Illustrated by Laura Erickson
I gazed at the brilliant sun as it slowly disappeared, its lovely rays in vibrant colors as it rose to meet the other awakening side of the world. How wonderful God was to make this earth so beautiful. How He must have loved us to want to create something that He obviously know we would enjoy!
The last rays of the sun were disappearing, so quickening my steps, I walked in the direction of home, not wanting to be caught by the darkness that spreads itself so quickly over the sky. The crispness of fall was in the air and as I walked I could hear the leaves crackling under my feet, as the wind swished them about. As I walked homeward, the love of our Lord for us seemed to manifest itself everywhere to me. How great was His love for us! He created this whole earth for us to enjoy. For us, even though more often than not we take it for granted. He created a whole world for an ungrateful crew of people, of whom most don’t even acknowledge Him. Much less, believe that He created everything. And what did we do to deserve this magnificent gift? Nothing. There never could have been a more unworthy group of people. What did we do in return for this gift? Mocked His Son. Crucified Him. We could not have done something worse to show our ingratitude.
Yet He still loved us and continues to do so.
Our love to Him—how small it is to what it should be! How can we properly love God when He gives us everything and leaves nothing for us to do for Him? There is only one thing that He wants—one thing that we give to Him and He cannot take on His own—our life, our will, our heart, and our utter obedience and devotion and our true love.
True love. How beautiful it sounds! But what is true love and how do we express it? How do we express our true love not only to God, but our friends, neighbors, family?
We may say, “I love you,” to a family member, or to a dear friend. But do we truly love them like… like God loves us?
In the gathering twilight I stood, watching as the sky darkened, the moon gracefully came to view and the stars became bright and twinkling.
Lord, what is the true definition of love?
My answer seemed to come from watching His handiwork—how did He love us? He gave us His life, His time, He created an earth for enjoyment, He bore with us, and He never has failed in anyway—even when we turned against Him.
And then as I stood there in the dusk listening to the frogs croak and the crickets chirp, His answer came more fully, “[Love] suffereth long, and is kind… envieth not… vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things…. never faileth….” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
Lord, is all that really the meaning of love? Does love really show all that?
A mental image of His love came before me, and, yes, He has loved us like that.
There in the stillness, I realized what love God would have us show to everyone—the love He has given to me. May I share what I learned with you?
The first identification of love is to suffer long and be kind. Do I suffer long with my siblings when they get into my things and ruin something I treasure? Do I suffer long when my mother is tired and speaks sharply to me for something I accidentally did? My heart tells me to be honest and I know that is not the case. I am more inclined to speak sharply to my siblings and be angry with them than to suffer long and be kind. I am more likely to be resentful to my mother than to suffer long and realize that she is tired.
“But, Lord, how can I love her enough to suffer long and be kind?—I get irritated when she starts to speak!”
“It is a sin not to.”
“But Lord, I don’t have the strength to love like that! You were perfect because you were a Heavenly child. I’m not!”
“ ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ (Matthew 5:48) ”
The rebuke was heard so clearly that I first thought it had been spoken out loud. Then pink color rushed to my face as I realized I had been arguing with the Lord.
Love “envieth not” is the second. Am I always happy for someone else when they get just what I had wanted for years? To envy someone is not to love them properly.
Love “vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.” Pride. No, when I am feeling proud I am not loving like I ought. How easy it is to get “puffed up”! But we are nothing—God has given us what we have and are.
“Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own,” is the fourth, and I sigh as I realize how short I come to not seeking my own pleasures and looking for others instead. It is very natural to want comfort for ourselves and for things to go our way. But however natural it may be, it has to go if we want to love the way the Lord wants us to. How (seemingly) hard it is to not look after things that interest ourselves and focus on others! Lord, help us to have real love for others and to be happy with them even though we would prefer doing something else.
Next comes to mind the phrase, “is not easily provoked.” Perhaps in some cases (mine, as well), that is one of the hardest things to do. Not getting easily provoked at someone or something that I’ve struggled with for a long time and won’t even pretend to have totally conquered. Yet, if we truly love someone, like God loves us, we won’t be easily provoked by them.
Love “endureth all things.” What? How can this be? Does God really have grace for me to love my little sister who cut two big holes in a cross-stitch that took two years to complete?! Yes, He does. He loved the Jews when they were crucifying Him on the cross. How small a cut-up cross-stitch sampler compares! If He loved them, can not I find grace in my heart to love her?
I once thought that it was not a difficult thing to think “no evil,” which Brother Paul tells us is another thing that love does not do.
I thought that until about a week ago, when I came upon a book, A Devotee and a Darling, by Becca Middleton Swanson. (A book that is unfortunately out of print, but that I would very much recommend!) In this book, there is a young woman, Judith, who leaves her land and home and goes as an invited guest to a family that she knew as a little child. Almost all the family members are extremely irritating to be around, but Judith loved them. She loved them as God tells us to love. She could find the good in anybody and she absolutely refused, even in her own thoughts to think anything “evil” or down-grading about them. She honestly considered everybody above herself and always picked out the good, and left the rest, as none of her business to talk or think about or even have as information in the back of her head. After I read that book, I realized what thinking “evil” really is, and unfortunately, I’m afraid we do it all too often. How do rumors get started? How does feelings get hurt? It would all be avoidable if we truly loved that person and thought no “evil” about them. Dear sisters, is not speculating why you think someone did such and such, “thinking evil”? Or that maybe they are upset at you just because they had to rush out the door for some reason? Love thinketh no evil. With God’s help look through them with love-colored glasses. You don’t need to see or dwell or point out their faults. The Lord is quite capable of doing that. (You have your own to deal with anyway.) The last identification comes to my mind: love “never fails.” Never fails?! Oh, Lord, help me! Again my heart sank as I realized the tremendous depth of love God would have us have. Lord! How can I never fail in my love for even the dearest friend or family member?
Not too long ago the Lord put me through a trial that required His grace for me to love a certain person—someone who had been very dear to me, a true friend. But I was in a situation where I found myself so unloving that it scared me. Without Him, my love would have most certainly failed for her.
And so I found what I wanted—what true love is.
But now—how can I reach that level of love? “Oh, Lord how can I do this?” my heart cries. “I know I cannot in my own strength.”
His answer comes quickly, “Love Me, with all your heart, mind, and soul, and I will do the rest. I will put My love in you.” And as I stood contemplating the answer and promise I had just received, it dawned on me how absolutely true that it was. Yes, of course, if I put all I had on Jesus, He has promised to give me all that I need and I surely need love to be able to love people!
And so I found more than I wanted to know—what true love is and also how to obtain it.
Keep a burning love and desire for God in your hearts, my dear sisters, and being loving to family, friends, neighbors and who all you meet, will come naturally.
Lovingly written for all my dear sisters in the Lord, I wish to sign myself under the pen name of Hannah L. Clayton, thank you!