I don’t need a theme for what I write about, but I have still been thinking about this topic a lot lately. I think about the fact that if I had to boil down what the main thing is that God inspires me to share about when I write ~ if I HAD to nutshell it for someone ~ how would I do that? Is there such a thing?
I don’t write that way, you know. I write what I am led to share after times I have been praying, seeking truth, teaching and wisdom from my Jesus. He always moves me and prods me what to share and when to share it.
But lately I’ve been feeling this sense of discomfort; a nagging little feeling that He is trying to reveal something to me. He is telling me there is a theme. And I hadn’t really realized it until now. I don’t yet know why it’s important. I don’t even know what His purpose is in having me identify it and share it with you, dear friends. I just know that it’s there, it IS important, and I now think I know and understand more as to what it is.
So you ~ you, my dear friends, are coming into this process with me tonight as it is happening and coming to fruition.
Here is what I have concluded so far:
Most of what I write about is about what I am calling Ugly Love.
When I write, it’s actually a process that is going on between myself and God that I am then sharing with you in real time. It’s a form of worship and communion with Jesus and that translates into fellowship and sharing with others. Yes, as the process is unfolding, I am sharing it as I type away in the hopes that you will see a glimpse of how Jesus might be working in your own life in the midst of something icky or ugly that He’s helping me to work through.
Maybe those who read through it are going through a similar process of their own? Maybe they are in a different place in their individual journey regarding similar subject matter, and something of what I share in regard to my own story will help them?
I know that when you write back to me, I learn so very much. I am so very helped and supported. I am loved back in huge ways and my own relationship with Jesus and others that He loves is deepened by the community we have in one another in Jesus Christ.
Ugly Love. Do those two words contradict one another? I don’t think so.
You see, I don’t believe that real love is the kind that always feels great, friends. I don’t think real love can be understood, felt, acted upon, exhibited, grown or shared if we limit it to something that’s just fluffy, pretty and neatly packaged all the time. That’s not what I call love, although that stuff feels good and isn’t always a bad thing.
But neatly packaged feelings are not necessarily truth. Most of the time, they can be deceitful, especially when it all crosses over into “redefining” or distorting our idea of what true love really is.
We become self-centered, and self-seeking when we live by and for that perfect idea of love, or live for comforting feelings alone. Feelings start to rule and reign when we do that, and that is rooted in self.
Self often is deceitful.
Real love is rooted in Jesus, not self. It is marked by choices we make that are in line with His truth, wisdom, model of sacrifice and perseverance, among many other things our Lord Jesus Himself exhibits as He shows us what perfect love really is.
I have a secret to tell you: His love is not the popular kind. And it’s not the easy kind, either. He loves beautifully in the midst of the very, very ugly. Without fail.
Loving in the midst of ugly…
Seeking to love regardless of how we feel about it…
Loving in the depths of heartache, turmoil, pain or discomfort…
Loving in the face of persecution, criticism, or other things that make us feel humiliated and low….
Choosing to love in ways that others don’t perceive as “loving” while still knowing it is the only kind that’s really true…
Loving in complete truth – seeking truth in complete love….
That’s an ugly process much of the time. It’s utterly ugly and oh-so-beautiful at the same time.
Beautiful, Ugly Love.
Part of rejecting Christ is seen in the rejection of real love, because real love often goes against what feels good to self. It often flies in the face of what is conventionally acceptable as “loving behavior.” Jesus clearly shows us this in so many ways. Just look at the cross, friends.
Look at the cross.
Jesus warns us that we will be rejected and hated, as He is Himself. Why would we think that we wouldn’t be swayed, tempted, even cajoled or strong-armed into exhibiting love that complies with man’s terms, conditions and definitions of what he wants it to look like?
Man hates most anything that goes against self.
18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” John 15: 18-21
Ugly love involves diving deep and trusting Him to keep us from drowning. If we do not dig down with Jesus on a daily basis into the dark and hidden crevices of our own hearts, we will never be able to do it. We have to get the junk out, so He can fill us with Himself. Then the real love and the real truth will spill over.
Then and only then can it be the real thing. Of Jesus.
Daily twisting and turning and handing over that heart that’s beginning to re-harden itself unto God.
Allowing the molding to happen. Pruning is sharp and uncomfortable.
Praying for strength and grace and mercy to persevere.
Knowing, in faith, that He has wonderful things in store for us as we yield to Him.
Resting on the promise that Ugly Love is actually a very beautiful thing.
I don’t know about you, but my heart’s muscle memory stinks. Actually, that’s not true at all ~ my heart’s muscle memory is really quite excellent!
