Who knew a short walk would be so difficult?
Our family recently visited Yellowstone National Park. We were awed by the magnificence of it all – the deep blue hot springs, yellowish and auburn rocked grand canyon, vibrant wildlife, shooting geysers, and bubbling mud pots.
But, I remember one short hike in particular; though, not because of the scenery, as you might suppose. What I remember about this walk was how labored my breathing became after a few brisk steps.
My lungs function quite well at my home in the valley. But, at 7,000 feet above sea level, where oxygen is a bit more scarce, they began to shout discomfort.
Breathing – most of us do it without thinking; minute after minute, day after day. However, when breathing becomes difficult, it suddenly becomes our most consuming focus of the moment. Inhale. Exhale. It is our very life. No Inhale, no Exhale, no Life.
As Christians, love is to be our very life. Love of God and love of others.
And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’
But loving others is just downright hard sometimes. It’s one of my greatest failings. Even this past week, I perceived in my soul the labored struggle to love others. I’ve been convicted about the many times I haven’t let love be the motivating force in my attitudes, actions, and conversations with others.
I long for a solution to this problem.
For quite a while, I bought into the world’s lie that, ‘you can’t love unless you love yourself.’
Don’t buy it. The idea begs so many questions.
How can we, as imperfect people who don’t even know the depths of ourselves, possibly show fulfilling and perfect agape-love to ourselves!? It would be like expecting my oxygen deprived lungs to create oxygen for themselves from nothing. It has never worked and it never will! We can show deference to ourselves above others, we can say positive things about ourselves to try to mend our broken pride, we can pamper ourselves in excess; but none of this will make us feel more loved, and it especially won’t help us love others!
You see, God did not create us to love ourselves. Just like I could not muster up breath in and of myself to satisfy my body’s need for oxygen, I cannot muster up in myself the love I need to satisfy my soul, let alone someone else’s. It’s not in loving myself more (which, let’s be honest, almost always leads to self-centered attitudes and actions) that I gain the ability to love others, it’s in breathing in His love that I can exhale with love for others.
God created us to be thankful and worshipful recipients of His perfect gifts. One His greatest gifts is His love.
“…man’s love for God… must always be very largely, and must often be entirely, a Need-love.”
God made us to need Him and His love. That need must drive us to find love in Him alone. Because it’s in His love alone that we have the power to truly love another.
We love, because He first loved us.
1 John 4:19
…Not because we love ourselves, not because of obligation, not because of any goodness within us.
We love because we are loved.
Humility before our Creator is required if ever we are to receive – breathe in – what He is offering to us, His creatures. The more we are filled with His love, giving Christ-like love to others becomes effortless – like breathing in the valleys.
The labored breathing on my 7,000 foot walk was a stark reminder of my need for oxygen. Difficulties in love should be a flashing neon sign that point us in the direction of the One true Source of life-giving love.
“Just as the Father has loved me, I have also love you; abide in my love.”
~ Jesus (John 15:9)
If it’s hard to catch your breath today, if love is elusive, take a deep breath of the Savior’s love for you. Come worship and bow down, kneel before the Lord your Maker, and abide in His love.
Inhale love. Exhale love.
I’ll be doing the same.
“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”