Friday, April 19, 2013

Greater Love

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
John 15:13
(KJV)

We sat at the kitchen table having supper.
Conversation was light.
Until, I saw that far-off-thinking-deep-thoughts look in his eyes.
He turned to me and said,
"Mama, how do you know?
How do you know when it is the right one?"....
this coming from our often-too-serious 12 year old baby.

Isn't he....still a baby?
I look at him...growing like a weed....
soon to be taller than me...
and I wonder, 
where did the years go?

Whether I like it or not, he is growing.....
into a fine young man.

I remember the years....wishing for him.
Dreaming of the day we would have a child to call our own.
It seemed it would never happen.
It almost didn't.

I remember the moment.....they called to tell me it was true.
After over 11 years of trying....dreaming.....hoping....
we were going to have a baby!

I remember the months...waiting for him to arrive.
All of the preparation.
All of the scares...close calls....trips to the midwife.
Losing Dad, right in the middle of the joy...and anticipation of it all.
God was so good.
He delivered Zachary right into our arms....
perfectly healthy, precious,
and overfilling our hearts with more love than they could possibly hold.

I remember so much....of his infancy, toddler days.
I cherish all of the happiness he continues to bring into our lives and home...
every, single day.
Some of the years past seem like a blur to me.
Living life...day by day...it all goes by way too fast.

Now, he thinks such deep thoughts.

I stopped in my tracks...fork lifted halfway to lips.
Oh, boy!
The dreaded questions that come....from such inquisitive, thinking-ahead minds.

I drew in a deep breath, and I started...to answer....wondering, 
"Where do I begin?"

"How did you know, Mama?
How did you know Daddy was the right one for you?"


Okay, now that made it easier.
That is a love story I know something about.
I've lived it.
Breathed it.
Been in it...since August of 1987.

"I just knew, Zach.
I had no fear.
You just have to seek God ahead of time...with your whole heart.
He will show you.
You will know."

"But, how?"

"Okay, I'll tell you."

My mind immediately went back to the night I knew.
The moment it became crystal clear....for me.

Kevin and I were dating...double-dating, actually,
with two of our good friends, Andy & Faye.
Things didn't work out between them, 
but after they parted ways, Andy still came along with us sometimes.
One night, the three of us went to another friend's house to spend some time.
During our visit, I noticed Kevin didn't seem like himself.
He was pale and tired.
At first, I chalked it up to the nine-mile walk-a-thon 
he had participated in earlier in the day.
As we got ready to leave, he got really sick...
nearly passed out.
I remember how Andy had to help him stand up
and how he supported him to walk to the car.

I think that was the moment....I knew.
My heart went out to Kevin in a million ways.
I was worried..not just in a casual kind of way,
but in a heart-wrenched way....
from the depths of me, I wanted him to be okay.

Looking back, I think that episode was the beginning of a physical issue
Kevin has struggled with for years, but we just didn't know it at the time.

I turned to Zach....at the table.
His big, melted-chocolate brown eyes were peering into mine....
searching....waiting for an answer.

I told him the story and the sickness his Daddy had endured that night
and how deeply it had hurt me to watch him suffer....
how intensely it had affected me....
how it wasn't something I could just feel a passing concern for, then forget about.

"That's how you know, Zach.
When you feel something...
deeper than you have ever felt for anyone else
in your whole life.
When you can't just shrug it off and let it go.
When their pain becomes your pain....
their trouble becomes your trouble....
their heartache causes your heart to ache...deep inside.
When you know, without a doubt, that you would lay down your life for them,
if necessary....
without blinking twice or giving it a second thought.
When your heart is filled....
with a greater love....
than you have ever felt before.
That's when you know....
that it's not just a passing infatuation...
a fleeting crush....
a "for-the-moment", "flavor-of-the-week" interest.
That's when you know....that they are the one for you."

I remember the night we stood outside my apartment door...
laughing....talking about our evening....
when things turned real serious,
and Kevin looked into my eyes and told me he loved me...
for the very first time.

I remember the night he pulled his car into the road that led to Juno Beach,
and we got out and walked hand-in-hand....in the moonlit sand.
It couldn't have been a more romantic setting
for him to stand in front of me and ask if I would marry him.
It was like God was smiling down on us from the heavens....
cheering us on....
happy beyond words that we had yielded to His perfect will
for us to find each other and spend every day of the rest of our lives side by side.

I have never regretted it.
Not for a second.
I will always know that he is the one.

It is love that doesn't count the cost.
Love that propels one to lay down one's life...
one's own interests....
one's own comfort....
one's own self...
for the sake and the good of the other.
Love that will do what is necessary...
regardless of individual sacrifice or personal inconvenience.

