Being Defined By Love

“Remember, our choices decide who we are, but our loves define who we’ll become.”
The Pawn, by Steven James

Read this quote recently in a novel. It stood out because it seemed so out of place in a story about a profiler. Just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

It was so remarkable I marked the page and then later wrote it out.

Choices we make do decide who we are. We decide what our attitudes will be. How we will respond to someone or…is it more of a reaction? We decide what job and activities to pursue. Who we will marry. Our decisions do make up a large part of who we are. But they don’t define us.

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Wedding Day over twenty years ago!

I really love the last part of this quote. “Our loves define who we’ll become.” There is hope in that statement. Like it’s never too late. In the novel, the protagonist was struggling to love his very prickly, grief-stricken step-daughter after her mother’s death. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her, he just didn’t know how to show it.

When we choose not to love, we become less. I believe this. I’ve felt this. We shrivel into ourselves. We grow inward instead of outward.

In loving people, we become more. I believe God designed it this way. His intent was always that we love through relationships. To grow outward, reaching out, toward others. Think of vines and branches like Jesus often talked about. He is the vine and we are the branches. He loves us first. We love Him back. Then we reach out to other branches around us. We bear the fruit of that love.

We shy away from this purpose in our lives don’t we? I do. It’s risky, loving others. Even the easiest people to love, some days aren’t so lovable.

Maybe that’s the point. Asking us to love the unlovable stretches us beyond what we think we’re capable of. We have to rely on God to help us do it. I’d rather stay stunted sometimes, to be honest. Make excuses. And I have. I would continue to do so except that is not what God wants from us. That’s not what He’s commanded us. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matt 22:37-40

It’s definitely a command. We can’t do it in our own strength. We’ve all tried and failed. Sometimes miserably. God isn’t asking us to go it alone. Some days I have to ask God to help me love my children, my husband, because at the moment I don’t like them very much. I’m sure the feeling is mutual at times! I ask to see them through His eyes not my own. To see what He sees instead of my selfish, warped, sin-filled perspective.

Some days I need to pray that same prayer about myself. I’ve written myself off because once again, I’ve failed and it feels like there will never be any victory on this earth.

Or maybe I need a reality check on an enemy. Our sons have struggled with being bullied. We tell them that bullies usually learn it somewhere, sadly, often times at home. We don’t condone the behaviour but we try to get the boys to think about it from a different perspective. Maybe the bully gets bullied somewhere else or by those he loves, who should be protecting him but aren’t. We don’t know because we don’t walk in their shoes but sometimes we need a glimpse from the perspective of those shoes belonging to our enemy.

We have to have His love in us to love others.

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That’s the crux for some of us. It’s hard to accept His love for us when we can barely stand the sight of ourselves in the mirror. That’s a bit of a problem on the love scale. It’s not easy to solve either. We might need to ask for some help with it. But it is something we all need to work out. If we can’t love ourselves, accept we are worthy of His love, it will just bounce off us. We don’t get filled up and we only have so much human love to give. It will eventually run out. The human love. Then we burn out. We get angry. We get frustrated.

If we can solve it and accept His love for us then we are filled with this divine love. It will start to define us. Who will we become? First we take on our rightful roles as His Sons and Daughters. It’s a role we are all given when we enter into His Family but few of us claim it.

We become people who are able to love unconditionally and without fear. Peter tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. That’s God’s love. Can you imagine God’s people, His church, loving without fear? How that would define not only God’s people but how it would change our communities, our churches, our families, our world?

It’s risky business, this love thing. The protagonist in The Pawn knew that. And deep down we do too. It makes life scarier for sure. There’s more at stake. More to lose. Yet in taking the risk and letting our loves define who we will become, we better ourselves, our world. Our lives take on purpose. In giving ourselves and our love away, we become who God created us to be. Defined by love.

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