Love is as Love Does

 

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Valentine’s Day is tomorrow.

I wish this post was about happier things. I wish it was about the popular February 14th celebration of romantic love, in which paper and candy hearts and homemade Valentine’s and chocolate kisses and cherubic cartoon characters declare affection for loved ones, friends, and classmates.

I wish.

But it’s not.

Because I can’t stop thinking about that hug.

No, it wasn’t even a hug with my sister-in-law. It was more like a grip, a grip that transcended pain and suffering, a press of body against body and mother’s heart against mother’s heart that doesn’t need words.

It was a grip-glimpse into eternity, into true suffering and even truer grace.

When death is so awful, so close, this hug-grip is life. It’s comfort. It’s love.

So. Back to where I started.

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow.

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How inadequate those paper hearts and chocolate candies seem this year.

Because I’m learning about love in 2016. At thirty-nine, learning more about what exactly this first Corinthians thirteen emotion is when it’s shown with action instead of sentiment.

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Not through sappy movies or romantic stories. I’m learning by watching love lived out in service to others.

I’m seeing it lived out through my mother-in-law, who’s tending to her dying daughter and to grandchildren soon motherless. Day after day, blurring into weeks. Caring for and hand-holding and holding up. And we’re all seeing how prayer and grace are buoyant life preservers during the darkest moments a mother, father, and family can face.

I’m seeing it lived out through my faithful Mom toward my Dad, who had serious hip surgery the 5th day of the New Year then dealt with a cracked hip and more difficult physical setbacks only weeks later. Numerous nights in hospital rooms and hours spent with nurses and insurance calls. Love that defends and comforts and cares for.

This is God’s ideal love.

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

Far above chocolate and candy hearts and red ribbon and even ‘I love you’s’, this serving love–the love Jesus showed–soars close to heaven’s gates. It’s a love that steps outside emotion and serves others for their sake, not for any personal gain.

Because love is as love does.

“Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” (1 John 3:1)

*We appreciate your prayers for my sister-in-law and her family as she ends her earthly journey and for healing for my Dad’s hip. God Bless you!*

Stay in the Light

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“Oooh, a flashlight! Do we get to play with that?”

I grinned and nodded at the curious fourth grader in my Sunday school class.

The black stick grabbed the kids’ attention like a candy bar as I pulled it from my bag. It was my hubby’s ultra-strength, pricey work flashlight, used to inspect the innards of bridges. 

Today it would be used in an illustration for the morning’s lesson.  

“Let’s start the lesson first, then we’ll play with the flashlight.”

Six eager faces lined the Sunday school table, ranging in age from seven to ten. My 9am class was combined 2nd-5th, and this was a lively, attentive group.

Three girls and three boys. My own little Brady Bunch.

Our lesson? 1 John 1:5-10. Verses I’d engraved on my heart as a child.

We read over the scripture.

“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1:5-7).

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The apostle John knew joy because he walked in the light with Jesus (1:4). He wanted that same fellowship and joy for other believers. 

He also knew that the world can not give the joy that God gives.

John’s words remind us that when we’re saved by faith, our sanctification comes from walking in the light–with Jesus, apart from the world, confessing our sin–in order to have right fellowship with God.

Since our classroom had a window and we needed a dark space for the flashlight activity, we headed down the hall to a different room. The 4th and 5th grade class was currently unoccupied, and had no windows except a window on the door.

We filed inside and I shut the door. The kids jumped around like hungry bunnies in a garden. Standing in front of the door window blocked most of the hallway light. 

“This game is called Stay in the Light.” I explained the simple rules to the giddy class. I’d turn the lights off, dropping the room in near-darkness, and they had to stay within the circle of the flashlight’s beam as I moved it around the room.

My hubby’s flashlight had three levels–low, medium, and super bright. We took turns using each level of light during the game. Even I preferred the super bright setting, which put out nearly the same brightness as the overhead lights.

After three rounds of squealing, scurrying, and chair-hopping, I clicked off the flashlight and flipped on the overhead lights.

I turned to Ethan, the oldest in the class. “How were you able to stay in the light?”

“Well, I had to keep my eyes on the light beam at all times.” He answered in his thoughtful southern drawl.

“Exactly. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus. He’s our light beam.”

“Where do we find Jesus?”

“In the Bible.”

I reminded them that less light–less Jesus and less of God’s word–meant more darkness. Even the quietest student nodded excitedly, grinning.  

We headed back to our classroom for snack and prayer. The kids had expelled wiggly energy and the illustration had taken hold. Thank You, Lord.

A couple of days before, I’d grumbled to God about teaching. 

“I’ve done it a while. Can I stop? Just for a while?”

Don’t misunderstand. I truly love teaching these kids. I’ve learned so much about God’s word and experienced beautiful moments where understanding dawns in young eyes and spiritual truths sink deep.

But January was a busy, difficult month for both sides of our family. The burden of illness, surgery, school activities, sick children, and other things felt almost too heavy to bear. I prayed, asking God if it’s just me being a whiner or if He would have me step out of the role of Sunday school teacher I’ve had for a few years.

God’s answer? The  meaningful lesson with the flashlight. One I needed and won’t soon forget. 

Stay in the light, friends. Keep your eyes on Jesus, no matter what.

“Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. (1 John 2:24)