Love-Hate Relationships

pureloveblogHe said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so depressed morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Then Amnon said to him, “I am in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.”…then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up, go away!” (2 Samuel 13:4,15)

Just because someone says he loves you doesn’t mean he knows what real love is. For that matter, how many of us really know fully what real love is? Because God fully defines love because it’s who He is, and we can’t fully know God yet, our understanding of love will be limited. But there are some things about which we can be certain that love is not.

David had a son Amnon who was “infatuated” with David’s daughter Tamar. Yes, they were half-siblings, having the same father but different mothers. Amnon shared that he was “in love” with Tamar with a friend and relative, who encouraged him to manipulate some alone time with her. He demanded sex. She refused. He raped her. Next comes the verses at the beginning of today’s reading. He said he hated her more strongly than he loved her. Tamar refused his “love,” but also tried to refuse his hate, exclaiming, “sending me away is greater than the other that you have done to me!”

No wonder we have issues dealing with what love really is! It gets worse. Tamar’s full brother Absalom kills Amnon. David grieves for multiple children. Oh, the tangled webs we weave. And here’s what we often do in response: we try to rationalize who is right and wrong, who is justified and unjustified. We want justice. God’s got that taken care of. What if we focus on what He says about love instead?

Just because the word “love” is used in Scripture doesn’t mean it’s an accurate reflection of godly love. We can isolate something in Scripture and rationalize something God never intended us to rationalize. We can take what seems to be a snapshot of love and put a frame around it, declaring it as “love” instead of putting it in a collage or photo album and recognizing that it must be a distortion of love because it certainly doesn’t fit God’s consistent portrayal of love. Instead of its own individual frame, it gets a caption “love, distortion of” to make it easily identifiable in the future.

We usually hear the term “love/hate relationship” with things like ice cream, pizza, shopping, exercise, and so on. We like something, but we pay the price later, therefore, not liking something at the same time we like it. It’s a cost/benefit thing. But I’m not sure I agree these things are actually love/hate relationships. I don’t know that either feeling is that intense to actually polarize to loving and hating the same thing. It’s more of a like/dislike relationship. If both love and hate were involved, I think one would tip the scales.

It’s like when we say we really don’t want to do something, yet we do it. We’re playing mind games with ourselves. After all, there has to be some aspect of it that we actually want to do, otherwise, we would reject it all together. Maybe it’s the expectations, obligations, or attention that drives us to go through with it, but there’s something motivating. When we choose to do something but say we don’t want to, we’re saying one thing and doing another. We’re deciding which side of the cost/benefit continuum is more important.

When the feelings are as intense as love and hate, I think one is more prevalent than another. We’re either not acknowledging it, or we’re distorting the definitions of love and hate. Like in Amnon’s case. When I broaden my perspective, I believe he hated Tamar. But I don’t believe he loved her. Sure, perhaps he loved her the way he thought was love. He verbally said he loved her. But that doesn’t indicate the truth of love. I’ve had someone tell me he loved me, and I think he was convinced he did, but his love was a distortion of love.

God doesn’t distort love…ever. What He says is love is. What He says isn’t love isn’t. There’s no love/hate relationship with Him. If you’re following Him and seeking to live His love out loud, there won’t be love/hate relationships with others either. He’ll reveal the truthfulness of how you’re defining each and how you need to respond to express what He says you’re to express.

 

Dear God, help me to see love in the light of Your truth. I don’t want to distort it, either in the way I express it or the way I receive it. I praise You for providing eyes to see Your perspective and a heart to gain Your understanding.

Love Games

pureloveblogSamson’s wife wept before him and said, “You only hate me, and you do not love me; you have propounded a riddle to the sons of my people, and have not told it to me.” And he said to her, “Behold, I have not told it to my father or mother; so should I tell you?” (Judges 14:16)

Well, well, well. What do we have here? A bit of emotional manipulation? It’s certainly not the only instance in the Bible…and it’s prevalent in our everyday lives, too.

Samson, best known for his strength, made a deal with thirty Philistine men. He told them a riddle, and if they couldn’t answer it, they would each give Samson a linen garment and a change of clothes. If they could, it would be Samson’s responsibility to give the same to each of the thirty men.

