Loving Well (Even If You Haven't Been) - by Dr. William P. Smith...
The love of God. Something I have known intellectually my whole life - "Jesus loves me, this I know..." and yet in the past few years I have realized just how much I do not yet understand about the depth and breadth and heigth and width of the love of God. We love as we have been loved. We pass on to others how we ourselves are treated. The premise of Dr. Smith's book is that if we truly and deeply understood God's love for us, this would enable us to love others well. Really well. "Beyond what most of us are used to or expect" kind of well.
Not very long ago, I had a short visit with a pastor at my sending church (the same pastor that Bill Smith refers to several times in this book). This long-time friend of mine has a special ability to make those around him feel loved and valued. Its not the kind of thing you run into every day. I distinctly remember walking out of his office feeling "loved well" and I had this spontaneous desire to love others well that day, no matter who it was.
Of course many of us have the opposite experience a whole lot more often. We probably all have at least that one friend who feigns interest when you try to share about a struggle in your life: you start to open up a bit - and that look of disinterest and distraction passes over their face. Or perhaps it is the family member that is so prickly that you can hardly have a discussion without inadvertently tripping over an emotional landmine. When I have these kinds of encounters - I don't walk away with the desire to 'love well'...I just feel a sense of loss and frustration.
The experience of the love of God sometimes seems elusive to me, unless it happens through the Body of Christ that are His hands and feet on earth. That's tangible. That's relational and feels real. Learning to experience the love of God through my relationship with Him directly - such as through the Word, prayer, the Spirit - this has been a growth process for me. Growing...increasing...but still a long way to go.
"We love because He first loved us." I John 4:19
"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
Some nuggets from the book...
"The way I live out my relationships with people is one of the clearest indicators of how healthy my relationship with the Lord is. If I live knowing that God moves toward me all day long and invites me to move toward Him, then I will engage people positively in their lives. But if I wait for others to give themselves to me first, then I show that I really don't believe or regularly experience this God Who is reconciling people to Himself. Either way, I live out the truth that you become whatever you worship."
"You can love other people only out of your own experience of being loved. Or, to say it in reverse, you cannot pass along what you yourself have not received."
"It's only after having been loved that you respond with love. You love [God] back, and you reach out to share with others a tiny portion of the love that you yourself have received... It's only as the reality of His love becomes my present experience that I will be more concerned about expressing my love to others than insisting they express theirs for me."
As I journey through this book - I think the key growth area I am asking my Abba for is that my sole source of learning how to love people - and the strength to do it - would come from directly experiencing the mind-blowing, soul-flooding, grace-infused, overwhelming, and totally incomprehensible LOVE of God.