The problem lies in the fact that it’s go-to is not purity. It’s baseline is rooted in sin, darkness and self. There are deeply rooted and deceitful hidden corners of dark and ugly in there. Just when I think I’ve exposed them, they “grow” back again.
I have never shared this before, but before I began to write down what I work on with my Jesus on this particular blog site, I had made a half-hearted endeavor at it a few years before that. The name of that blog was going to be “Heart Checks.”
That is what the theme really is of what I write about: Doing daily heart checks with Jesus so as to draw closer to Him, learn more about Him, try to become more like Him, and share the truth and love that He continually reveals to me in that process with others.
So very often, I find that this comes out of realizing that I don’t love ugly very well. I don’t love ugly and I’m a poor lover of souls. (That’s the nicest way that I can say it).
But Jesus does. He loves ugly. And He makes beauty out of that very ugly as well!
We don’t have to be beautiful and perfect and “ready” to come to His feet in worship and adoration before He will give us His time. We don’t have to become respectable and lovely and freshly pressed before we can come to sit on His lap and take shelter under His wing.
He loves us as we are. And I, for one, am NOT PRETTY inside.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Oh, how unlike my Jesus my own heart is, my friends. Oh, how sad a state I would be in without His grace and love and truth and mercy and compassion and wisdom and fellowship and salvation and communion and friendship and divine and perfect love!!!
He loves this ugly duckling so beautiful, so divine and oh, so perfectly. He graciously and compassionately shows me every single day how short I fall when I endeavor on my own to be the greatest lover of His people.
But He also shows me how beautifully I can love in the middle of my own very ugly if I allow Him to love through me instead.
If only I will let HIM love through me I can love the ugly in the most beautiful way!
Annie, by herself? I love when it’s easy to do so.
Annie, by herself? I love when it’s convenient for me a lot of the time.
Annie, by herself? I struggle with loving when it makes me have to deal with ugly stuff – like conflict, bitterness, insults, negative feelings, the list goes on and on.
Yes, I struggle and I resist when it comes to the tormenting, difficult, hard, and oh-so-ugly love.
I want pretty love, friends. I want hearts and flowers. I so often find myself wanting to make my own efforts to love in the kind of truth that works for ME ~ the partial truth that suits me.
And that is deceitful love. Because we all know that full truth involves ugly, friends. And I have to admit it, or I would be a liar: I don’t like the ugly.
This is the truth of my heart. This is why I know I need Jesus. I don’t love people enough. I don’t love them the way that He loves me. I fall so very short. I can’t do it. Only He can do it through me, and thanks be to God that I know this. It doesn’t stop me from messing up frequently, (most of the time, actually) but I am so grateful that I know this about myself! I am grateful that the Lord is revealing it to me. I am thankful that another theme of the story he is writing in me is about surrender. Because this girl is stubborn to boot.
And sometimes ~ just sometimes, it begins to happen ~ me seeing Jesus beautifully loving through me even when it gets really ugly ~ and then my dark heart takes over again.
The only thing I can say for that is that it helps to keep me on my toes. It helps me not forget to remember that I need my Jesus.
The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
Friends, is your takeaway from what I share today simply that I am being self-deprecating? Are you feeling that I am living in condemnation, and that if you experience the same thing when you examine your own heart, that you ought to be thrown into the pit of hell along with me?
If so, then please hear me on this: This is a liberating thing!!! (although it is ugly to look at)
If we take a hard look at our need for our Savior and the fact that our fleshly minds and hearts can be deceiving, only then can we truly understand why we must continue to rely upon Jesus daily.
This is great news!!!
It is wonderful to be loosened from the shackles of deceit and be able to look truth squarely in the face. As ugly as it may be, it is necessary if we are to live in the light and blessed hope that ONLY CHRIST JESUS can offer us!
Our hope and power come only from the salvation that Christ has provided to us. Thank HIM that it does not rest on the condition of our hearts!
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Romans 5:8
Oh how I pray for ugly love! How I pray I can love others the way that Jesus loves me in my own horrendous ugly. How I pray that He can fill me with His grace, His mercy, His desire for truth in love and heart and surrender so as to love others better!
How I pray, most of all, to love Him better!
Of course, in loving Him, I have no ugly to have to love. He is perfectly beautiful. There is no ugly in Him.
But I have to move past my own ugly in order to do that. Thank God that He can and will help me.
Ugly love is beautiful love. Whenever you may find yourself doubting that fact, if you are like me at all, you need the picture painted for you.
Don’t forget. Don’t forget to remember….
He loves US in our Ugly!
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:9-11