Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Friday, February 17, 2017

When You Follow the Path of Love You Have to Stoop Down

When he proclaimed his love for me out there on the top of the 'Anne' bridge at the peak of winter it didn’t much matter that is was way below freezing and the river had frozen over.

When he let his innermost thoughts fall on my ears, that it was his desire for me to be his wife, he slipped a diamond on my finger and the sun dropped behind our backs and left us standing in the stark cold, flushed with a longing for life together. We ran off the bridge and rushed into our future.

Winter faded into spring flowers, which ushered in a busy, blistering summer and we were married on the rainiest fall day in the history of ever afters. No one could have prepared us for what was to come.

You could say, we started off well-watered for all the pruning that would come into our lives and into our marriage.

We were young and had carefully guarded our hearts. We looked forward with honorable intentions and stood before God and made solemn vows to one another.

Somewhere in our house are copies of the vows we spoke. We committed them to memory, and boldly they soared from our lips and every day since then we have been committed to live them out. We’ve learned a lot about love since that frigid day on the 'Anne' bridge. We’ve still got more to learn than we know. 

It’s a lot easier to speak a vow that to live one.

To say you will love and cherish someone all of their life, all of their days is rather simple, especially if there is any affection or attraction to that person.

But, what happens when the hard part of the vows knocks on our door?

Love faithfully prefers the other even when the happily ever-after becomes sorrowfully exhausting and brutally demanding right now and from this day forward.

When life twists and turns, when loss heaves and health fails, then love risks and keeps on risking. And I’m not only talking about love within marriage now. We have been commanded to love our neighbor, love one another, and Christ went so far to call us to love our enemies.

Love reaches far. Love goes low.

The path of love is humility. Lowliness. Servanthood.

This truth is either falling on deaf ears and hard hearts and is slandered and spurned or is landing on ears that hear and it is sown in the chambers of contrite hearts ready to follow the glorious example of Christ.

Do you hear this? God has demonstrated his love toward us and we are to walk this very same path of love, dying to self, taking up our cross.

The only way to be delivered from the bondage of self-centredness, is to walk in the freedom of humility.

Humility sets us free from the idol of self, slays the pride of our souls and releases us to value others above ourselves, and to consider the interests of others.

Humility and love must go hand in hand; they are inseparable. Humility is our friend, pride is our foe.

C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity explained:

Pride . . . is the complete anti-God state of mind . . . As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.

Lewis continued “Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love or contentment or even common sense.”

No small wonder Solomon wrote: “Pride goes before destruction.”

Humility is the opposite of pride. Clothe yourself with humility.

Humility allows you to love others not only if and when they are worthy of the love, but because in humility, whether they are lovable or not, you have regarded them to be worthy to be loved. In humility, you have considered them worthy for you to serve them.

In stooping low, you esteem them worthy of being lifted up, encouraged, built up. 

Look to the example of Christ and as Paul gently appealed in Philippians 2:5-8:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather,
he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Consider the descent of Christ’s humility.

Christ Jesus, who was with God in the beginning and was God and who is God eternal, never ceased to be God when He climbed down from the glories of heaven, curled Himself up in a cramped womb, unfurled Himself as a baby in Bethlehem. From the heights of heaven to a lowly manger.

The Son of God who is “ . . . the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature . . .”, the shining of the shining, made himself nothing by taking on the nature of a servant, the likeness of man. There we see the nature of God and the nature of man in one Person; the climbing down of Deity to be garbed in humanity.

He descended lower.

He stooped to serve. He healed lepers, he washed dirty feet, He bent down and wrote on the ground, He allowed the betrayer’s kiss.

He descended lower.

He humbled himself to the point of death. He who is life, the author, agent, and sustainer of life, became obedient to death.

He descended lower.

He endured exceeding sorrow, was covered in horrific shame in the sight of God, and suffered great contempt and God’s wrath on a cross.

This is the attitude we are to have toward one another. Go lower and lower and even lower still. That is where you will find love rising higher and higher.

Love doesn’t live in fairy tales. Love abides in Christ and is poured into our hearts.

Love shows up when you stoop low.

When you reach out to the hurting, when you sit with the sick, when you welcome the outsider, when you are the hands and feet to the least, the lost, the lonely, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and serve them, giving of yourself, thinking of others as better than yourself, then love flows over.

Love increases when self decreases.

Love grows when by the power of God, you set aside your life to care for a sick child or spouse or aging parent, you sacrifice your status to serve the body, you lay down your rights to honour those above you, and you strip away your entitlements and do all that you can to live peaceably with all.

Love takes the lower place.

When you see yourself for what you really are: one guilty of sin, but by grace you have been saved through faith by the atoning work of Christ and raised in Him and called His Beloved, you will stay at the foot of the cross.

At the cross, you see that Christ is all-sufficient and you don’t need to pamper your own happiness and stoke your own identity, because your aim is Christ, your pleasure is to delight in God’s pleasure, and your joy will be full in Christ.

At the cross, we look up to Jesus, follow after Him and go low. At the foot of the cross, we lay our selves down, and take up our cross as we walk the path of love clothed in humility, and we rejoice that in life and in death our hope is secure and our future is bright.

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