One day when I was nine, my older brother and I went for a swim. I hadn’t yet learned how to swim properly and could only do a little dog-paddling and floating on my back. My older brother was an excellent swimmer, which was why my parents had sent him along to keep an eye on me. He and I had argued that morning over something I can’t even remember, so I was annoyed that my parents insisted on him being there. I was determined to do my own thing and insisted on swimming laps by myself.
I’m sure most of us would look at Mother Teresa and people like her and think we could never be like that; we could never be so saintly or make such a difference in the lives of so many. Maybe not, but the tragedy is that because so many don’t think they can, they don’t even try.
But Mother Teresa didn’t set out to become a saint or a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. And she didn’t start out ministering to multitudes of the poorest of the poor. She just saw the need nearest to her and responded.
My love is unconditional. I love without partiality. I love the unlovely and the difficult to love. I love the sad and the lonely. I love those who are struggling and those who are lost and confused. My love is enduring, patient, and unfailing. It knows no limits and has no stopping place. My love will go the distance to bring one lost, lonely, wounded soul through to victory.
I still remember that day. It was the early 80s and I was a teenager sitting in the back seat of our car. Somebody at a stop light handed my parents some beautiful color posters to read, and they quickly handed them to me in the back seat. Then they stopped at a place where they had some business and left me alone in the car for a while. As I had nothing else to do, I picked up the posters and glanced at them. They had a picture in the front and a message at the back about salvation and the gift of eternal life through Jesus.
I can’t remember ever coming across this verse until the other day. At least, it never stood out to me the way it did this time. That could be because the book of the prophet Zephaniah is one of the lesser-known zip codes in the Bible: “The Lord your God wins victory after victory and is always with you. He celebrates and sings because of you, and he will refresh your life with his love.”1
When I came down on Christmas Day, it wasn’t to attend a party or pick up gifts from friends. It wasn’t part of a school field trip, or to get a good deal at a stable. What could I have possibly wanted, already having the world at My fingertips? Well, what I wanted was you—and coming down to earth was the only way for Me to have you. It wasn’t easy, but knowing that it was for you made it worth it all.
How quickly Christmas has come again! The days, weeks, and months fly by, and I end up being both surprised and resigned to reaching another Christmas season. Not that I dislike Christmas! I love the beautiful familiar carols, the vibrant cheeriness, and the ability to wish both friends and strangers well with impartiality.
My love is patient and understanding in a world of intolerance. My love is tender and kind when people are callous or indifferent. My love comforts in times of sorrow. My love consoles the lonely. My love brings clarity of mind to those who are confused, rest to the weary, help to the helpless, and renewed strength to those who feel they can’t go on. My love brings peace in the midst of life’s storms.
Going through a difficult week recently turned out to be an opportunity for me to reflect on God’s love for me and my love toward Him. While I know that God’s love for me is ever present and never changing, at times it seems that my love for Him is hinged on my circumstances and emotions. As a human being, my love is much less powerful than God’s.
I was reading 1 Corinthians 13 today, and meditating on the practical application of the verses. I wrote down my thoughts and hope they’ll be an inspiration to you.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.