Learning to Love

"There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love." 1 John 4:18

When I was a twenty-year-old freshly minted college graduate, I began to pray and ask God to teach me how to love people—really love them, like He does.  I prayed this same prayer every night, "Dear Heavenly Father, please teach me how to love people--how to really love them--like you love me.  Amen."

It seemed as though the days that followed brought some of the most difficult people to love that I’d ever met in my life.  I had always been told that I was pretty easy to get along with, but that was coming from the very limited perspective of young college kids with relatively the same mindset.  The real, non-bubble world proved to be much different.  I was naive in many ways, and just a bit simple-minded in others.  Needless to say, there's been a whole lot of pruning going on, and I've been a "C" student at best in love school.  In fact, some days loving people got so tough that I decided I ought to pray for something different.  

So, I decided to pray that God would draw me closer to Him--no matter what it took.
That was March 31, 2001.  The next day, I was diagnosed with a meningioma, a benign brain tumor, and given two years to live--without surgery.  Eighteen years with no brain surgery, and I'm thankful for God's mercy, and that He answers prayer.  I never really understood that asking God to draw me closer to Him would require me to learn how to love others.  It was really the same prayer.

It's been thirty-two years since I started praying for God to teach me how to love others, and I’m still learning.  But, there are some things He's taught me during this time:

1.  Love is a verb.  Sometimes that verb is hard work.

2. To love others, you must first love God, and then love yourself - The Holy Bible tells us repeatedly, "For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Galatians 5:14).  Insecurities can sometimes make this hard for us, but those are just by-products of being self-focused rather than God-focused.

3.  Our love and our faith grow in direct correlation to each other.  The more we trust God, the more we become pleasing to Him.  Our fear diminishes, and we are free to love Him, others, and the person He has made us to be (1 John 4:18).

4. There is no fear in love.  The only fear we should have is the reverential fear of the Lord (1 Peter 2:17; 2 Timothy 1:7).

5.  Loving others doesn't mean placating them or giving them everything they want.  God doesn't do that with us.  He goes deeper.  And, we should, too.

6.  God answers prayer--even prayers about love.  He really answers.

7. Many people claim to love others, but they are simply mimicking what the world says love should look like. Real love can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I don't know much, but I know that God loves you and me enough to give us His only Son. And, my friend, that's enough for me.

Is it enough for you?

Goodnight, Runners.

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