tell each other all the time within dating relationships that, “Well, if you just aren’t feeling it, maybe you should just end it?” In our culture, that makes total sense. It makes PERFECT sense, actually. Our culture is all about feelings. How many times a day do you hear others say or say yourself, “I feel like…” For example, “I feel like that doesn’t make sense.” You don’t FEEL like that. You THINK it doesn’t make sense. How we have overused such words! Words mean things, folks!

To quote a verse that we all know by heart (haha, what irony…): John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son..” etc etc.

Another verse. 1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”

I see nothing about butterflies in the tummy, gigantic smiles on the face, etc. In fact, both of those verses are sobering. Both verses tell us what was given up: a son and a life. Sacrifice. The level of commitment is incomprehensible to those of us who have never had to go to such lengths (and as far as I know, I haven’t yet met anyone else who has given up a child to save the world, nor have I met a person willing to endure crucifixion to save anyone else).

Love also has nothing to do with attraction. I find it slightly humorous that among Christians today we often find ourselves saying, “Well, there has to be SOME level of physical attraction there. I don’t think God has a problem with that.” After giving that some thought, I think we’ve bought into another lie. Jesus didn’t die for the attractive people. We don’t lay down our lives for our attractive Christian brothers and sisters. That’s not a requirement. So why in the world have we added that to our standards for “love” in a relationship? Oh, because you’re looking for marriage and you want to be attracted to the person you’re having sex with? I’m calling shenanigans on this one. You’re entering into a relationship for what reason? We must first start there. There is a multitude of answers here, but quite frankly if the answer isn’t an honest answer of, “To glorify God in seeking marriage,” then we’re dating and seeking marriage for selfish reasons. Marriage isn’t about you. I don’t have to be married to understand that. Shouldn’t marriage be a commitment? Shouldn’t it be a sacrifice? I have this really big inkling that if you commit yourself to a relationship and commit yourself to selflessly serving the other person and consistently putting their needs before your own and they’re doing the same, chances are you’re going to wind up attracted to them at some point. I honestly believe that. You’re going to see a side of them that others aren’t seeing, and the same will be true for them seeing you. We have so heavily influenced a physical attraction because we’re going to be waking up beside this person for the rest of our lives. What the heck are you gonna do when all of a sudden you’re 50 years old and you don’t have the body or the face you once did? We ask this question all the time, but we don’t seriously consider it.

We all believe that there “has” to be some sort of physical attraction (myself included. I’m not exempt from having bought into this culturally-induced fabrication), but I just don’t find a biblical basis for it. Marriages were arranged, to begin with. Both parties didn’t always have a say. “Oh, but that was the culture then, Hannah. It’s different today.” Correct you are. Does a change in culture merit a change in truth though? Don’t we become more like the world when we allow that sort of reasoning in regards to something like this?

We do the same when we say, “But I just feel different with him/her.” Love is a feeling? A temporary feeling that WILL die? Please find me a couple who has been married for five decades that has been sustained by such a statement. Brothers and sisters, we can’t continue to trick ourselves into believing that this sort of thing is “okay.” The divorce rate is over 50% in America right now, and Christians aren’t exempt from that! That tells me that more than one couple has probably tried to sustain their relationship on these sorts of concepts! Marriage is no longer sacred in society today. It’s not fought for selflessly.

I know that many (if not most) of my Christian friends will disagree with me. I don’t have a problem with that. But if the first judgment call we’re making when it comes to getting to know someone is based on whether or not we’re immediately carnally attracted to them, then we’re already starting out on the wrong foot because we’ve made our pursuit of love about us. Perhaps it may do some of us some good to get to know the person we haven’t immediately been attracted to. While it may not end in a relationship, it could probably end in us being better humans. Heaven forbid we give people the time of day.
I’m sure somehow, some way, someone could find a verse in the Bible in an attempt to prove me wrong. If you have to try really super hard, then I’d question the legitimacy to begin with, but once again, who’s it about? You? If so, we’ve lost sight of what love is.

Hear me when I say that I am not intending to berate any other Christian’s views on this topic. I’m simply trying to provide a bit of push-back in regards to it. I hear the word “love” used all the time (and I catch myself using it far too often as well) and it’s starting to get underneath my skin. What do we mean when we use the word? Can we define it or are we simply attempting to explain an emotional high/reaction to something new or something we haven’t experienced in a long time?

To be honest, I have been guilty of believing all of the above mentioned definitions of love. This summer I have really been giving a ton of thought to love on all fronts, not just relationship-y love as I said before I dove into this. This particular topic is rather close to my heart (ha! again! irony!) because I hate, I mean absolutely ABHOR divorce and how often it occurs among Christians today. It’s why for a time I wanted to study marriage & family counseling because I wanted to help in combating this phenomena among couples today. I hope that we as Christians are constantly looking at how our lives say we define love. I am, but I know I have a long way to go. It’s never too late to start doing things differently.

