Friday, February 14, 2014

True love.

It's that time of year again- candy hearts, construction paper valentines, and rose petals. Love displayed for the world to see in pink cellophane wrapping and red window clings. Sappy sayings on cards, hour long reservations at restaurants, and mobs of men buying last minute get-out-of-the-dog-house-free gifts of chocolates and giant, stuffed puppies.
Whatever happened to love?
Don't get me wrong. I think men should show their women how much they love them. And the occasional box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers throughout the year is an important way to show that love. And I think it's darling when a little boy hands his mama a handmade "I Love You" card, or a daddy buys his little girl her first red rose.
But when did love become so easy?
Buying candy and lighting candles is the easiest way to love. I don't want a love purchased with a fancy dinner and a black tuxedo. I'd rather celebrate the hard kind of love.
The kind that takes grit, and commitment, and passion, and hard work. The kind that is gnarly, and not fun, and soul wearing. The kind that is a choice and a sacrifice, and a work of art, not just a cheap pay off. The kind that bears true fruit, not simply earning another year of peace from the old ball and chain. The kind bought with a price far higher than jewelry or electronics.

Let's celebrate the old man who cares for his wife of sixty years, trudging his weary bones to the nursing home every day to see her beautiful blue eyes. Eyes that are dimmed from the sparkle they once had, eyes that forget the faces they once treasured. Let's treasure the tears that drop on their wrinkled, clasped hands when he has to leave her side, the kiss they share when they must part.
Let's honor the mother, who patiently builds block towers for hours on end, and endures tantrums with patience, and endlessly trains and trains and trains her children, when she'd rather give up and give in and let it be. The mother who wipes bottoms and noses, and logs hours of rocking in the middle of the night. Who holds feverish babies, and paces floors worn with worry, and spends every waking moment working and praying for their health, and happiness, and eternity.
Let's reward the fathers who toil every day, and come home beaten and weary from the world. A world they face and bear on their strong shoulders, so that their wives and children don't have to feel that weight. Fathers who put aside their exhaustion and take the time to play peek-a-boo with an infant craving his love, or tickle the toddler that glows from his affection.

Let's commemorate the husbands who love their wives with deeds, and not just words, and on every day, not just on the days society demands it of them. Who wash the moldy, week old dishes, and spend their Saturdays fixing clogged pipes and squeaky doors. Who lead their wives with prayer, and honor them with their thoughts, and love them, wholly and alone. Who fight every day against a culture that does not expect them to be men, does not want them to be men, a culture that belittles them for striving to be men, and who stand up as men still.
Let's thank the wives who live their vows, and stand by their man, and serve him in the mundane days. Who cook dinners, and wash clothes, and rear children, and let their husbands be boys every once in awhile. Who adorn themselves in humility, and grace, and battle against the pressures of a world that values the opposite. Who choose to love, when they'd rather walk away.
Let's memorialize the daughter who serves selflessly by filling needs others can't meet, and the brother who serves God in ways we may not see.  Who give of their heart, and time, and energy so others can rest from their own weary toils.
Let's remember the aged grandmother, caring for the grandfather who is slipping away before her eyes. Who doesn't remember dates, and details, and names like he once did. Who's very personality and essence is changing. But she sticks with him. Because she swore to do so, even in the unlovely.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13

That, my friends, is true love. Not this papered and candied confection of love that we "celebrate" once a year. Because love is patient, and kind, and selfless, and true. And not made from teddy bears and Hallmark towers. Love takes from the lover. And expects nothing back.  

But mostly, love is a Man, on a cross, bleeding red for you and me.

"We love because He first loved us."
1 John 4:19

Monday, February 3, 2014

Keeping it Real.

I admire the bloggers that have the guts to post “Keeping It Real” photos. I honestly do. I appreciate that they are willing to admit the fact that they aren’t perfect. That they have days full of dirty dishes, and screaming babies, and cluttered floors. I think that the fact that they are willing to share their shortcomings with the world, so that we know they’re human too, and that we are encouraged on our dirty days, is laudable.
But nobody shows us their most real days. You know which days I mean. The days when we wake up tired, and angry, and foul, and right-down-to-the-core rotten. The days when we have pure, putrid, stinking hate in our hearts. When we hate the day, and the job, and the very air we’re breathing. The house may be sparkling, the children may be darling, the day may be blue, but we are still filthy inside.
We don’t share those days. We don’t keep those days real. Because on those days, we don’t want to be seen. We want to crawl away into our little hole and hide from the light of day. We hide, because we know. We know the depths of the ugliness still rooted in our hearts. We see without a doubt the very sin that brought Christ to the cross, and we cling to it with all our meager might. These are the most real, the dirtiest of days.
God sees those days. We may hide it from others behind cheery smiles and empty platitudes and good deeds, but He sees us down in the pit of our hearts, relishing in the muck and the mire of self-love and self-indulgence and self-pity.
He sees our wretched sin, and He condemns us to hell for it. For our selfishness isn’t just an annoyance to others, or inconvenience for us, or a bump in the road to holiness, but it is damnable blasphemy against our holy God Himself.
We carefully avoid the Bible on those days, for the Word of God brings condemnation. We avoid Christian fellowship on those days, for they point us to the Word of God. We avoid letting our putrescence show to the world, for then our Christian brethren would seek us out. Instead, we cover our sickness with a spotless veil of piety, and avoid anything that would root it out.
But, thank God, He is gracious. He does not leave us to rot in our depths of despair, though His holiness allows it. He gives us a way out, even in our darkest of dirty days. He doesn’t let us try to worm our own way out, but sends His precious Son, Who has not a spot on His shining soul, to plunge His holy hands into the filth that surrounds us. He sends His Son to pull us onto His back and out of the muck. He washes the filth from our being with His priceless blood, and presents us to His Father as clean, holy, worthy.
Thank God, that on our truly dirty days He does not abandon us.

Just, you know, keepin’ it real