Thursday, January 11, 2007

Love as an Economic metaphor

On my drive home last night I was praying about a friend. This friend, like many other men, feels he has failed God. He didn't straight up say that, but I can tell in how he treats his wife, his relationship with God, how he prays, and just how he treats others in general.

I was praying that God would reveal to him that it doesn't matter how much he's messed up, God still loves him just the same; God still wants to use him just the same. I prayed that he would understand God's unconditional love--that God doesn't take away love because this guy messed up, but God continually gives him the ability to defeat Satan, to fight on His team, and to love others with God's love despite his imperfections.

As I prayed, God revealed something to me about my relationship with this person. As this person thought he was failing God, it affected his relationship with me. I realized that I had been looking at this person like he was failing me as well because he wasn't letting God work through him to love me the way I should be receiving God's love from him. I realized that when he failed me, I myself was withdrawing my love and respect from him because....basically because I felt he was failing me.

No wonder this guy doesn't understand God's unconditional love! All of the physical examples in his life tell him one thing: he fails someone, they withdraw love! No wonder he feels that when he fails God, he looses God's love!

God really convicted me that I need to stop withdrawing love and respect from him. Even if he's not loving me the way God wants him to, I am to still love and respect him as God does, no matter how he benefits me.

As author Donald Miller says, "The problem with Christian culture is we think of love as a commodity. We use it like money...If somebody is doing something for us, offering us something, be it gifts, time, popularity, or what have you, we feel they have value, we feel they are worth something to us, and, perhaps, we feel they are priceless....I used love like money...With love, we withheld affirmation from the people who did not agree with us, but we lavishly financed the ones who did...I used love like money, but love doesn't work like money. It is not a commodity. When we barter with it, we all lose. When the church does not love its enemies, it fuels their rage..."

Miller than goes on to tell a story of a friend who bothered him. To show this friend he didn't like what he was doing, he began displaying his dislike of the friend in his facial expressions and reactions. But he realized that "by withholding love from [his] friend, he became defensive, he didn't like [him], he thought [he] was judgmental, snobbish, proud, and mean. Rather than being drawn to [him], wanting to change, he was repulsed. [Miller] was guilty of using love like money, withholding it to get somebody to be who [he] wanted them to be."

Miller said that when he realized this and began pouring on the love, despite his dislikes of the guy, that he slowly began to change to adjust to what Miller thought was acceptable.

Really, all God wants us to do is love them-no matter their failures. I knew that, of course, don't we all? But it just hit me in a different way last night. If I can love him unconditionally, despite how he's failing me...and maybe, just maybe, as he physically sees my love for him, no matter his failures, maybe then he can come to understand God's love for him.

Lord, forgive me for my selfishness. Guide me to love others unconditionally, no matter what sin they're involved in or problem they're dealing with, that I would be your hands and feet and that they would understand your love better because of how they received it from me.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Pray for Dottie

This past weekend was a blast! I went to the FCA college retreat in Kansas to see some old friends, make some new ones, and dwell on the Word of God. My favorite part of the weekend was Saturday afternoon...

Nine of the girls and I went to some great restaurant on the Plaza and bought this chocolate bag desert [umm, hmm...good stuff!]. We then stopped by the cheesecake factory for a moment and headed to a big fountain that was shut down for the winter.

There were these cute little black girls trying to raise money to go march in the MLK Day parade in San Antonio. I gave them a few bucks and asked if they could teach me a move...they did half of their routine for me and I didn't learn a thing! I then wandered back over to the fountain.

The girls decided to get in and make a movie with someone's video camera while I decided to stay back and watch the purses that were laying on the ground. As I was standing there and watching all the people walk by, I felt the Lord telling me, "You're just standing around relaxing and you've got plenty of time, why don't you share my love with someone?" So, I immediately began to scheme who I would talk to. The older couple walking by? The man sitting on a bench near by smoking a cigarette? I figured he'd be easy since he wasn't in a hurry to go anywhere either. However, as I was thinking about it, I began praying as well...

"Lord, if you want me to share my faith, also show me to whom and how. I don't want to go and try to do good things in my flesh and on my own might. I want to do it because You're leading me to do it. Show me who and when and how YOU are leading me to do so."

So, I stood and waited a bit. I knew if I went to talk to the guy it would be just me doing it because I wanted to do a good work, not because the Lord was leading me to.

Then I saw her. This girl, in her late 20's or early 30's had been walking around close by and right then she walked back over by the fountain. I asked God, "Is this her? If so, give me a lead into a conversation with her."

Sure enough, she bent down to the ground and began patting the ground as if she was looking for something, and she began crying. I walked over to her and asked her if she had lost something or if there was anything I could do to help her. She stood and said no in a very quiet, timid voice. She wiped her tears and tried to pretend like nothing was wrong. So, I made some small chat with her, just trying to be friendly. Found out her name was Dottie and she was from NM, in KC looking for a job. She ended our conversation and walked away. I went back to the fountain. I decided to just trust God that He just wanted to show her that someone cared and thanked Him for using me to do so. Little did I know it wasn't over.

A few moments later, the girls asked what we should do next. I suggested that we just walk around the Plaza and take it all in, since I'd never really seen much of it before. We walked to the corner where Dottie was. As we waited for the light to change to cross the street, I introduced her to the girls and invited her to take a stroll with us. She complied.

As we walked, she and Marissa and I shared some jokes (of course) and we all got to know each other a little more. It made Dottie more comfortable that we had all just met the day before as well. When I asked where she was staying, she timidly said a shelter near by. I wondered how long she'd been there...

We finally took a seat at a table to wait for our ride. As we sat and talked, we came to a silence. I suggested that someone share their testimony so we could get to know each other better. No one wanted to, so I volunteered. :) I just shared a little, mainly about how I knew when I was six that I needed Jesus, I loved him, didn't want to go to hell for my sins, and asked him into my heart. I briefly (honestly, only like a minute or two max) shared a little of how God had changed my heart and how I'd fallen in love with him the more I got to know him.

Somehow we then got into talking about my upcoming journey overseas. I gave everyone one of my picture cards to pray for me and share about what I'd be doing and why I was going to do it. I gave Dottie one, too. She had fought back tears several times during our conversation, and began crying again. She set it on the table and then shortly after, got up to leave. I grabbed the card and caught up with her, accompanying her down the street.

I thanked her for hanging out with us and told her how much I thoroughly enjoyed meeting new people. It had been a delight! I then asked her if it was alright with her if I prayed for her every day this week...that God would lead her to find the job that she was looking for. She said she'd like that. I gave her my card back and said she could keep it. I then gave her a good hug, told her, "take care! God Bless!" and went back to join my friends.

It was great. I was so much at peace about the whole thing. Never once did I feel uncomfortable or like I was trying to shove something in her face. I was just trusting God to lead me to do and say what He wanted--and He did! He showed Dottie that He cared about her; that she wasn't beyond being lovely to Him; and that she was accepted and loved by Him, no matter her condition. God gave me this incredible...I don't even know the words to describe it, but it was like a relaxing peace and calm joy...all at once. And He reminded me that this was what He was calling me to do downtown Kansas City, in Marshall, and overseas.

This is what the Lord has called me to: to trust Him and to obey. I like it.

Please pray for Dottie this week--pray that she would find a job.