THE WAY OF LOVE PART TWO: LIVING LOVED
In part one I shared a bit of my story in how I became known as a “love preacher.” In this part I want to take you deeper into my journey into His Great love.
As I shared in the last blog, this has been a fifteen year journey for me. By no means would I ever call myself an expert. I don’t feel I have arrived at the pinnacle of understanding. On the contrary. I feel like every day I am learning a new dimension of His love. A new way to see that love lived out practically in my life. I simply desire to share some of what I have learned along the way. This blog seeks to walk you through what has become the ten core values or guiding principles that have helped me to live loved and live love.
In this blog I will share the first guiding principle which is “Living Loved.”
THE LONGING OF EVERY HEART
As I have spent the last fifteen years traveling around the world and met individuals I have come to realize that the one longing in every human heart is to be loved, known, and accepted. Before people can change the world with love, they must start with this truth: That God is love and that God loves me. This is the crux of the Gospel and is the truth that sets us free to be who we were created to be. To be whole in life we must become deeply rooted in this belief. There is nothing that can stop us when we begin to know this.
We burn out when we think the journey starts with loving others. No, the journey begins with our own selves. In the “Great Commandment” that Jesus quotes in Mark 12:29-31 he states:
“The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
We see a progression within the commandment to first love the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then to love your neighbor, and finally as you love yourself. In order to love the Lord and to love your neighbor you must start with “as you love yourself.”
This can be a real stumbling block for many. I know in my journey for me it was. To “love myself” just seemed selfish. In today’s world “self-love” or “self-care” takes on a very different meaning that often leads to “self-centeredness.” But that is not what this passage is telling us. In fact this passage is telling us of a “self-love” that actually leads us to “other-centeredness.” But where do we begin with this self love that leads us to love our neighbor and our God?
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK
The author of the first epistle of John tells us that “we love because he first loved us” (4:19). We love not because of anything we can conjure up within ourselves. We love not because we are good enough. We love in response to His love. It is because of His love for us that we can love. Earlier in the epistle the author says: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (3:1a) Our journey of “living loved” begins with beholding the love of the Father expressed through His Son Christ Jesus made manifest in our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no other way we will be fully convinced of our own belovedness except that we take a moment to look upon Him. When we turn our eyes upon Jesus we will discover the only love that satisfies the longing to be loved, known, and accepted. We discover a love that proclaims our dignity, value, and worth as His beloved.
When we take a serious look at His love for us it rescues us from self-hatred, shame, and pain. His love makes life come into focus and suddenly we find that our life has meaning and significance that goes beyond what we could do, what we possess, or how others view and define us. Instead when we look into His love for us we find a treasure that is beyond price. We discover that Jesus didn’t die for garbage but instead He traded the wealth of heaven for a treasure that money couldn’t buy. That treasure is you, that treasure is me. Being that treasure defines you life. You discover the inherent dignity, value, and worth that God placed inside when He made you. Seeing yourself the way He sees you changes everything.
THERE IS MUCH MORE TO THE STORY THAN YOU KNOW...
I grew up in a loving Christian home. I have deep roots in the faith and in ministry. I have a loving mother and father. I had a typical upbringing in a rural small town in Northern California. I played soccer as a kid, even though I’ve never been the most athletic. I goofed off, had a wild imagination when it came to play. I played practical jokes when we went to camp. I was a normal kid by all means. Except I wasn’t always. I’ve alway had an awareness of God’s presence. This seemed to set me apart from others. From a very young age I always knew I had a calling, that I was set apart, and this made me different.
Calling is a beautiful thing but it can also feel like a curse. It is beautiful because you are set apart unto something, it is a curse because it makes you different and being different draws opposition into your life. From about the age of 8 I was bullied a lot. When I was ten there was a certain instance of bullying that finally broke my spirit and I believed the lie that I was no longer loveable.
Throughout high school I would have significant encounters with the Lord yet struggle with deep depression and suicidal thoughts. I would be able to see that God loves others but never be able to see it for myself. The lie I believed about myself led me down a path of self hatred. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I learned how to do ministry, because with the call I had gifts that were activated, and I hid behind them. I thought my value and worth were found in my gifts. Early on I learned how to use my gifts to gain affirmation in my life. It’s amazing that even when I hated myself it couldn’t drown out my deep longing to be seen and known and loved deeply.
For years I served in ministry but hated myself. My identity was found in what I DID and not who I was. Honestly, I didn’t know who I was. I had so attached my sense of value and self worth to what I did and what I owned that I had no clue who I truly was and allowed myself to repeatedly be taken advantage of because I didn’t know my own worth.
THE BREAKING POINT
There was a season while I was living in San Francisco where the Lord in His kindness led me out of ministry, away from where I found my identity. It became a very dark time that led to a deep depression and even becoming suicidal. I suddenly didn’t know who I was without my title and working in a job my gifts didn’t shine in. One night I became so hopeless that I remember I had come to the place where I didn’t want to live any longer. So I went up to a freeway overpass on a rainy night. I figured if the fall didn’t kill me then oncoming traffic would.
I was about ready to jump when my phone rang. I looked and it was my Dad calling me. My Dad is not a phone person. He rarely calls on the phone, especially back in those days. I figured I would say goodbye to my Dad one last time, but when I answered my Dad began to affirm me. He spoke the words that my heart longed to hear. He told me how valuable and precious my life was. Little did my Dad know that our Father in Heaven was speaking through him the very heart of heaven. Something that was so dead in me had began to find life again. My Dad unwittingly talked me off that freeway overpass and back to my home. That conversation not only saved my life, it began to heal my heart.
That night began a journey for me discovering what it means to live loved. I began a journey into the Father’s embrace that has forever changed me and marked my life. I discovered that my life carried value and significance because I was designed to be the object of His affection. This was a discovery that became Gospel to me, good news that not only marked me, but it began to define me. Often the Gospel is simply living, breathing, and eating of His Great Love revealed in Jesus. No one can argue with a life of lived love. It changes us at the core of who we are and thus begins to transform the way we see ourselves and others. The life of love becomes something real and tangible, something we desire to give away, because it is something real to us and real in us.
And this is why the first guiding principle in learning the way of love is learning to live loved. This is the crux of the Gospel and is the truth that sets us free to be who we were created to be. Learning to live in intimacy, companionship, and within the embrace of this God of Love is our greatest joy and delight in this life.