Were you ever misunderstood? Did you invoke laughter because you wore the wrong color shoes or your Halloween costume wasn’t scary enough?
Was the weight of the world on your shoulders during exam time because you spent too much time at the hamburger hangout instead of studying?
Do you look back with fond memories or the searing pain of heartbreak?
No one is immune – then or now. If you are normal, you probably had experiences on both ends of the spectrum. After all, high school is only the warm-up for life. These feelings aren’t reserved for teenagers alone, because let’s face it – life isn’t always fair.
But if you had someone surrounding you with love during those times, you know just how powerful love can be.
Love heals and restores. It lifts your spirit by encouraging your soul. It gives you air when you can’t breathe. Perspective when you’d swear you’re ready for the loony bin. Joy when there should only be sorrow.
Love is its most intense when you don’t deserve it. One evening, my boyfriend broke up with me at a dance at my high school. Feeling stunned, dazed and weak, I walked over to the nearest teacher literally falling into her arms sobbing uncontrollably. She held me until I had cried myself dry. When I calmed down enough to leave, I realized my makeup was all over her dress. She laughed about it; making light of the spots. Love undeserved.
And when we’ve done something ugly or foolish and we can’t shake the consequences, but love comes anyway; it is freeing. It brings a shower of grace washing the manure of shame away.
I want to love in that way – giving it when it is undeserved. Providing love that bathes away another soul’s remorse. After all, we need all the love we can get. We’re all wounded, struggling, fragile. And just like in high school, we manage our image because it hurts and is humiliating to appear anything but in total control.
What if we loved ourselves more because we know God gives us abundant grace even though we fail? And what if we loved those around us all the more because we have so much more to share?
Some practical ways to love:
Use gentle, gracious words
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Proverbs 16:24
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
Forgive over and over again
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Mathew 18:21-22
Make every effort to pursue and live in peace with everyone
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14
“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” Romans 14:19
Love for a greater purpose
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
Real love isn’t like some mushy date movie. It is challenging, gracious and brave. It calls on you to give more than you think you are able, but remember this – God always has your back when you love someone.
What are your biggest hindrances to loving yourself or others?