The life theologic – There is always more to learn

Standard

Our church was recently visited by a team from Ellel Ministries, who ran a weekend looking at healing and forgiveness.  Having been a part of YWAM for the past 2 years, I was really looking forward to having a large, international team around for the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, Somerset is lovely, but somewhat homogenous, and I miss the diversity that I was surrounded by, both in London and during my time with YWAM. Anyway, apart from being excited by all the foreigners, I went into the weekend with two main preconceptions:  one, that as they were going to be talking about healing and deliverance, it was going to get weird, and two, that I would probably have heard it all before and could just sit back and observe the proceedings.  Basically, I was setting myself up for a weekend of people watching. (How often do we do that in church, on those Sundays when we’re tired and don’t feel like we can muster up the energy to have a proper conversation with God.)

Thankfully, not only did Ellel turn out to be the least weird and wacky ministry team I think I’ve ever experienced (my church is weirder on a weekly basis), but I also really enjoyed the teaching.  Yes, I had heard most of it before, but God still used that time to speak to me in a new way.  I love how He does that, even when we think we know better, or that we already know it all, He still manages to surprise and humble us.  This time it was in the form of a very simple exercise.  We were asked to draw a heart on a piece of paper, and to start writing in it things that God was revealing to us about the good things that He has placed in our hearts, and the things that are not so good. Sounds easy enough, right?

Unfortunately, it is so much easier for most of us to fill that heart with the negative things that we feel about ourselves; the hidden sins and failures that plague our waking hours and act to drive a wedge between us and God.  There were plenty of negative things that I could have written in the heart, but from the moment we started the exercise I was bombarded with such a torrent of good things, that I soon ran out of space to put anything negative.  The more I wrote, the more they kept coming; things I would agree with and things that I couldn’t see in myself, and some things that were difficult for me to write down.  It was like God wanted to use that moment to show me how He sees my heart.  How, because of Jesus, He doesn’t see the bad things that I dwell upon.  He wanted to show me all of the things that He has placed in my heart and is working on growing and developing.  Some of them are still little seedlings, and some are fully fledged trees, but they are all there, whether I accept it or not.  It was an amazing experience.  It’s taken me a long time to learn how to deal with compliments, as they usually make me want to shrink into myself, and here I was, being complimented by God!  And yet, it didn’t make me want to cringe, it made me want to try and live up to the version of me that He sees.

I so easily relapse into dwelling on the bad, only to be reminded by God of the good, that this time I decided to take action.  I decided to record the things He said about me and turn them into something that I would want to look at.  I’m hoping that by looking at them everyday, they will help me to remember who I am, and to think about how God sees me, rather than how the rest of the world does.

Heart

(The eagle-eyed among you will notice that mine is in the shape of Africa, not a heart. That’s for two reasons: one, because I love how Africa is pretty much heart shaped anyway, and two, because Africa is where my heart lies.)

The life theologic – What it means to love

Standard

Last weekend was my brother’s wedding, and I was planning on writing a post about the wedding cake I had slaved over.  Then I realised that that post would be nothing more than an online bragging session, and that I would be cheapening the experience of what was a beautiful wedding by focusing on one of the least important aspects.  If I ever do decide to share the recipes I used, then you’ll hear all about the cakes, but it will be no great loss if you don’t.  No, there is a more important message to take from Saturday’s celebrations, and that is on the real nature of love.

IMG_5735

The address at the wedding spoke of the need for passion when it comes to love.  I think that this should apply to all kinds of love, not just that between a husband and wife.  Yes, there are many ways to love, and they are wonderfully varied, but without passion, can you really call them love?  If you think about the things you enjoy the most in life, the things you would claim to love, and then think about how you would respond if someone asked you to talk about them, I’m prepared to bet it would be with gusto.  You would be passionate.  It doesn’t matter if the subject matter is football or Van Gogh, you would speak with feeling and expend energy.  It would cost you something.

The same applies to the love we show each other, it should cost us something.  It should be passionate.  I’m not saying that we should act in what would be called a passionate way towards everyone.  Passion for the sake of it is pointless, just so much empty heat.  I’m not advocating for lust over love.   Passion does not equal lust.  What I am saying is that when we do something out of love, we should do it whole-heartedly and passionately, whether it be buying  coffee for a friend or getting down on one knee.

We often forget that love is both a verb and a noun, acting as though it is either just a feeling we have, something personal and private, or as if it is just something that we do for others, a string of random acts of kindness.  In reality we need to remember that it is both.  One cannot truly take place without the other.  Performing acts of kindness without passion or love is hollow, just as directing all your emotion into loving someone without putting it into action is futile.  We are told that:

“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” – 1 Corinthians 13:3

This really cuts to the heart of any relationship.  If you love someone or something, then acting with passion should follow naturally.  We were set the perfect example when God, acting out of love for a broken world, gave His Son to suffer in our place.  This is the basic message of what it means to be a Christian: you have been loved, so you should love in return.  We are called to be living embodiments of God’s love in this world, and this requires us to act with some passion.  It doesn’t really matter if this manifests as serving hot meals to those in need, advocating for those who have no voice or just babysitting for a friend, what really matters is that the acts of love are performed with love.  That whatever we do, we do with our whole hearts, and that we leave behind traces of God’s love.

That’s what it really means to love; feeling an emotional connection and acting on it with passion, and that is what the wedding on Saturday was a perfect example of.