It's All About Love

As I type this, I'm sitting in my wood shed, hoping that my quiet, non-threatening presence will entice four little kittens to come out, come out, wherever they are and let me catch them so they can be tamed.

Their mama is feral, and managed to escape our wild barn cat "get-em-fixed roundup" last fall, thus the reason we now have a new batch of wild ones to tame. Even though we just discovered them last Sunday, and they can't be more than three or four weeks old, in a single week they have already learned to fear us--not from mishandling, but from their mother's behaviour.

Look what I found! (Taken last Sunday. And #isuckatselfies.)

Look what I found! (Taken last Sunday. And #isuckatselfies.)

Last night, Noah caught one of the five kittens. Knowing that it was now all-or-nothing to get this family tamed, I put out the live animal trap and, mercifully, caught the mama instead of one of our other six adult cats. Since then, I have made multiple attempts to sneak up behind the other little ones when I see them out, but I have to walk across the entire yard from the house--plenty of time for the little sweetums to sneak beneath the floorboards of the shed (which are only pallets, after all).

They don't know that I'm trying to help--I'm actually trying to reunite them with their mama. They are reacting out of a deep-seated preservation instinct that says "FEAR THE UNKNOWN". Neither does the mama trust us, despite the fact that we've fed her for two years now. That's what happens when you don't catch them young and tame them.

So here I sit on a Sunday morning, on a wooden floor instead of a wooden pew, pondering about how often I'm like these cats with my Heavenly Father.

When I was a teenager, I saw the world as very black and white. Every decision I made had undertones of moral significance--but the filter I compared them to was a list of "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts". Because I, like these kittens, feared the unknown, and rules offered security.

I don't know if it was because I was the firstborn, or from a fairly emotionally chaotic but disciplinarily strict household, or a combination of all of the above, being a strict rule-follower has always been my fallback position. Rules keep me safe. Rules define right and wrong. Rule-following brought commendation from those in authority, while breaking them brought immediate repercussions, not least of which was the guilt permeating my own soul.

As I got older, and changed church denominations, and gained a little bit of life experience, I came to understand that the rules--while they have their place--are not what should be the defining parameters of our lives. They are important, but they do not exist for their own justification. They are meant to guide us in living out the principles behind them.

And when it comes to the rules in the Bible, that principle is love.

Photo courtesy of Lightstock.com.

Photo courtesy of Lightstock.com.

When I became a parent, I began to understand that my insight and growth in this area is the natural progression of maturity--small children don't have the life experience to understand the principles behind the rules. They only understand "Do" and "Don't". As they collect experiences, they begin to understand the reasons why the rules exist--"Don't touch, you will get burned because it's hot." "Do use a spoon, it's much tidier and more efficient that way."

The most difficult principles to learn are the ones involving ethics and which contradict our self-serving instincts--"Do share, because that is the loving thing to do."

The loving thing.

Why is this "loving" thing so difficult to learn? Why is it so hard to put others before ourselves, to see from another's point of view? Why is it so difficult to trust that the Father has not abandoned us when we are in the middle of a difficult experience? Why do we so quickly sit in judgement of those who behave in ways we don't understand?

We like to think that we humans are smarter than your average bear--or kitten. But as it turns out, FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN rules us, too. Because when the fur hits the fan, our first instinct is still to raise our hackles and run. It is incredibly difficult to step back and think for a moment and say, "What is the loving thing to do?"

Losing my son has changed me in many ways, but one of the most profound understandings I have come to is how far, deep, wide, and high is the love of Christ, and to what crazy lengths our Heavenly Father went to show it to us--and still goes to. My son died by accident. I could never have willingly given him up, no matter what the reason.

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
— Romans 8: 34-35 (NIV)

I used to look at the world through black-and-white glasses. But now, I have a whole new filter, and it is "What would Love do?"

In the Bible, it says that God is love, and that others will know that we are Christians because of the love they see in us. But too often when we are confronted with a situation we don't understand or a person who sees things differently than we do, we are anything but loving. We set ourselves up as judge and jury over others' lives in an attempt to control everything (which is actually an expression of fear). Because love--true, sacrificial love--is risky. You could lose that person. Or they could hurt you deeply. Heck, they may not even love you back.

When you love, you can lose, big time. And every time you love, you are opening up to pain from the unknown.

But here's the thing, friend--if you read to the end of the Book, LOVE WINS.

And I'm not just talking about the epic battle between good and evil. Love wins on a smaller scale every time we choose it over fear.

Sure, there may seem to be losses along the way. But when you truly love someone, and choose to love even though you may be hurt, you win a victory of the soul. Because instead of trying to control your circumstances, you controlled your baser instincts of self-preservation. Because giving love is more rewarding than hoarding it. Because chances are that loving someone and thinking of their needs before your own is going to give you a much more fulfilling life than nursing a festering wound from that time you were hurt and swore never to let it happen again.

Because loving contributes to the world instead of taking from it.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)

This post is kind of rambly. And I've seen a few kittens, but they have not come near enough to touch. And now I have to go dig potatoes and make lunch.

So let me leave you with this thought--

It is always easier to take the low road--to react in fear instead of proact in love. And in the short term, doing so can seem like the smarter path.

But you and me, we weren't called to be in control of others or even our own circumstances. We were called to love. And thankfully, as Christians, we can rest assured that it's not our job to judge anyone, either. We are only supposed to share the good news and love God and others. That's it.

The rules are simple, really. Why do I keep making it so complicated?

All About Love

We've got CDs, tapes, and videos,
Radios and TV shows
Conferences, retreats, and seminars

We've got books and magazines to read on
Everything from A to Z
And a web to surf from anywhere we are

But I hope with all this information
Buzzing through our brains
That we will not let our hearts forget
The most important thing

Is love, love, love, love, love
It's all about love, love, love, love, love
Everything else comes down to this
Nothing any higher on the list than love
It's all about love

Now they're fighting in the Middle East
And they're fighting down on 7th street
And there are fights in my own house on given days

It's like something's lurking deep inside
That can't seem to be satisfied
But life was not meant to be lived this way

'Cause it's true for every man and woman,
Every boy and girl
That our only hope for living here
Together in this world

Is love, love, love, love, love
It's all about love, love, love, love, love
Everything else comes down to this
Nothing any higher on the list than love

This is the reason we were made
To know the love of our creator
And to give the love He's given us away
Yeah, the Maker and the Father
And the God of everything--

He says to love love love
He says love love love
Love love love
'Cause after all it's all about love

God says, love, love, love, love, love
It's all about love, love, love, love, love
Everything else comes down to this
Nothing any higher on the list than love
'Cause after all it's all about love

It's all about love, love, love, love, love
It's all about love, love, love, love, love
It's all about love, love, love, love, love

Songwriter: Steven Curtis Chapman

All About Love lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group