The love in my heart for my husband and child propels me
to lay down my life, to a degree, every, single day.

The love in your heart causes you to do the same in your world....
performing countless acts of self-sacrifice without thinking twice.
Every time you serve the ones you love,
you are laying down your life...
pouring yourself out....
making your own needs secondary....
for the sake and good of others.

This is love,
true and pure.
But, there is one greater....
than even this.

As much as I love Kevin....
as deeply as my feelings go..
no matter the depths to which they reach...
there is yet an even greater love.

As much as I love Zachary.....
from the depths of my filled-with-love mother's heart,
there is yet a greater love...even than this.

Human love, no matter how deep,
regardless how intense or passion-filled,
 doesn't come close to holding a candle to the greater love 
spilling from the heart of the One Who went way over and beyond
what you and I would consider to be laying down one's life.

The One Whose heart holds the greater love literally laid down His physical life....
 for the sole good of His friends....
in the most complete way possible.
Like a sheep led to be slaughtered,
He humbly, willingly laid it all down...
gave it up.
To purchase our redemption....
to build a bridge between God and you....and God and me...
to make it possible for us to escape eternity in Hell.

Not long before He walked the Via Dolorosa toward Calvary's hill,
Jesus uttered these precious, prophetic words,
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends",

He had just endured the most intense of all scourgings...
immediately before He made His agonizing trek through the city of Jerusalem that day.
Blood oozed and spilled from open, gaping wounds,
and splattered onto the dusty ground beneath His tired feet.
The drops of red left a trail behind that proved the depths of His greater-than-human love.

He could have stopped...at any given moment.
He could have lifted His eyes Heavenward,
cried to His Father,
and received immediate and instantaneous relief.
Thousands of angels were hovering...
on alert....
watching Him suffer....
anxiously waiting....
for orders to rush to Him.

What kept Him going?
When He fell under the load....
losing strength to hold His cross for one...more....second?
How did He get back up...on His feet....and keep putting one foot in front of the other?

How did He have the heart to lay His body down...on that splintery, wooden cross....
endure searing pain as the jagged wood came into contact with the freshness of His wounds,
and be raised to hang in an upright position for six anguish-filled hours?

It was nothing less than a greater love....than you and I could ever comprehend.

Human love only goes so far, Mom used to tell me.
After that, it takes divine love, she would say.

Thank God for divine love.
The greater love of Almighty God...
for you....and for me.
A love that compelled Jesus to do what He did.

Contrary to what the muscle-bound Roman soldiers must have thought,
it wasn't their carefully-driven nails that kept Him on the cross.
He had all of Heaven's resources for deliverance at His fingertips.
All He would have had to do is to speak the word,
and the nails would have had no choice but to surrender...
and release Him....
from His awful fate.
Angels could have pulled out the nails...if He would have asked them to.

The thing that held Him fast...
that kept Him there...
until the blood was drained from His mutilated body,
and He could say from the heart, "It is finished"...
had nothing in the world to do with nails.
The thing that held Him there was a greater love.....
than you or I have ever been shown.
And, it is a greater love than you or I have ever shown...to others.

Today, I prayed and asked Him for a greater love...for Him.

Don't get me wrong.
I love Him with every fiber of my being.
Everything within me loves my Creator.

But, I long for a greater love.
A love that will compel me to be more....of the woman He wants me to be....
living life, every single day.
A love that will compel me to do more....to encourage, inspire, & strengthen
others on their Christian journey.
A love that will compel me to give more...of myself, laying personal comfort aside,
pouring out and serving Jesus by serving others.
A love that will compel me to show more....compassion, kindness,
understanding, long-suffering, and benevolence.

People are hurting.
They are sad.
They feel alone.

Times are tough.
Downright scary.
My heart breaks every time I hear a shred of news
about the horrific bombing in Boston.

God sent down the antidote....for all evil....
in the form of His Own, dear Son.
He is love.
Greater.
Deeper.
Higher.
More sincere, pure, and genuine...
than any other form of love.

At the risk of sounding cliche',
what the world needs now is love....
not forced,
not half-hearted,
not self or reward-seeking,
not selective....
but a greater love....
than it has yet seen.

It is our only hope.
It is the only force powerful enough to heal.
It begins at the cross...at Jesus' feet.

Jesus has ascended.
He now sits at the right hand of the throne of God, His Father.
He needs human instruments....
willing to be filled with His divine love,
so it can pour out and touch and heal the world around us.

God, please open our hearts, and fill us now with greater love.




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