On as many mornings as possible I like to spend about 20 minutes stretching out in the family room. I always keep a mellow CD in slot #1 on my player so I can start my day out right physically. This morning was the first time I hit the floor in over two weeks. I switched out the CD to The Beyman Brothers and began my unofficial routine.
Lying on the floor attempting leg stretches had me doing some free association in my brain. I tallied up my list for the day and thought about some recent conversations and postings I'd read on Facebook. Next my routine called for some touch-your-toe stretches while sitting up. By that point I had meditated my way into an attitude of dependence on God. I leaned to the left and reaching for my toes, whispered, "Lord, expand my heart to love." As I felt the resistance and pain in the muscles of my back, thighs and calves, I think God may have whispered back, "OK, but this is how it is going to feel."
Now it wasn't a terrible pain, mostly just a discomfort, and I knew that if I kept submitting myself to this process, it would eventually not hurt at all. Learning to Love is like that.
Jesus said, "As I have loved you, so love one another. And Paul writes, "We love because He first loved us." What I have discovered in myself and in many other Christians is the attitude that this is somehow automatic...that whatever gratitude I feel toward God for the initiation of my redemption... equals my love towards other people. What this very subtle mindset creates in some people is a stopping point rather than a starting point.
But just because the Bible tells us to love...because God loved us first...does not mean we even come close to knowing what that means in our innermost being. Learning to love is a process...a painful, life long, take-you-by-surprise, stretching, who-do-you-think-you-are, stomp-your-foot-tantrum kind of process. If we think it is not...we are not surrendering ourselves fully to the transformation of the Holy Spirit. If we react to the attitudes and actions of others, rather than having compassion on them or trying to hear their heart behind their words, we are not giving ourselves to the Holy Spirit. If our attitude is to just "hang on" until Jesus comes back, rather than being agents of love and redemption on earth as it is in Heaven, we are holding back out of fear, holding on to our security and holding out nothing that the world wants for their lives.
Jesus' message was about accepting LIFE and loving the world to bring about the Kingdom. Good news! If we ever think we have arrived, got it all figured out, or that our love quota is full and enough...look out. Or in KJV biblical vernacular...take heed! Lest we all fall.
I believe the Abundant Life is available right now here on earth and filled with more things than we can hold...things we haven't even thought of. But I also believe it takes a lifetime of stretching and expanding to fit them all into our hearts..
Recently, I talked for two hours with an old college friend who now lives out of state. She told me that every time she goes to worship and begins to pray, three words from God flood her thoughts, "Wider, Deeper, Wilder."
That is the river of love I want flowing out of me. That is what I'll keep asking God for each morning.