My six year old son jumped out of our car and ran alongside a stream of children rushing into school. I paused for a moment as I watched him go, making sure he got safely inside. At the door of the cafeteria he turned around, obstructing the flow of students, waved his arm high up into the air and hollered at the top of his little lungs, “Bye, mom! I love you! You’re the best!” He turned and walked away. The other children look my way briefly, curious to see this creature so worthy of a kindergartner’s adoration. For a second, things stand still. I ponder that moment in my heart. Then time unfreezes, and everyone continues along their way.
With three young children in the house, such shows of affection are still common in our home. We hug a lot. Give tons of kisses. Hold tiny hands. Tickle. Laugh. And just generally love each other well. (We have to love our tiny ones well in order to make up for all the no’s, not now’s, outta here’s and be quiet’s.) Nonetheless, I did not take my son’s small act of uninhibited love for granted. It hit my heart hard and lingered there sweetly for a moment. At what point, I wondered, do humans become so terribly inhibited in their ability to love?
That was where my thoughts settled. In light of Cole’s dauntless act of uninhibited love that morning, my usual way of loving – with such inhibition – was exposed. For most of my life now, I suppose, my love has been inhibited, restrained, controlled.
I can pinpoint a few moments in my former years when life taught me to limit the love I gave others.
My parents divorced when I was in the 8th grade and in the ugliness that ensued I learned to fear the after-effects of love. The fighting, the seething anger, the dividing and selling of possessions once shared. It taught me to inhibit my love.
When I point-blank asked my mom why she didn’t like my first real boyfriend in High School (who I was head over heels for, by the way), she looked me straight in the eye and said, “It’s not that I don’t like him. But I can tell that he doesn’t care for you as much as you care for him and that’s not what I want for you”. It was true. The reality of that truth beat up my tender young heart. It taught me to inhibit my love.
I bet you can relate. Heartache is quite common to the human experience. As I grew in age, life confirmed time and again that the smart way to love was to hold some back, keeping my love as subtle and unenthused as possible. I learned to be sensible when it came to matters of love. I learned to safe-guard my heart by controlling the flow of emotions as they tried to escape. I learned to never-ever, at any cost, love too much.
And then I became a Christian.
And still, in the midst of all the heart-torturing things that occur in a fallen world, God commands me to love. And not in a “holding some back, cautiously careful, wait-and-see what happens, slow and easy” kind of way, but in a “recklessly abandoned, throw caution to the wind, give it all you got, now or never” kind of way. The type of love God calls those who follow him into is bold and daring and the stakes are incredibly high – especially when you consider that the first one we’re supposed to love like this is God Himself.
Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Jesus called this the first and the greatest commandment, the most important one of all (Mark 12:29).
The first thing I need to do as a Christian, the most important thing God would ever ask of me, and I’m not sure that I can. That probably sounds pretty terrible, but I’m not sure that I can love God that much. My heart has been so stunted in it’s growth, so inhibited in it’s ability to love that sometimes I just don’t think that I can do it. There’s this fear in my heart that I’ll never be able to love God enough. That I’m incapable. Unable. Too far gone.
The book of Ezekiel tells the story of a people facing this very dilemma. After years of unfaithfulness to the Lord their God, they found themselves unable to love him. Their idols had robbed them of His truth. Their affections for him had been muted by the deceitfulness of their own hearts. They, too, had a problem. And what’s a heart-broken people to do when commanded to produce a love that cannot be manufactured?
Ezekiel 36:26-28 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
The moment any of us turn to Christ, our heart-problem becomes His heart-problem. He carries our burden as if it were his own. And God’s solution to our heart-problem? A brand new heart for his people. God never commands anything of us that He does not provide for us. His command for us to love Him with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our entire soul carries with it the promise that He will meet us with provision for the task. This morning, I am able to love not because I am capable of love, or worthy of love, or wired for love, but because of His love for me – He loves for me. That assurance brings with it rest for my weary heart. I pray it does the same for yours.
Connect with Early Morning Mama on Facebook HERE.