Her message left me shaken. She said if we had just thirty minutes together, she could get things off her chest; she was angry and needed to tell me the specific ways I'd hurt her.
We'd had this same conversation a couple years prior, so I knew that another venting wouldn't liberate her. I'd tumbled off the pedestal she'd placed me on, and she'd discovered that the woman she considered her mentor was, in reality, a mess.
What she wanted was my perfection, but what she needed could only be found in Christ.
Where others fail me, that is exactly where I get to experience more of God."
And while I knew all of this in my head, there was still a tender space in my heart that longed for her to look past my faults, to realize I was just six weeks a mom, rendered useless by exhaustion and illness. I wanted her to love me in spite of me.
Yet what my heart longed for her to do for me—to love me unconditionally—I've so often failed to do for others. I've demanded their perfection. I've wanted to extract profuse apologies from those who have wounded me. I've itched to unload the silent rant that's been playing on repeat in my head.
I've actually expected others to make me happy, to help preserve my emotional equilibrium.
Stepping into the Complications
Pastor Milton Vincent once said, "Our lives are complicated by agape love." Because we will wrestle deeply with sin till we see Jesus face to face, our relationships will likewise be deeply impacted by sin—our sin, others' sin.
Agape love steps into that sinful mess and says, "No matter what you do, no matter what it costs me, I will care for you, think the best of you, put you before myself, forgive you, and show you kindness."
As I learn to see God more clearly in the midst of relational hurt and disappointment, I can let loose my stranglehold of expectations on those around me.
Until my late twenties, I thought agape love was synonymous with simple, harmonious relationships. Life experience has proven, however, that to love someone selflessly often means opening myself up to relational conflict, hurt, and disappointment.
But where others fail me, that is exactly where I get to experience more of God.
- Where an in-law is demanding and unreasonable, that is where God's grace and reasonableness become sweeter to me.
- Where a friend is unmoved by our family's physical and financial needs, that is where I get to marvel more at God's constant care and provision.
- Where a church leader misuses their position and causes great grief, that is where God reminds me that He alone is the perfect Shepherd and Overseer of my soul.
As I learn to see God more clearly in the midst of relational hurt and disappointment, I can let loose my stranglehold of expectations on those around me and, instead, be free to love them lavishly.
Isn't that what we all long for—to be lavishly loved smack-dab in the middle of our mess?
The problem is, I fail more than I succeed at loving like this . . . like Christ. So I must continue to spend time with Him, to read His Word, to pray and pour out my heart to Him, asking that "He might increase and I might decrease" (John 3:30). And as I do, two things happen:
- I remember how much I've been forgiven.
News flash: I have an inflated view of myself. So much so, that the very offense I hold against my offender, I myself have been guilty of countless times. My pride blinds me to my own faults (or at the very least, minimizes them), and shifts my focus to the unforgivably large faults of those around me.
Time spent with Jesus humbles me and helps me readily confess that in my sin nature I am capable of the very worst of sins. If an infinitely loving God has forgiven the vileness of my sin (all of it!), how in the world can I refuse forgiveness to a fellow desperate sinner? (See Matt. 18:33.)
- Joy suffocates judgment.
It is impossible to hold onto a grudge when my heart is overflowing with joy in Jesus. As I rejoice in the greatness of my Savior and His gift of salvation, I am compelled to share His love with those around me. Any judgment or wrath I had in my heart for my offender is swept away by time spent rejoicing in who God is.
Where do you feel hurt and disappointed today, dear sister? Who has wounded you or made your life feel painfully complicated? Take heart: that is precisely where God longs to meet you and amaze you with His goodness.