What is Love?
Love builds character. In fact, love only builds. Whether in the throes of the lows or stormy seas, loving well and being loved through it builds strength and resilience. It builds faith and hope, and feeds joy. Love matters because presence matters. And in all the spaces in between, love leads and carries and holds your hand. Because Love has come. And it is for you.
I don’t know about you, but as Christmas and New Year’s chase me down, I begin to reflect on all that the year has held. While I’m not prone to regret, there are the snapshots of desired do-overs that may never come, and a requisite need to let go, move on, begin again. How very grim, if this is all we can see in the spaces that did not hold the Hope we profess to have.
When I think about the last year, I imagine the most charitable assumption I could offer for the sum of the parts is “character building.” Maybe you can relate: regathering, reimagining, rebuilding has a way of shaping us, whether or not we’ve been pleased with the process. Yet, I woke in the middle of the night (totally normal, totally annoying) to the question “What if it’s love alone that builds character?”
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The valley holds beauty and growth
Now, if you’re anything like my dear friend with whom I batted this thought about, you’ll want me to concede that the valley holds beauty and growth, and that we may miss the wonder of the mountaintop vista without it.
But what if the hard bits are just hard, and the good bits are just good, and character is built in the way we walk through all of it? Because I’m not convinced that the hardest seasons always have an “it was worth it” coda tagged onto the end. And sometimes good stuff is just, well, fun (and that’s okay)! I’m also unconvinced that broken things are part of God’s plan for us, while I am abundantly convinced that He is aware of them and with us through them.
The day before I woke with that start, I had just spent the day with a good friend who spoke truth over my doubts, joy over my fears, and downright trashed any questions that were rooted in either fear or doubt. It was the most ridiculously loving thing: to throw punches at the monsters a former season had birthed.
And character was, indeed, formed in that moment—more so it seems than I can point to in any season of crisis, pain, or valley languish. It was a car ride, nothing special. Yet, chains fell off. Lies fell mute. Tears fell hot and angry and freely. It’s obnoxious the way pain and loss grab your playbook and play hide-and-seek with it for far longer than you even feel their presence. Taking it back is pure joy. Having someone rip it out of their hands, put it back in yours, and say “this belongs to you” is love.
Love builds character. In fact, love only builds.
Whether in the throes of the lows or stormy seas, loving well and being loved through it builds strength and resilience. Likewise, while breathless with awe and wonder at the top of a climb or dancing in celebration, love matters. It builds faith and hope, and feeds joy. Love matters because presence matters. And in all the spaces in between, love leads and carries and holds your hand. Because Love has come. And it is for you.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has become a child of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 Here is how God showed his love among us. He sent his one and only Son into the world. He sent him so we could receive life through him. 10 Here is what love is. It is not that we loved God. It is that he loved us and sent his Son to give his life to pay for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us this much, we should also love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God. But if we love one another, God lives in us. His love is made complete in us.
God is love. Anyone who leads a life of love is joined to God.
And God is joined to them. 17 Suppose love is fulfilled among us. Then we can be without fear on the day God judges the world. Love is fulfilled among us when in this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. Instead, perfect love drives away fear. 1 John 4:7-12, 16-18.
We see you. It’s in the way you take and hold a crying baby after a volunteer has tried everything. The way you sit with the little one who’s struggling to cooperate. The way you welcome the family that is new, or hasn’t been in months, or shows up at your office door in crisis on a Tuesday afternoon.
Love is why you do what you do, how you know what to do, and Who you do it all for.
Love was never meant to be absent from the experience of any moment, no matter how high or how low. Because Jesus, Love himself, is present in every moment. And Love is for you. Love is with you. Love is God’s own Son sent for you, to be with you, in this moment and each one that follows. And when Jesus said “if you love one another, everyone will know you are my disciples” (John 13:35), let me be sure you’re reminded in the busyness of this season: we know that you are a disciple. And you love so well. Thank you for the ways that you make Jesus known by your love for Him and for others. You are not only building character as you love well, you are building the Kingdom in real time where Jesus is known and Love is experienced (1 Peter 2:9).
Love is how Jesus is most likely to show up in and through and with us.
Being willing to love well, and be loved, in every season, arduous or glorious, is the very character and nature of Jesus. And the more we become like Jesus, I am convinced the more we become who we were made to be, character formed in the image of God. Beloved, Love has come. He is near. It’s okay to curl up in His lap and rest in the hope that we, indeed have, in Jesus.
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