by Randy Gariss, director of OCC's Life and Ministry Preparation Center
The phrase of the day is social distancing, but ironically we are also very tightly secluded with others. The question we must each wrestle with is this: “Will these people be deeply loved by me?”
Invited season or not, there is a privilege in being able to spend long, extended, intensive time with the people we love. It is no exaggeration to say that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. “Great moments come from great challenges” may sound like a fortune cookie tagline, but it is also very true.
So how do you love deeply these housemates of yours?
There are four decisions you will have to make:
1. You will have to choose to love.
If loving came naturally, then every house on every block would just naturally stumble into it. If it were just instinctive, then eventually everyone would finally find it, give it, receive it, and we would have an abundance of it. But I have been to the store, I have seen the foster child, I have read the paper. Love is never just a natural happy accident. It is a relentless, courageous, daily decision.
2. Own your own maturity.
Immaturity requires nothing from you. It has no standards and makes no demands.
It is only love that makes claims on you. Love is not bashful. It demands high attributes and classy behavior. Love has standards like:
- being patient when you didn’t want to be patient.
- being gentle when frustration wants its own voice.
- being courageous in conversation when avoidance or pouting is easier.
- overlooking when fault finding and fault speaking is the mood of the day.
- forgiving when no one else is.
- valuing what they value, not because you value it, but because they value it…and you value them.
James 3 says that “We all stumble in many ways.” Love will always be one stumbler loving another stumbler. So if love is really going to happen between any set of stumblers, then someone has to be healed enough by Jesus to control his own immature emotions. And to borrow from Jesus the maturity love requires. Chasing after wholeness is essential to love.
3. Cultivate gratitude.
Thankfulness is always the highway upon which love travels. “We love because he first loved us” is not a catchphrase or a wall plaque, but an entry point to everything else. The great lovers have chosen to be grateful people—grateful to God, and grateful for these people.
Grateful to God...
Grateful that he would love, grateful that he is at work. Grateful he weeps too. Grateful for his gift of hope. Grateful he redeems whatever sin steals. Grateful his “mercies are new every morning.”
(It is interesting how much clarity there is for the “attire” one must wear in order to come into the presence of God—which is pretty much everywhere. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving...enter his courts with praise.” Gratitude is the dress of the day.)
...and Grateful for These People
Yes, they have their weaknesses and flaws, but no amount of sin—neither theirs nor mine—can take away the wonder of their being made in the image of God. They have beauty and creativity, worth and value, honor and dignity, promise and potential. They are sons and daughters of God. May I share his eyes and his heart for them today.
4. Invest much.
Where your investment is—that is also where your heart will be. It's a principle as old as Eden. The great paradox God wired into life is that giving your life into the lives of others—for his sake and their sake—gives your life back to you transformed. Investing in love creates character in you. It awakens your heart, it reflects God in you, it establishes a mature man or woman, it increases your affection, and it changes the world…one life at a time.
So go invest. Serve, play, love, listen, ask, relieve, care, talk, walk, include, forgive, offer, clean, help, surprise, encourage, compliment, and wherever else your creativity takes you.
The story your family tells after this lockdown will be simple: in the worst of times, it was the best of times.