Saturday, May 1, 2010

Protected and Strengthened…by Love

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Nothing draws me like the feeling of being warmly, strongly loved and cared for.  The thought of loving protection makes me melt.

So when the Spirit of God nudged me to "Re-think the Fruit of the Spirit in terms of how God protects you," I was eager to go.

According to Gal.5:22-23, the first facet of this "Fruit of the Spirit" is love.

Now, it's easy to see how God's love for me would involve protection.  Isn't that what a loving Father does?  But how does God protect me by growing love in me?

Sometimes, before we can understand protection, we have to understand our enemy.  Imagine, for example, that I went to a remote, "Stone Age" tribe and handed a warrior a small, funny-smelling bit of cloth.  Suppose I told him it was for his protection.  He'd probably laugh me to scorn and use it in playful mock fights with other strapping fellows like himself.  But if he came to understand that the funny smell was mosquito repellant, and that the "enemy" was mosquito-borne malaria, he would no longer laugh.

When I went through some of the hard times that I described yesterday, I thought my painful circumstances were my enemies.  And when God didn't change them, I concluded that He hadn't protected me.  But now, ten years down the road (and counting), I perceive a completely different enemy.  My problem isn't my circumstances, but my inability to cope with them, much less triumph in them.  The enemy is within me.

Now, that's not to downplay the severity of some of the challenges I face.  But when I think how much better my circumstances could now be if I had been a different person for the past ten years, I'm reminded of that famous old quote… 

"We have met the enemy, and he is us."

I do not find myself daily lamenting autism or bipolar disorder or the other challenges that make our family unique.  Instead, I find myself lamenting how I sin against my family, how I inadvertently fail them, how their futures are already more challenged because of those failings, and how I lack the wisdom to do better.

No, I'm not talking about "beating myself up," so please don't write and tell me to go easier on myself.  I'm just explaining that I see the real enemy more clearly than I used to.  And he is me…not that I'm an evil person, but that I'm an ordinary, flawed, flesh-and-blood, finite, fallible sinner like everybody else.  My family needs more than I can give them. 

When I think about God's protection, it no longer looks like "taking my kids' special needs away."  It looks like strengthening me to do His will where I live, because that will help my family thrive.  It looks like feeding my soul where it would otherwise starve.

And so we come back to love. 

When God develops love in me, He protects me from sinning against Himself and others, and from missing out on the joy of fellowship with both.

I would be hard-pressed to tell you any sin that I have committed that has not been, at the very least, a failure of love.  If God changes me so that I love more deeply, imagine the sins that He will have protected me from committing, and the regrets he will have kept me from feeling!  Imagine how my family would be protected from those sins!

And remember, this protection isn't like a hiding place.  This protection is like armor, meant to be worn on a battlefield where the enemy is not made of flesh and blood.  With God's love filling me I am not protected from others, per se, but I am protected from the sin inside myself that would cause me to fail spiritually, to cause harm and shame.

Because I'm protected, I'm strengthened and emboldened.  Imagine how much I could bless my family with more of His love filling my soul!

Remember yesterday I said I had been at an impasse for much of my parenting career, because I felt I had to choose between loving and being tough enough to handle life?  Remember how "toughness" always came from anger, squelched tenderness, and made life miserable for everyone?

God, my protector and strengthener, is showing me a different source of strength.  His love, growing in me, increasingly protects me from the worst things I could be and the worst things I could do…and this protection gives me courage to face more than I could before.  Love and strength are no longer in opposition.  They are two sides of the same coin.  The impasse is being resolved. 

I'm praying for fruit much more than for relief.  I'm no longer squashing my tender feelings or rejecting them as "weak."  Instead, I get to rejoice in them and be strengthened by them.  This is radical, guys.

Of course He has a lot of work left to do, and He will until He takes me home to Glory.  But already I'm seeing new hope springing up in me, because I see exciting possibilities.  Already my children are starting to respond to a Mom who draws more strength from love than she used to. 

I rejoice, because God is so good!

Your turn, dear reader.  Are there any ways you'd like to be protected or strengthened by a new work of God's love in your heart?  Do you have a testimony of how godly love in your soul has already given you safety or strength?  I'd love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below.


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1 comment:

Avalon said...

Godly love - love that was put there by Him, not by me - gave me the strength to give my husband a second chance when we were separated. God had saved him during a time when we were not speaking. Then after we started speaking again, He saved me, too. And suddenly, one day I discovered there was love there that I had not expected. We were two weeks away from finalizing our divorce when this happened, and I decided to call it off. Now my husband and I have been back together for almost three years.

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