The men couldn’t solve the riddle, but they had another plan. They threatened Samson’s wife so she would get the answer for them. She, in turn, emotionally blackmailed Samson, saying, “If you don’t do this for me, you must not love me.”

What? What does one thing have to do with another? And does it sound familiar?

“If you forget our anniversary (or anything else), you must not love me.”

“If you won’t have children (take a different job, let my mother move in with us, take a dream vacation), you must not love me.”

“If you don’t go to church with me, you must not love me.”

Not true. Our expectations of what someone else should or shouldn’t do for love isn’t the indication of whether or not someone actually loves us. We need to set our own definitions of love aside and love and respect others with an abundance that expects nothing but a growing love relationship as God provides and guides. And that leaves it wide open, because we really don’t know what God has planned. We don’t know what He’s doing in the other person’s life. We just don’t know it all no matter how much we think we do.

Even worse than playing the emotional blackmail game with people around us, usually those we say we love the most, we play it with God, too. Well, we don’t really play it with God, because He doesn’t play along. He knows the game better than we do, and He can smell it coming. He won’t touch it, because He knows it reeks of pride and manipulation.

“God must not love me, because if He did, I wouldn’t be going through this.”

“God must not love me, because if He did, He wouldn’t have left me alone.”

“God must not love me, because if He did, He would have worked this out already.”

We cannot define what God’s love is. Only God does that. We aren’t the ones who can put conditions on love. We abide in it and trust God for it. We live it out.

Whining doesn’t work with God. Pouting doesn’t work. Manipulation doesn’t work. Passive-aggressiveness doesn’t work. Do you want to know what actually does work?

Truthful love. God’s love.

Instead of playing games by our own rules, it’s time we get to know God’s rules a bit better. I’m not talking about getting legalistic. I’m talking about asking God to reveal the truth of His love to you. Let Him remind you of His if-then promises. Let Him remind you of the constancy and abundance of His love. Let Him remind you that love isn’t about getting your way; it’s about getting His.

 

Dear God, please reveal the truth of Your love to me. Show me the ways I’ve distorted it. I don’t want to manipulate the way I live. I want to reflect You in my authenticity. I want to not only know Your promises but live boldly in and through them. As much as I think I want my way at times, the truth is, I really want Your way more. I love You.

Loving Into The Future

pureloveblogSo take diligent heed to yourselves to love the LORD your God. For if you ever go back and cling to the rest of these nations, these which remain among you, and intermarry with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know with certainty that the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out from before you; but they will be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you. (Joshua 23:11-13)

Love takes a commitment. God’s command isn’t just for “someday, when I run across that issue.” God’s commands are always relevant and applicable. If He reveals a commandment to you, and it doesn’t seem to fit your particular situation, it’s not wasted. He doesn’t want you to ignore it. He’s teaching you something. He is preparing you.

What God is teaching in these Scriptures isn’t something that is going on in the immediate time frame. It’s a “from this time forward” teaching. It’s a “pay attention” teaching.

In today’s culture, we’re accustomed to (and spoiled by) instant access. We rarely have to wait for anything. If we have a question, we Google it. If we want to talk with someone, we pick up the phone. (If we don’t want to talk with them too badly, we just send a text.) We don’t have to spend hours of research in the library, searching the shelves for the right resources then the right resources for the right information. We have instant access to information, food, connections, and the list goes on.

A lot is written and said on the downsides of such instant access, especially how it impacts our faith walk with God. People will point out that with such expectations of instancy, we’re not willing to seek God because that takes too long. I agree…and disagree. I think the culture of instancy can also teach us a very important lesson from and about God. After all, He is instant, and He’s always available.

He’s better than Google, because He has all the correct information. He’s better than wifi, because there’s always a connection. He’s better than Facebook, because He knows with whom you need to connect and when. He’s better than a drive-through, because He knows the choices you need and will customize the menu if you let Him.

I’m not saying God is at your beck and call as if He is yours to manipulate, accessing Him only when it’s convenient or deemed necessary for you. But God is always accessible, reliable, and trustworthy. If you ever want to rely on an instant anything, God is it.

That’s not to say you’re going to get what you want every time you ask God. You’re not going to get the answer you most want or the direction you think you need. You’re not going to get a quick fix or an instant healing. You’re going to continue to hunger and seek, because God gives you what so many instant things can’t: an authentic, consistently-growing, challenging, accountable relationship. He won’t fail you, ever. He won’t leave you, ever. He won’t break a promise, ever.

