Sign of a loving heart

The true sign of a loving heart is that it does not give up even if treated as unworthy of any love in return. The sign of a loving heart is that it continues undaunted despite its expressions of love being ignored, rejected, resented, misunderstood, criticized, or maligned. No matter how love is perceived or received, it persists, not in weakness but in strength.

Love does not beg for scraps of affection, for morsels of approval, or for token acts of kindness in return. Love does not grovel, nor is it masochistic. Instead, love lifts up its head, squares its shoulders, and acts with dignity.

Love never fails.

The signs of a loving heart are patience, kindness — in other words, the virtues of Jesus, the embodiment of God’s love. The true sign of a loving heart is that it realizes it is incapable of such holy love, and thus it asks to be a conduit of our Savior’s love. We may fail and fall way short in our bumbling attempts to love well; we may love out of wrong motives; we may offend the very ones we are attempting to love; we may be tempted to give up and retreat to safety; we may find the task of loving our enemies to be a near impossibility; but Christ’s love does not and cannot fail.

A few thoughts on love

Inspired by 1 Corinthians 13

Love

Love is patient… even when people and circumstances try my patience… even when I am frustrated and exhausted.

and kind… even when treated with unkindness, harshness, resentment, and disrespect, even when maligned, even when made the object of gossip and ridicule. Love is kind in the face of rejection. Love is even kind to those who act as my enemies.

love does not envy or boast… nor does it engage in one-upmanship. It doesn’t attempt to make others recognize my achievements and worth, or brag about myself. Love doesn’t try to convince anyone that I’m unique or special. Love doesn’t launch private PR campaigns on my behalf.

it is not arrogant or rude… no matter how arrogant or rude others might be.

It does not insist on its own way… instead, love lays my hopes, dreams, and desires — no matter how long held, beautiful, and even noble — at the feet of Jesus… no matter how grievously painful this laying down might be.

it is not irritable or resentful… especially when others openly express their irritation and resentment towards me.

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing… but quickly repents, even over the “little things”, and even if I believe my snarky response was more than deserved, extremely clever, and showed great personal strength. Love sets a different standard.

but rejoices with the truth… Love refuses to believe lies, whether they are about me, someone else — or most importantly — about God. Love doesn’t just reject lies about my worth or my identity in Christ, but celebrates the truth of God’s Word and rejoices in the indescribable, immeasurable love of God.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love isn’t gullible or masochistic. Love is the greatest force in the universe, and it is unquenchable, even in the face of suffering and evil.

Love never ends.

I cannot love this way without God’s help.


Updated to add something I was apparently trying to avoid:

love does not envy... love stops comparing, stops focusing on what I don’t have… love is grateful… love recognizes that even when others seem to have everything my heart longs for, this is not about me and does not diminish me in any way. Love rejoices with those who rejoice.

Beholding Beauty | Fashionless Friday

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

For years those words haunted me: am I only beautiful if someone else considers me to be so? And, as someone who has never met our society’s conventional beauty standards, why couldn’t I just accept this fact — why was I so hung up about wanting someone to find me beautiful?

As a young teenager, I used to fantasize that there was a boy somewhere on this earth who would look at me — in all my skinny scrawny shapelessness, with my frizzy unruly hair, buck teeth, acne, freckles, and weird-looking bony knees and feet — and somehow find me beautiful. And, since I was fantasizing, I imagined him as a nice, sweet, wholesome, kind, sane boy rather than as a desperate, lunatic boy with low self-image and poor taste. Finally, that fantasy seemed too ridiculously improbable, even for me, so I began dreaming of a boy who would overlook my outward appearance and even my misfit personality, and would somehow manage to fall in love with a hidden inner beauty that hitherto no one — not even me — had ever managed to discern.

I was thinking about all that recently, as I had the enormous privilege to kneel — and I mean this as literally as possible — at someone’s beautiful feet. As I rubbed these dear, sweet, painful, elderly feet with soothing lotion, I thought of the verse, “How lovely are the feet of those who bring good news!” My mother has truly announced “good news of happiness” to many. Her feet are beyond beautiful.

All that has made me think, yet again, about my notions of beauty and my desire to be found beautiful. I’ve written about it before, about three and a half years ago.

That post was about, among other things, purposing to cling to “my other-worldly notions of beauty, and of what makes someone attractive to me”. I ended by stating:

After all, the thought of hearing the words “my good and faithful servant” means far more to me than even the most flattering words and opinions of mere mortals.

What does that have to do with beauty being in the eye of the beholder? I realized, as I knelt at my mother’s feet recently, that God has been changing my eyes — not my physical eyes, but the ways in which I see and appreciate beauty. There is so much more to loveliness than most of us can recognize, especially if our eyes and hearts have been trained by societal norms.

One of my favorite people to pray with has hands I find absolutely beautiful. She sees hands damaged by hard work and arthritis; I see hands that have served Jesus oh so very well, hands that have soothed the dying, hands that have brought me flowers she lovingly tended in her garden, hands that continue to bless everyone she touches. I see hands so beautiful that they have moved me to tears.

Back when I was that young teenager, facing constant mocking and bullying at school, desperately dreaming up fantasies of sweet boys who would find me beautiful rather than ugly, I began looking at myself through the wrong set of eyes. The people who truly loved me never considered me ugly — not even when my actions and attitudes were. It has taken me decades to be able to look at pictures of young teenage me and not feel embarrassment and humiliation… and self-loathing.

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?” (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭45:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Ouch. That’s what I was doing. I was telling my Creator that He did a lousy job when He knit me together in my mother’s womb. I was accusing Him of shoddy workmanship… just because some people, including myself, were looking at me through the wrong eyes.

Love sees beauty even when others don’t.

That’s the kind of eyes I want, so that I might be a beholder of beauty, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. I want to have beauty in my eyes, so that I might see beauty wherever it is to be found.