Pray. Seek. Do.

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My 5-Year Wedding Anniversary

For the past two days, I’ve been pretty bogged down. Not in a depressed sort of mood, but times like right now, when the rest of the house is silent and all I’m doing is thinking about a lot, I’ve come to realize that I truly have not let go of some of the stupid decisions I’ve made in my life. I still beat myself up over them constantly. The past two days have been no exception. At one point last night when I was working, I literally became sick to my stomach. Guilt had never quite hit me like that before. I kept thinking about how I’ve ruined future experiences for myself.. How I’ve resisted God.. How I’ve run away as fast as I could.. How I’ve wasted SO much time.. It’s a lot for a person to carry around, y’know?

We’re all aware that God’s grace is enough to cover all of that, so please, no Sunday school answers needed. But after we’ve swiped the credit card of grace, we go on with our lives like nothing happened, but are we truly changed? I know a relationship with Christ isn’t about a feeling at all, but do we really have a heart-felt feeling of being forgiven? This has been my struggle ever since I started my walk with Christ; I never “feel” forgiven. I think I’ve finally figured out why..

The feeling of forgiveness isn’t meant to just come on its own. Hold on, stay with me. I know we don’t have to work for the grace of God, I know he gives it freely. However, I also believe that if you want that “feeling” of forgiveness, then you have to truly know the definition of repentance. Part of the definition of repent is “to turn,” as in, to turn in another direction. We can’t know forgiveness unless we turn from what we’re seeking forgiveness for. You can’t understand forgiveness until you learn to live in God’s grace. Forgiveness is far more than a feeling; it’s a release from being held captive by something that will consume and ruin your life. I’m starting to see that you can’t know forgiveness until you see the importance of living in God’s light and following his will. The importance can’t be seen unless you recognize that your life would literally be hell without his forgiveness and mercy. You’ve been trapped in Hell long enough; isn’t it time to walk away.. “to turn” away and walk the other direction and learn the depth of forgiveness?

I’ve started slipping back into some old habits again. I know the root of the issue, but my problem lies in the fact that I’m not sure how to fix it. Right now, I can do nothing about the true issue, but I CAN change how I deal with it.. It’s just very difficult right now, unfortunately. =/

A few mights ago, on July 23, it was an anniversary. The anniversary of my first re-baptism. (There’s actually been a third baptism in my life, but it’s more of a personal thing) My first year of CIY, I was re-baptized. I was baptized on Easter Sunday 2001, long before I understood the depth and importance of following Christ. I assumed that this just enabled me to take communion. Thus, I was re-baptized by a good friend at the time, Matt Shamp. I walked away with the assumption I knew what I was doing. I did, yes, but the understanding still wasn’t there, hence the third time. I can assure you the third time truly was the charm. Anyway. Back to the story. On July 23, you could say that was my re-committment to Christ. I’ve considered this the first of, hopefully, two weddings of my life. My 5 year anniversary with Christ. We’ve been “married” for 5 years. From the ups & downs, to me running away, to me ignoring him, to me coming full-circle and weeping at his feet for forgiveness. That’s what I did. What did he do? He waited patiently while I lived a sin-soaked life. He cried while I was crying because I was so numb to his love. He watched intently while I teetered on the edge of choosing our relationship against the world.. and furrowed his brow when I chose the world. He wept when I became so hardened to how to feel. He reached out to me when I was at the end of my robes begging for help, for something to change this. And finally, after May term, after nearly five long years of running and running fast, I was pushed over the edge and realized I’d missed out on five years of true love, true companionship, true relationship. It’s funny that some people consider the day they’re baptized their “spiritual birthday.” Indeed, it’s true.. birth into a new life.. but I like to think of it as something much more significant, something much deeper that truly displays Christ’s love for us.

The other night I did something a little out of character, but it was actually really good for me. I wrote a love note to my Savior. As I read back over it, I couldn’t help but notice how PERFECT of an example Christ is for today’s marriage. Obviously I already knew this, but it was one of those moments that it truly hits you as to how much men should be modeling themselves after Christ in order to be a godly husband. Granted, women, we need to model ourselves after Christ as well, but I was viewing this in the light of who I marry. I know I’ve been talking about marriage/relationships a lot lately and I feel as if it’s completely uncalled for almost, but I suppose it’s just been on my mind a lot lately, especially July 23. I was amazed at the close relation between what I’ve been looking for and what I’ve had the whole time! It also put sin in a whole new perspective. Every time I sin, I cheat against my Husband. Every time I choose the world over him, I choose promiscuity. Ouch. Dwell on that one for a while…

But there’s grace.. and repentance..

Lesson I’ve learned for the past week: Never stop learning, never stop growing, never stop searching the depths of Christ’ love for his bride, the church, and for his children.

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Victoria Donner

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