He provides for you, always. It just won’t always seem that way because what you think you need and what He knows you need differ. That’s one of the reasons I love the Old Testament. There is example after example of “What was God thinking?” moments followed by “Oh! That’s what God was thinking!” realizations. Moments are not dots haphazardly splattered across a blank canvas; they’re well-placed strokes that create a masterpiece.

When we have the “huh?” moments, not comprehending what God wants us to get from a teaching, we still need to listen and apply it as He leads us to apply it. Faith isn’t about fully understanding something and waiting for that understanding before deciding whether or not to incorporate it into our lives. Faith is knowing that the love God gives us and the love we live out loud in return is sustaining, truthful, and irreplaceable by anything else we can imagine fills the space in our lives.

 

Dear God, I want my relationship with You to be instant and constant, not in a way that projects my own unrealistic demands on You but that fits into Your character and will. I praise You for preparing me. I’m sorry for the times I don’t pay attention to Your preparation and end up ill-prepared because of it. I’m learning…because You’re teaching.

Paper Hearts

pureloveblogMoreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)

Circumcision is a sign of covenant with God. And it’s not just physical. It’s spiritual. It’s a commitment to God that we will live a life that obeys and honors Him. It’s not something we can do for ourselves. It’s something that God does. We have a part in it. We yield. We acknowledge His authority in our lives. We trust Him to use us for His plan and purpose. We yield our desires to His desires.

God gets rid of the access. When we trust Him to do so, He gets rid of what we don’t need. We can’t see the finished product along the way. It’s like cutting a heart out of paper. We learned when we were young to fold the paper in half and cut it in an ice cream-shaped pattern, then open it up to reveal an even heart. With enough practice, you could create fairly uniform hearts, over and over. Or you could vary the cuts and create tall thin hearts or short wide hearts. The cuts you made determined the heart you had as a result.

The same is true with the cuts God makes. As He circumcises our hearts, He knows the result He wants. He know how we will be most beautiful. He knows what perfection looks like in His will. We can’t program it. We can’t order the shape we want, then hand the scissors over to God and demand that He create just what we want. Yielding to Him means letting Him cut away what needs to be cut away in order to reveal the beautiful within. And it’s not the beauty that we decide and define. It’s the beauty He sees and knows.

God doesn’t circumcise our hearts with one swift cut. It’s a process. He certainly could make it one cut if He preferred. He could prune out everything that’s unnecessary, but He cares about revealing His will throughout our lives. That means not just at the end when the final cut has been made and the scissors are put down but every tiny snip and trim along the way.

Loving God is living life for Him. And that’s a journey. It’s yielding to Him, not just in a one-time decision but through a process. We’re not just paper hearts. We’re living, breathing, growing people, and when our hearts are devoted to God, we trust Him to shape them, pause them, and grow them in whatever way He knows is needed not just for the now but for the forever.

Sometimes our hearts quicken in anticipation; other times they quicken because of fear or anxiety. Sometimes our hearts are burdened with guilt; other times they are burdened with compassion. Sometimes our hearts feel so full we think they will explode in their fullness; other times they feel as if they’ll explode because we’re expending much more effort than we think we ever should or could. But God knows.

God knows what will condition us for the next situation or relationship. He knows what causes too much pain to bear and how to help us leave it behind. He knows what causes us so much pain we think we cannot bear it, but because He knows we can when we rely on Him, He allows it to stay. We grow not just because He gets rid of something but sometimes because He keeps it in our lives.

I want God to circumcise my heart because it’s a sign of His promise. I want to live out the journey with Him. I want to live it out for Him and through Him. I don’t want to trust my own use of the scissors or the shape of heart I think looks the best. I want whatever He wants.

What about you?

 

Dear God, mold my heart into Your heart. I trust You to create in me a pure heart that longs after and serves You. I don’t have the perspective to weed through my life and determine what stays and what goes, but You do. I’m giving the scissors and my trust to You.

Love Holds

pureloveblogFor if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him. (Deuteronomy 11:22)

God’s love holds. Whether it’s God’s hold on you or your hold on God, whether either is founded in God’s love, it is strengthened. The HCSB uses the phrase “remain faithful” where the NASB uses “hold fast.” Faith holds.

