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Shows up, Loves Hard


“Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.” Ephesians 5:2 (MSG)

The older I get, the less extravagant and the more cautious I seem to get with my love.  It's as if those I love, have to pay the price of the trauma inflicted by those in my past.  Have you ever felt yourself holding back because you are afraid of getting hurt? 

Given that shared human experience, have you ever considered how amazing God's love for us is?  The prophets in the First Testament explain how the people turned their backs on God's love over and over.  God freed them from slavery but they complained.  God led them to a new land, but they destroyed it.  God provided leadership, but they wanted the oppression of a king. The people turned from God and worshiped objects made by their own hands.  They created power structures that oppressed their own people.  They went to war with each other and they took advantage of each other.  Despite all this, God continued chasing after them, continued loving without caution, continued pouring out extravagance on God's people.    

God called one prophet to live this message out, so that we could all see an example of what God's love looks like.  He called the prophet Hosea to marry a harlot named Gomer.  Hosea treasured his wife.  He cared for her, met all of her needs, and treated her like a queen.  She loved him, but her nature took over and after some time she ran off, taking many partners and living a reckless life.  Hosea finally caught up with her when she had hit rock bottom and was in great need.  He nursed her back to health, showing her great kindness and forgiveness.  Once she was well she took off again.  This cycle repeats over and over for Hosea, and God's message to us is that this is how God loves us.  

It's not just that God's love is "not cautious but extravagant", but that God has every reason to be the opposite.  We have inflicted all the trauma needed to create a cautious lover at best, yet that is not the love Christ shows us.  Then we are instructed to love like this ourselves.  If we are honest, we object saying that we can't because it's too risky, it may hurt too much.  Do you think loving like this didn't hurt God?  Do you think it didn't hurt Jesus? We don't like to think of God as the wounded lover, it makes God seem less like God and more like human, but the scriptures tell the story of wounded lover.  When the scriptures say we were created in the image of God, don't you think our soft hearts are part of the image of God?

When scripture instructs us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, what cross did you think you were called to pick up?  We like to think this scripture is a call to outward suffering, ridicule, and even martyrdom.  I suspect because thinking like that keeps us from realizing the cross is right there waiting for you to pick up.  You don't have to wait for some special event, or life circumstance, it's there now waiting for your to bear it.  Your cross to bear is to love, and love hard, even though it will hurt.  

My wife occasionally wears a shirt that reminds me of all of this.  It fits her well because she embodies this type of love well.  It says "Shows up - Loves Hard".   May each of you find the strength to show up and love hard this week.  May you be given the strength to push past the hurt and love anyway.  May you be comforted by God when it does hurt.  God help us.  Amen.    


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