Keep Walking

 

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in a deep, dark valley. Often it feels more like a narrow slot canyon where no sunshine can reach.

The Narrows slot canyon at Zion National Park is 18 miles long and if you want to walk up it you’re in the water—often very deep water, with a strong current and rocky bottom—all the way. It’s not for the weak or faint of heart.

My husband and I hiked part of the way up the Narrows last summer. There was no way I could make it the full 18 miles. Even the mile we did trek was almost too much for me. My wristband that says “I can and I will” reminded me of the hope I needed to make it back downriver.

Life itself isn’t for the faint of heart.

It’s impossible without hope. Thankfully, hope never dies. And God never leaves us alone.

David reminds us in Psalm 23 that no matter how dark the slot canyon of life becomes, we are not alone. We must always remember these words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” We are only walking through the dark valley and on our darkest days, hope is there.

So if you find yourself today walking in darkness, unable to see the light, keep walking. Even if you can barely muster a crawl, keep moving forward through the dark valley. You can and you will reach the other side. And when you do, you’ll find hope was there all along.

My valley of the shadow of death lasted more than seven years.

At the time, I felt all hope was lost. But looking back I can see that my Savior never left me. Hope never died, dim though it was.

I pray you may one day look back and see that hope has never left you either.

 

 
 
Linda L. Kruschke blogs at Another Fearless Year.

 

Love as an Action Verb

When I first started writing this post in my head, before I had posted it on my blog, Linda Kruschke’s Blog, back in 2009, in my head the title was “Love Is an Action Verb.” But as I thought more about it I realized there is more than one kind of love, and that love AS as an action verb was just one – and in my opinion the best – form of love.

Four Kinds of Love

In our impoverished English language, we use the word love in many different ways. I love my spouse, I love my dog, I love chocolate, I love my new shoes, I loved that movie I watched last night, and I love God. Surely we don’t have the same feelings about all of these things, yet we use the same word. In the parts of the Bible that were originally written in Greek, there are four different Greek words that we translate as love:

  • Storge – refers to the love that is felt between family members and close relatives.
  • Philia – refers to the love that is between friends.
  • Eros – refers to deep emotion or passion that is felt between lovers and spouses.
  • Agape – refers to the kind of love that God has for us and is what I mean by love as an action verb.

Agape is a kind of love that is about giving, not about getting. God showed us what agape is by His incarnation as Jesus Christ and by His death on the cross to pay for our sins. Agape is not just a feeling, it is what God is. He acts towards us in the way that He does not because of how He feels about us, but because of who He is; because He chooses to love us with agape love.

Agape is a type of love that we can, if we choose, combine with any one of the other three kinds of love. We can go beyond how we feel about others and truly love them in the way that God loves us. C.S. Lewis put it this way in his wonderful book Mere Christianity:

“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you love your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find out one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”

Agape and Philia

A couple of years ago, I went to the beach with some old friends and had an opportunity to practice agape with someone towards whom I feel philia. Before I left home for the weekend, I received an email from one of my friends saying it would be really great if the house we were renting was all warmed up, with the water turned on and 7-layer bars baking in the oven, when they arrived. These friends had a much longer drive than I did, and she knew I would arrive at the house several hours before they did.

I can tell you that I did not feel like driving by myself at night in the pouring rain to Cannon Beach, I did not feel like hunting around outside in the wind and rain for the water valve to turn on the water, and I really did not feel like baking cookies in the gas oven in a kitchen I am unfamiliar with. But I chose to do all of those things anyway because I love my friends and wanted to make them happy. I combined the philia I felt with agape I have learned from God and received blessings in return.

Agape and Eros

In our society today a high percentage of marriages end in divorce. Often the reason cited is that one spouse doesn’t love the other anymore; that feeling they had when they met is gone. The type of love that can disappear in a relationship is eros.