This verse is the beginning of an if-then statement. God gives us many through His Word. We shouldn’t just see God’s if-then statements as conditions. They are promises. When we see them as conditions, we get legalistic about what we’re supposed to do. We feel empowered because we have a part we can control in the equation. We get to decide something.

In reality, what we get to decide is very simple: to choose faith or not. When we do, we receive God’s promises. It’s not about God keeping His promises or not. He always keeps His promises. He can do no other because of His character. When we hold fast to Him, when we are faithful, we grow in our relationship with Him. We receive what He has promised. And it’s not about a “thing.” Oh, we certainly receive something…or should I say, Someone. We get God. We receive the blessing of knowing Him more intimately. We deepen our trust with Him. Our commitment deepens.

Faith in God isn’t a one-step decision. It’s a process. Yes, we choose to follow God. We acknowledge Jesus is the Son of God and that He came to earth to sacrifice His life here for our life in eternity with Him. We accept He is Lord and Savior. And then we live that reality out in our daily lives. We tend to stress His role as Savior. We trust He’ll provide for eternal life beyond this life. In reality, eternal life is right now. Eternity doesn’t just stretch into the far future; it stretches in both directions. It’s endless, immeasurable time. It’s a long series of nows. If you waste your now, it impacts another now.

And that’s where Jesus as Lord comes in. He is the Lord of all the nows. He provides and guides every second of the journey. Whether or not we seek and yield, having faith in who He is and how completely we trust Him to speak into our lives is our choice.

God has something to say about every second of your life. The extent to which you listen is your faith. God does a lot of talking. He does a lot of showing. He does a lot of revealing. But that doesn’t mean you’re always listening, watching, and accepting. I think we miss out on a lot. We’re too busy doing what we think is life. We’re too busy trying to figure things out and trying to understand, and we miss out on real life—the life God intends for us to have. We miss out on eternal life.

Oh, we’ll still live eternally. But I don’t want to miss out on anything in all my nows. In fact, the older I get, the more I realize the time I’ve wasted. I don’t mean the things I’ve done to waste time. It’s more about the opportunities to know and serve God that I’ve missed. I’ve often gotten too busy with life to live the life God planned. I’ve tried to stick faith in a chamber of my heart instead of letting it consume my body and pump through every reach of my life.

And that’s not real faith. God has so much more planned.

 

Dear God, I want you to be the Lord and Savior in my life—not just in name but in reality. I trust my “now” to You, and I ask You to string together my nows into eternity. I have faith in You. I trust You. I am Yours. I want only to honor You.

Love Keeps

pureloveblogYou shall therefore love the Lord your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments. (Deuteronomy 11:1)

What does it mean to keep something? Perhaps hoarding comes to mind, people keeping what they don’t need to keep. The television shows on hoarding serve as a reminder to all of us not to keep what is unnecessary. We don’t need to keep every piece of paper, every paper sack, every piece of mail. We need to keep what is worth keeping. We shouldn’t fill our lives with the unnecessary.

We don’t define what is unnecessary or necessary. God does. He decides how to fill our lives. He decides where space should exist and how and with what it should be filled. He defines what we keep, and it comes out of our love for Him.

To keep something is to continue having or holding something, to not return, lose, sell, give away, or throw it away. Because we love God, we keep what He says in our grasps, on our minds, and in our hearts. We keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments. We don’t let go. We’re singled-minded.

When we love God and keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments in our grasp, we have to know Him. We have to become ever-more familiar with His charge, statutes, ordinances, and commandments, because keeping them isn’t a one-time grasp and hold. We can’t ever fully “grasp” God, let alone keep that grasp maintained. We grasp onto God as He has revealed Himself to us. And as we continue to seek Him, He continues to reveal Himself to us. He doesn’t grow or change; He changes and grows us.

Because of who God is, His charge, statutes, ordinances, and commandments come along with His love. We can’t separate them. We can’t love God and not keep His commandments. When we don’t keep God’s commandments, we don’t express our love for Him. It doesn’t mean we have no love for Him. We can love Him and seek Him yet let our desire for something else—comfort, ease, convenience, or so on—override our love. We can ignore or distort our love for Him.

