“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3
Hey, for you guys out there who have forgotten, it’s Valentine’s Day! Hopefully you still have time to pick up something special for the love of your life. (And you don’t even have to tell her that I reminded you!)
The love of my life, of course, is my wife, Martie. I remember so clearly the summer before our senior year of college when I finally summoned up the nerve to ask her to marry me. We had been dating for a couple of years and ended up working in different states over the summer. I spent the summer working at home in New Jersey, and she was up in the Adirondack Mountains serving at a Christian conference center. That struck a little panic in my soul. She would not only be away from me, but she would be surrounded by tanned lifeguards and well-abbed water-ski instructors! I knew in order to seal the deal I would need to take some action.
I pulled together the cash to buy her an engagement ring and climbed into my little Volkswagen to trek up to the conference grounds. The whole way there I was a mixture of nerves and excitement, anticipating the moment that I would pop the question! When I arrived at the conference, however, I discovered that our college president was there as the featured speaker. And, in an act of goodwill, he decided to take all of us students out for pie and ice cream after the evening session. Normally, I would have been delighted to be out for dessert with our college president. But that evening all I could think of was, “I can’t wait to get her out of here!” I had bigger plans and a better agenda for the evening. I wasn’t interested in snacks—I wanted to get Martie out of there so I could propose and spend the rest of my life with her!
Recently, as I was reading John 14:3, it struck me—Jesus can’t wait to get us out of here so He can spend eternity with us. In fact, one of the key metaphors used to describe His relationship with the church is the picture of a groom waiting for his bride. With that in mind, you can almost feel the sense of urgency and anticipation in His voice when He assures us: “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
The timing of Christ’s return, while unknown to us, is perfectly on schedule with God’s sovereign plan. Why would God wait if He really wants to be with us? He waits to allow additional people to hear the life-transforming message of forgiveness and new life in Jesus (2 Peter 3:9). And yet I can’t help but think that Jesus, longing to be reunited with you, says to Himself, “I can’t wait to get them out of there!” His agenda is far greater, far more thrilling, and infinitely better than whatever we have planned on this earth.
If Martie had known what was coming that evening, it would have made her just as anxious and excited as I was to get out of there. It would have affected her whole perspective. And here’s the amazing thing: When it comes to Christ’s return for us, we’re in on the secret! We don’t know the time, but we know the promise—He’s coming back, and He can’t wait! The thrill of the prospect of it all should transform the way we live each day. There should be a sense of holy discontent and a constant longing for what we have ahead of us.
I can hardly wait. How about you?
Love Is a Verb
Author: Kim DeHoog
I’m not sure we often view love as a choice. We are raised with a fanciful imagination sweeping us off to places where we will fall helplessly in love with someone else. Based on movies today, one might think that even if the beautiful dame resisted, it would do no good. Clearly, love has seized her and she is powerless in its grip. It is almost as if we expect love to happen to us. We are passive and waiting for the almighty force of love to smack us upside the head. But sometimes it doesn’t.
In the fall of 2003, I moved to the Dominican Republic and entered into a small community of missionaries. Having grown up in a town that barely made the map, I was used to small town ethics. Everybody knows everybody and nobody can do anything without everybody knowing. But in the Dominican Republic, I initially resisted this. I put up a wall and kept a safe distance from everyone. It looked like I loved them, but really, I just co-existed with them. Meanwhile, I waited for love to strike.
But after a while, I noticed love wasn’t flowing naturally out of me. I knew it wasn’t the fault of the incredible people around me. They were so dear to me and still are. It was my fault. I felt that God had plunked me down in a random village in the Dominican Republic with no choice but to make the best of it. And though it took time, eventually, that’s exactly what I did.
With infrequent electricity, often there was nothing to do except sit around candlelight and talk for hours at a time. It was a simple life, stripped down to the basics, and that left very little pretense. It was through these kinds of bare encounters that I learned that love does not choose us, we choose it.
Similarly, when we look at the first chapter of Ruth, we see that Ruth chose to love Naomi, even when the consequences looked bleak. If Ruth turned back and left Naomi, she would have had an easier time remarrying, which was crucial to a woman’s worth in those times. She was still young. She could have really done something with her life if she had just stayed with her own people … and that is what Naomi urges her to do. But Ruth responded:
Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me. Ruth 1:16-17 (NIV)
In Ruth 1:18, we read that Naomi finally realized that Ruth was “determined”. Any lesser love would not have been enough. It took a deliberate, almost stubborn love to prove to Naomi that Ruth was serious about her commitment. Naomi was almost all the family that Ruth had left. Maybe she was not the family member that Ruth would have chosen to love, but Ruth chose to love her anyway.
We have all been put on earth together for a reason, and the difficulty of love is exactly what enables it to be so powerful. When we have no choice about who to love, love becomes harder. Perhaps we need to stop waiting for a feeling of love. The fact is, when we can’t choose the people we love, we choose to love the people we have, and that is a far richer experience. And in doing so, we reflect the love of God, who chose to love us before any of us loved Him.
1 Peter 1:22 (NIV) says, “… love one another deeply.”
This kind of love is not a noun, not an adjective, it’s a verb. It’s a very deliberate action. That is the love of our Father and the love He calls us to have for one another.