by: Staci Stallings
I should confess that I have A LOT of favorite verses in the Bible, but when you get right down to it, there are two woven together that are my absolute guides in life. When life swirls around me and nothing seems settled, when I have to sort priorities that all seem incredibly important, I use these two verses as my “true North.”
In the darkness, they shine like a beacon showing me the direction I’m supposed to be going. I do not always follow them perfectly, but even that I am learning is woven into them. I don’t have to be perfect to be loved–and neither do you!
Here are my favorite two verses:
1 Corinthians 13:1 (the beginning)
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:13 (the end)
In the end, three things will last: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.
Here’s a few more of the verses between, starting with that first one. These come from The Message Bible:
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
And the end of the passage:
But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
“I am bankrupt without love.”
That’s what I believe. Because frankly, I did all those other things and looked really good doing them. I got a lot of praise and a lot of kudos for the stuff I did and the things I accomplished. People thought highly of me. They looked up to me.
But I wasn’t doing it out of love (even though I really WANTED to). The truth was, I was doing them out of fear and pride (a tough combination to pull off!). I was in fear that if I ever didn’t do the things I was doing, if I failed, the approval of others, would be gone. If I ever let them know who I REALLY was, that would be it. No more friendship, no more approval.
However, I was also driven by an addiction to the pride I felt when I did something and got that approval. There was a rush when I brought the A-report card home. And I began to be addicted to that rush. So I pushed and pushed and pushed. I buried anything that didn’t look good to the outside world (even though it felt so very bad in me!). I ran and I tried and I worked… until I was practically a burned out, miserable mess.
Yet, I couldn’t QUIT! What would they think of me then!
I shake my head at how incredibly lost I was back then, how empty.
And I finally realized, what I was so desperately seeking was permanent love.
Have you ever rushed through something so you could rest? Then what you thought would be rest turned out not to be rest?
That’s how my whole life was. I was rushing and rushing and working and doing to get to some undefined place where I would finally have “succeeded” (and thus be totally and completely loved for who I was), and I would be able to rest. It never came.
Not until I realized that God loves me just the way I am. Not until I began to give myself some grace and let myself be at peace, and yes, accept the love that was there all the time! Not until I accepted what God was holding out to me the whole time!
What I then realized further was… that’s what EVERYBODY is seeking! That is what we (I) am called to be in my world… God’s love to them.
This is not a duty (or I would be crushed by it!). It is an honor. To be called to speak God’s love into hearts that are so hungry for it, to be God’s love to them.
The other day, one of my young friends was at my house (a friend of my daughter). When he got ready to leave, he stood by my chair telling me he was about to leave. (Now I can be clueless sometimes and this was one of those moments!) I was like, “Okay. See you next time.” He kind of hesitated, and then after a few hugs from my daughters, left.
After he was gone, I puzzled over that moment because it seemed out of kilter. Why did he just stand there like that? Then it hit me! He wanted a HUG! I felt like a dummy!
The next week, sure enough, when he went to leave, he came back over by my chair (don’t you love how God can give you second chances?). He said, “Well, I guess it’s time for me to leave.” THIS time, I got up and gave him a hug. Instantly he said (out loud), “Ah, she does love me!” HAHA!
How easy, and yet how profound.
So in those verses is my true North. I can do all of this, proclaiming God, telling you about His love, etc. But if in that moment, I miss how much you need me to just love you rather than telling you about how much God loves you, I’ve missed the point altogether!
The best part, for me, however, is that last verse. That verse is the one that tells me, “In the end God’s love wins!” It doesn’t matter what it looks like now. You can look like a complete MESS, and I did for years. But God’s love doesn’t give up on you. God’s love seeks you out. And in the end, God’s love will win!
So I can put myself out there, love you to the best of my ability, tell you about God’s love, show you God’s love, be God’s love, and the setbacks and fear and pride and anger and hurt, etc. don’t throw me because I’ve read the last sentence. In the end, LOVE wins! So there is nothing in me that thinks even for a SECOND that I might be wasting my time, or this might not be worth it, or the other person might never get it.
See, I’ve read the end of the story. And now, so have you! Let that inspire you to share God’s love with everyone! We might as well start now!