We do it with others. We love people yet mistreat them. We ignore them. We put ourselves first. We choose to stay in our comfort zones. We choose not to sacrifice. Even worse, we twist it into our love for others, saying it’s actually part of the love we have for others.

Because we become accustomed to distorting love and what it means to keep the precepts of that love with others, we project the same onto our love relationship with God. We search His Word and find what we call uncertainties or discrepancies, so we can find support for what we most want to do instead of being challenged to do as God tells us to do. We invoke God’s name and say something isn’t God’s will when the truth is we haven’t seriously sought His will in the matter.

Keeping God’s charge, statutes, ordinances, and commandments means changing as God guides. Keeping means loving in relationship, which is active and alive. A love relationship isn’t something to be acquired or attained. It’s to be pursued and transformed.

To keep something also means to continue in a specified state, condition, or position. When we keep our love relationship with God, we keep changing, keep loving, keep seeking, keep obeying, keep trusting. Keeping a love relationship with God means continuing in a love relationship with God. No more checkboxes that you can accomplish and move on.

You know those reminders that pop up on your phone when you set them to mark a specific time to take medication, wake up from a nap, remember to pray, or meet a friend? Keeping God’s charge, statutes, ordinances, and commandments is like having a reminder ring on your phone every single second. It’s constant. That’s what a love relationship with God is.

 

Dear God, I want to be single-minded. I want to seek to know You more than anyone or anything in my life. And I want to keep Your charge, Your statutes, Your ordinances, and Your commandments. I don’t want to do so to be legalistic. I want everything to come out of my love for You, which comes from Your love for me. I trust You, Lord.

Love With Your All

pureloveblogHear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. (Deuteronomy 6:4-6)

These words aren’t intended to be passed over. They’re intended to be proclaimed and lived out. Speak them. Claim them. These are surely among the verses most spoken for thousands of years, as they are part of the Shema, a central prayer in the Jewish faith. These verses are among the first taught to Jewish children. Tangible reminders throughout daily routines remind Jewish people of these words.

Do you know them better as words or as truth?

You’ll find no shortage of commentaries explaining what loving God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might actually means. You can find explanations of why Mark’s references to these verses includes loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, while Matthew includes only heart, soul, and mind. Understanding is good; God wants us to seek. But let’s not lose the basics in our quest for more.

The bottom line is we’re to love God with and in everything.  There are no exceptions. There’s no compartmentalized corner of our lives that we can claim is separated from loving God. God doesn’t separate His care for us, and He doesn’t separate His will for us. He doesn’t say, “In this situation, you should love Me with everything you have, but in this other area, you can slight Me.”

God isn’t stingy with His love. We shouldn’t be stingy with it either. God gives us His all. We respond by giving Him our all. We don’t wait until He proves himself. We don’t wait until we get what we want or expect. We give because God already gave (and continues to give). We love because God already loved (and continues to love).

What does it look like to love with all your heart, soul, and might? It’s not an unhealthy kind of love that gives even when your empty. It doesn’t try to measure up to someone’s expectation or mimic someone else’s love. It doesn’t meet the unrealistic demands of selfishness. It relies on God.

Loving God with all your heart, soul, and might means giving Him your life. It means giving Him honor. It means trusting Him for provision. Because of your love for God, you can love others. Love won’t be unhealthy, because it’s God-driven. You don’t love others with all your heart, soul, and might, because that’s reserved for God. Loving others comes out of your love for God. When the love relationship between you and God is right, your other relationships will be loving. Not perfect, but loving. Love is God-honoring, because it’s God-created and God-driven, so when we love as God loves, we glorify Him.

God loves us. We love God. We love others. Our love for others honors God, which puts God’s love on display. We can’t skip the process. We can’t say, “Because God loves me, I will put His love on display.” We try to go through the motions without building on the foundation.

Love God with all your heart, soul, and might. As you keep your eyes on Him, He’ll guide your steps. He won’t keep you in a bubble. Some of the love He tells you to pour out onto others will seem impossible. It is…without God. You can only give what God pours into you. If you try to love anyone or anything in the world with your heart, soul, and might, you’ll come up short. But as He fills you and you continue to yield, you will overflow onto the world around you.

 

Dear God, point out the places in my life where I am not loving You with completion. Show me the areas in which I’m loving others before I love You or loving others without fully relying on You. I want everything in my life to honor You. Prune my life and fill the gaps.