Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Four Most Important Words

Love, humility, hospitality and perspective.

If only I could tell you how these four concepts are so intricately intertwined. Each depends on the others, and none can exist void of the group.

College teaches you way more than what's in the textbooks, and by far, the most important things I've learned cannot be found in the pages of a Education or Biochemistry book.

Being in a committed relationship requires one to not only watch the person who's in a relationship with him, but also for him to look deep within himself. "Am I truly loving this person? Can we keep loving each other for the rest of our lives?" The list of questions goes on and on, but I think the most important one is the first question I mentioned. "Am I truly loving this person?" That question should be applied to every single relationship we are in, whether friendly, familial or professional.

Love is definitely not all about feelings. It's not even mostly about how you feel. As far as I can tell, it's mostly about what you do. I learned quite quickly when I started to look at myself and how I was acting towards my boyfriend and all my friends that I was not DOING love. Instead, I had served them out of a sense of duty and I had begun to expect them to do things for me that was completely uncalled for. I had decided that I loved them, and that they loved me, so obviously that means we are obligated to perform certain duties for each other, right? They should live up to that if they say they love me.

The first thing that was wrong with that line of reasoning was how "me" focused it was. And it was that very pride that bit me in the back this semester. I believed that I was needed. I believed that I was helpful. I thought I was really smart and could handle anything. I thought I was a good girlfriend. And basically, this semester, God was like, "Janae you're really not all that great. Seriously."

For the first time ever, I was put in a class where I was the least qualified, youngest and most naive student of the bunch. The juniors and seniors found out I was a freshman, and literally the professor went, "What are you doing here? We welcome you for now, but you won't be back on Wednesday." (She later talked to me and told me I could stay if I worked hard.) I was in way over my head. I spent hours and hours in the lab trying to figure out procedures my classmates could do without even thinking. I came out of the lectures feeling like I had just taken the SAT all morning and my brain was fried. My first grade in that class was a 52% on the lab project which was a fifth of my total grade. No one wanted me as a lab partner, I wasn't needed, I wasn't wanted, I wasn't even helpful. I obviously couldn't handle everything and wasn't the smartest one on the block. And that hurt for a while, but as God kept working on me, I came to be okay with this. You'll see why in a bit.

My closest friends here got busy and spent their time elsewhere. My boyfriend got tired of spending time with me because I would complain. My best friends from high school had formed new bonds and didn't need to talk to me as much. The bottom line was... I am definitely not the best thing the world has ever seen.

Ironically, the class I mentioned above had a "Humility Project" going on as a huge part of our grade. I spent a lot of time thinking on what humility is and how we can show it. The answer I found lay directly in another project I was doing for a different class, the "Hospitality Project." True humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. True hospitality is focusing on the needs of others. They go hand-in-hand.

Before I could really think on how to apply this, the group of my friends who get together and listen to sermons on Friday afternoon started listening to a series that was all about love. (You can hear Andy Stanley's teaching here. I highly recommend it.) All that I knew was that I was doing it wrong. "Love is about what you do for another person, yeah, and I am too prideful to truly attend to the needs of another person."--that's all I knew about how I was doing loving people.

Paul writes in Galatians 5:6 that "The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." The only thing. Everything that Jesus did was about loving us, and He even told His disciples in John 13:35 that "all men will know you are my disciples if you love one another." Not by how we argue for political rights. Not by how we are always right. Not by how doctrinally sound we are. If we love...

So I decided to try putting this idea into practice. Love is the culmination of humility and hospitality. That means I had better focus WAY MORE on doing love for people than ever expecting it back. Jesus is the only One who can ever tell others that they aren't loving Him enough or right. I am simply a girl who has no right to have anyone love her. But I have the love of Jesus, and all He asks is that I share it.

Just to let you know, when I focused more on loving my boyfriend than figuring out how to make him love me right, he started loving me way better. When I started listening to my friends and making time for them simply because I wanted to focus on them, they wanted to be around me. When I decided to actually love people because that's how I can show my love for God, He blessed me. I'm not saying you should focus on others because then it will go well with you. I'm just saying that when I took a step of faith and decided to let go of some of my own understanding, He made some of my paths so much easier.

And now I know: true love is thinking about and striving to meet the needs of someone else, without asking anything in return. If I can keep this perspective, maybe I can love the people around me in a way that they need, that is helpful and will deepen our friendships. Perhaps I can find my identity in the love Christ has for us. Sounds like a plan to me.

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