Saturday, 18 February 2012

Prickly Valentines

Good morning Family and Friends!

Please enjoy another guest entry from my wonderful mother, on loving the not-so-lovable Valentines in our lives.  Thanks for writing, Mom!  Your words have been such an inspiration!


When we flew out of Jamaica a few days ago, on our way back to Omaha, it was about 85 degrees.  Really warm and toasty!   We knew the weather would be a wee bit colder in Omaha , but somehow, after spending a week in Jamaica we had forgotten how cold it was back in Nebraska.  As we began our descent into Omaha and looked out the windows, we could see a thick blanket of snow covering everything.  Suddenly the flip-flops I had slipped on at that morning didn’t seem like a good idea at all.  By the time we got out of the airport, walked across the parking garage to find the car that was parked “somewhere in the vicinity of 4A”, got everything loaded, and got the heater warmed up, I could barely feel my toes. 

Interesting how it can be so warm in one little corner of the world, and completely frigid in another.  Sometimes, valentines are like that, too.  Some are warm and friendly and easy to love—the flip-flops kind of valentine.  Others, though, seem to have a blanket of snow covering their hearts.  Simply put, they’re prickly.  And by the end of Valentine’s Day—or most any other day, for that matter—you can barely feel your toes.

There’s a wonderful passage that seems custom wrapped for Valentine’s Week:

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  (1 Cor. 13: 4-8)

I’ve always loved these words, but there is one part in it that used to cause me pause.  It’s the very last part:  love never fails.  Never?  Really?  I felt it to be true but there was a part of me that questioned it, because quite simply, it seemed that sometimes love failed.  Sometimes it just wasn’t enough…right?

Several years ago I did a Beth Moore study and she talked about this very thing.  She explained it so beautifully that I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.  I’d like to attempt to share it with you—asking for grace in advance given the years it’s been since I heard it, and also simply because I’m not the gifted teacher that Beth is.

Beth stood on the stage with a basket of oranges in one hand.  She explained that the oranges represented acts of love shown to another, and whenever a person tosses out an orange, it is generally caught by the intended recipient.  An orange that was caught represented love working.  If an orange fell to the ground, however, that represented that love failed.  There were various people on the stage, and each time an orange was tossed out, one of them would step in and catch it.  Love went out, love was caught, and love never failed.  For example, if I iron my daughter’s pleated skirt, she “catches” the orange I’ve tossed out with warmth and gratitude and pleasantness.  She receives my love.  She feels good.  I feel good.  Life is good.  Over and over, oranges were tossed, and oranges were caught.  Love in action.  Never failing. 

What happens, then, when the person to whom the love is intended doesn’t catch the orange?  They are those difficult people whose hearts, for whatever reason, appear broken and cold.  You can stand there dropping oranges until you’re blue in the face, and they couldn’t care less.  They don’t even make the slightest effort to catch one. Over and over the oranges fall to the ground.  And in these kinds of cases, love would seem to fail.  Right? 

Wrong.  At this point, Beth drew our attention to a person who was dressed in white, standing on the sidelines.  And when an orange was tossed and completely ignored by the intended recipient, the person in white swooped in and caught it himself, before it hit the ground. 

The Person in white…caught it Himself.  The person represented was Jesus, and the teaching was clear:  When you love another in His name, He takes note of it and catches every toss—the moment it leaves your hand.  Love doesn’t fail…because Christ Himself catches it.  He also catches the love you send out to the warmer people, BTW—it’s just not as challenging to love them.  But when you’re dealing with challenging people who simply don’t “do” love well, remember that you’re also dealing with One who does it best of all.  That’s how love never fails.  It may fail in man’s economy, but it never fails in God’s.   

I don’t know who the prickly people are in your life, but probably you have a few.  Maybe you’ve decided to ignore them in the same way they ignore you.  Maybe you’ve decided that if they want to play hardball, you’ll show’em that two can play that game.  Maybe over the years you’ve turned just as cold as they are, except you veil it better to protect your reputation.  Maybe you don’t veil it at all.  Is that really how you want to live?  Is that really how you think Jesus wants you to live?

Perhaps it’s time to warm up your pitching arm and throw out a toss or two…and leave the results to God.  Satan would love for us to believe that the prickly people in our lives don’t deserve our efforts, but he’s wrong.  We know there’s a Catcher on duty, 24/7, and our tosses matter and they’re caught.  Oh, to stop living by our feelings and start living by our wills. 

I once heard that the person who shows love the least is the one who needs it the most.  It makes sense to me, except it’s just usually a lot more fun to toss oranges to really good orange-catchers.  But maybe the really poor orange-catchers would get better at catching if they had a little practice.  As Valentine’s Week comes to a close, I hope we’re all willing to be those first tossers—to those in our lives who catch well, to those who catch not so well, and especially to those who know next to nothing about catching at all.  One soft toss after another. 

“In as much as ye did it unto the least of these, my brethren, you did it unto Me.”  Matt. 25:40

Thanks so much for the opportunity to share this week.  I love you, dear daughter!  You are my very heart! 

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