A couple of weeks ago I shared my thoughts with you about Ugly Love ~ that it’s what I feel Jesus calls us to ~ that it’s the main thing He has asked me to write about ~ and that there is unmistakable beauty in learning to love like Jesus does. Beauty, I say!
Loving in the midst of ugly.
I also made it quite clear, that this girl struggles big-time with loving when it ain’t easy. Know what that means, friends?
It means that I struggle with real and true love.
I struggle with self.
I struggle with pride.
I fight the desire to seek after the easy kind of love.
I want the kind that’s reciprocal or mutual.
I look for the kind that just breeds happy feel-good stuff for everyone all the way around.
The fake stuff: It tastes so good.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36 ESV
My dear friend Heather and I were talking about this today – this beautiful ugly love that ain’t easy to impart, receive, or walk in. Moment by moment, day by day, even second by second sometimes; it is far from easy.
We talked about all of the things that prevent us from doing ugly love beautifully, like Jesus does. Tell me, does your list of reasons (uh-hem, “excuses”) look something like ours?
- I don’t feel like it today.
- I need to be understood.
- When I seek to understand, they won’t listen.
- I don’t want to try to understand them.
- My own sin got in the way.
- Maybe that would be enabling.
- I’m not sure which thing I’m supposed to do.
Key Word for loving in the midst of the very unpleasant and ugly = MERCY
Mercy. Compassion or forgiveness shown when it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
Did Jesus have the power to obliterate everyone around Him instead of willingly allowing Himself to be nailed upon that cross?
Does He have the divine option of telling us what we HAVE to do, instead of allowing us to choose Him or choose our own way?
Could Jesus have chosen to love only those who love Him back and do it well?
What about me? Do I have the choice to love others in the midst of that which is frustrating, hurtful, or just flat-out tragic and horrid? Am I capable of real mercy? Real compassion? You know….the kind that COSTS something to offer up?
Real love is going to cost us. Real love is not always reciprocal. Real love is often met with opposition, or even a startling, yet real-of-it’s-own, slap right in the face. But it’s no less real when that happens. It’s often far more real than the fluffy feel-good stuff. (hint: think about the cross, friends. Think about the cross).
It entails sacrifice. It means asking Jesus to fill us with His divine power and mercy. It can not be done through self, will, desire, or endurance alone. It just can’t. We have to give stuff up – A LOT. (remember that pride thing I mentioned?)
I’ve tasted snippets of it, friends. I’ve seen glimpses of it here and there coming out of me. But the truth is, it’s not something I can say is pervasive in my life yet – the freely giving of real love when it gets ugly. I’m an inconsistent and hot mess!
- I fight it.
- I talk myself out of it.
- I get lazy.
- I get cocky.
- I strain for my own voice or heart to be heard.
- I try to do it by myself
- I’m a sinner
- I want something in return and, oh YES, it had better be GOOD!
But I am praying. I am praying and I am taking action. I am asking Jesus to help me. It’s probably the most difficult thing I have ever prayed over in my life ~ this desire to love like Jesus. It’s by far worse than praying for patience. There’s so much surrender involved mixed with so many flesh driven and relentless feelings. It’s a place I don’t enjoy being in at all ~ but the reward is so great.
There’s nothing ugly about that part.
What lies in your heart today that stops you from loving someone when it’s ugly and dark? Is there something enticing just around the corner that seems more comfortable…that will feed you….that tastes too good to pass up? Why not ask Jesus to help you along with me today? Ask Him to put the desire in your heart and give you His strength to choose to do ugly love in the most beautiful way possible – as a natural outpouring of His own love for us that fills us inside and begs to flow outward. Ask Him to let it spill over. Come to Him and be refilled daily so nothing else gets in the way. Know that you are not alone. That you have another friend whose heart is dark and crooked, where hidden little tempters lurk.
Jesus understands. Jesus gets it. Jesus SAVES.
It ain’t gonna be easy, friends. That’s the way of the sinner. But there’s beauty in the difficult. There’s glory in the sacrifice. There’s love in the ugly stuff ~ to be given and to be found.
- Ask for it.
- Pray over it.
- Endeavor to live it.
And turn the hurts, the disappointments, the heartaches, and the anger over to Him if you are slapped for it in return. Every single day, if need be.
He loved us first, that beautiful Jesus of ours! He loves us so well, spots and all. It wasn’t easy for Him to be nailed to that cross, just as I’m sure it’s not a bed of roses to sit back and watch some of the choices we still make.
But it is real.
It’s Jesus real friends. Isn’t that where we want to be? Right in the midst of Him and His real compassion, His real mercy, His freely offered gift of love in the middle of the convoluted mess that life and love can be?
We are sons and daughters of the most High. May we glorify Him in all that we say and do. May we love one another in the icky and the sticky. May we see through the mask of surface beauty and cut through the tempting desires to get equal footing in this world with others.
No. Real love ain’t easy. And no….easy was never promised to us in the first place. But at the end of the day, we have been promised an eternity with our Savior who loves us no matter what.
Maybe…just maybe, in the meantime, we can glorify Him by asking Him to help us love one another much better.
- In the good times and the bad ones too.
- In the midst of joy and during trials, suffering and pain.
- As we see Jesus there shining through, as well as when all we can see are the Horrendously Ugly warts and cracks and fissures.
He’s always there. His light WILL shine through in the darkness.
And that, my dear friends, is true beauty.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. John 13:34