Pain stinks. Especially the kind of pain where your heart aches and your reality is completely unfair—the kind of pain that comes from losing something of great value that you feel is rightfully yours or the hurt that comes from betrayal, rejection, or being completely misunderstood and alone. No one desires that kind of pain or loss. It seems to prey on us at times when we least expect it, and often when we are least ready for it.
Perhaps subconsciously, we build carefully-crafted walls around the most vulnerable places of our hearts and expectations. We do everything we can to avoid situations which may be painful. We draw a line, which we are sure is perfectly fine to draw, separating us from things which have the potential to cause loss or hardship. After all, how could loss be good? How could pain or discomfort be a part of God’s loving plan for us?
Consequently, many of us have become quite good at self-preservation. Unfortunately, we have often even called it “wisdom,” to make it seem more acceptable. It may be subtle, but I would venture to say that many (if not all) of our big and small decisions are made through the filter of whether or not they will bring us happiness and acceptance, or whether there may be pain or loss involved. In the end, we are simply just protecting ourselves.
Is that a bad thing?
What if our self-preservation and our walls of defense and protecting ourselves from rejection or loss or hurt, are actually stealing from us? What if those very things rob us of opportunities to truly live, be fulfilled, and experience and express love the way Jesus did?
There are plenty of books and blogs written on this thought process, and I am certainly no expert on expressing a fully-researched biblical view of it. However, these thoughts have been rumbling around in my heart and mind for years now, and I cannot help but wonder:
What if we took a long, hard look at Jesus’ life? What would we see? Would we see someone who held back? Would we see someone who had walls of self-preservation built to protect Himself from pain or loss? What if He had assessed His decisions through the filter of what would most benefit Him or make Him money? What if He had avoided being rejected, or physically harmed, or robbed? What if He had preserved Himself for just the things He felt He could handle?
It just astounds me to think of how great His love was for us, because none of those things were His concern. This love overwhelms me—this strange, undeserved love that cost Him everything.
Everything. Not just the parts that He felt good about. Not just the things that did not matter as much to Him. He never held back. He gave of Himself entirely. He loved, not just wondering, but knowing that He would be rejected and beaten and betrayed—and He did it anyway. He gave up everything that made Him important and powerful, and then He subjected Himself to shame and agony and loss and torture. For us. This is love.
What if? What if we had that kind of love? What would we look like? How might our lives be different? How would it effect our big decisions? Our small decisions? What if we were brave enough to discover the richness that comes through giving ourselves away? What if we knew pain and heartache were a part of the story—would we choose to be a part of it anyway? What if the world around us saw this kind of love? What if we did not hold back?
What if it cost us everything?
This is love. It requires us to give everything. This love is backwards and crazy and strange and upside down. It is rarely logical according to the world’s standards. It does not think of itself. It does not keep track of the bad things others do. It gives without expectation. This love never gives up and is always hopeful. This love does not hold back. This love endures through every circumstance—every pain, every loss.
What if somehow this kind of love, when we are given completely to it, also gives itself in return? What if it is powerful enough to take every pain and loss and heartache and rejection and every tear resulting from giving this kind of love, and somehow weaves them into a beautiful masterpiece. A story where the naked are clothed, the hungry are fed, and the blind receive sight. A song that gives hope to the hopeless, strength to the weary, binds up the brokenhearted, and restores our souls. A tapestry that becomes our reality and fulfills us more than we ever thought possible.
Question to consider: How have you seen answers Tabitha’s question “What if somehow this kind of love, when we are given completely to it, also gives itself in return?” in your life?