Now eros is important for couples to be attracted to each other and get married, but it cannot, by itself, sustain a lifelong commitment. To create a lasting marriage, a couple must combine eros with agape. Each spouse must act as if they love the other even when they don’t feel like it or are angry or annoyed by the other spouse. A simple text to say “I love you,” a special dinner that your spouse likes, doing housework to lighten the other’s load, a hug and a kiss at the beginning and end of each day – all of these actions are examples of agape.

Who do you need to love (agape) today?

Each day we need to make a conscious effort to incorporate agape love into our interactions with those around us. Who is God calling you to love today? Don’t feel like it? As Nike would say, “Just do it.” After all, love as an action verb can be a blessing to others that is returned to you in an even greater measure than you give.

 

Jesus Wept

When I was a kid I learned no one wanted to hear me cry.

When I was little, I had a temper like a small hurricane. I didn’t like to be teased and would become angry and cry if anyone teased me. I was always told, “Go to your room and cry. No one wants to hear you crying.” So I did.

But my temper tantrum just didn’t end there.

You see, the way our house was designed, my bedroom was, I think, supposed to be a family room. It had two doors opposite one another so that it functioned as a hallway between the dining room and the back hallway where the bathroom and other bedrooms were. When I was sent to my room, I would run into the room and slam one of these two doors.

Because of some principle of physics that I don’t even remotely understand, the door would not completely close and the slamming would cause the other door to fly open and hit the closet. So then I would run over and slam that door, with the same result, until my mom yelled, “Quit slamming those G** damned doors!”

The belief that no one wanted to hear me cry or witness my temper tantrums stuck with me for a long time. The way I always interpreted that statement was that no one cares how I feel. When bad things happened to me later in life, I told no one because I didn’t think they would care. When I was the most depressed, I kept it a secret because I was ashamed of feeling so bad and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.

It turns out that many of the things we learn as kids just aren’t true. This is one of those things. Okay, so maybe there are people who don’t care. A lot of them. But there are also people who do care. People, like me, who when they ask “How are you?” they really want to know, even if how you are is horrible. The world is full of loving, compassionate people who have struggled just like you and me, and want to help us find a way through the temper tantrum of the day.

And even if you can’t find anyone in your life who cares, Jesus cares.

John 11:35 records that “Jesus wept.” Why was He weeping? Not because Lazarus was dead, for He knew death was not the end of Lazarus. Jesus wept out of compassion for those who mourned the death of Lazarus.

In 1 Peter 5:7, the apostle wrote, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” He really does, you know. And so do His followers, though sometimes they don’t know how to show it.

aasignLinda

 

A Picture Is Worth a 1000 Words

Each morning I begin my prayers, “Heavenly Father, I praise You and worship You. You are the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. You are merciful and loving; You are Holy and Just.” Then I think, almost without fail, that those words are never enough to describe who He is to me. Words are never enough to truly reveal the glory and majesty of our Creator.

Moses, Daniel, Isaiah, David, and many more wrote of the wonder of our God in the Old Testament. Their words, inspired by God Himself, make up ¾ of the entire Bible, which is no small book. Still, although all the prophets spoke and wrote of God’s love, mercy, and holiness, the people didn’t completely understand the majesty of God because our languages are insufficient for that task.

LittleNutbrownHare-post
A little book with big truth

I was thinking about this during my prayer time one morning, and the children’s book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney came to mind. It is a story about Little Nut Brown Hare and his dad Big Nut Brown Hare. Little Nut Brown Hare tells Big Nut Brown Hare how much he loves him: “I love you as high as I can hop!” he says. His father responds, “Well, I love you as high as I can hop,” which is, of course, higher. Throughout the story, they try to describe how much they love each other as Little Nut Brown Hare is getting ready to go to bed. Just as he is drifting off to sleep, the little one says with a smile, “I love you to the moon!” After he is off into dreamland, his loving father says, “I love you to the moon . . . and back.”

Then I heard God say, “I love you to the cross . . . and back.”

A thousand words and more can’t adequately describe the love of God. But this one picture — of Jesus on the cross, of His bleeding brow ringed with a crown of thorns, of His bleeding side — portrays it so well.

I believe that’s why the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Words alone were not enough to portray His love. He had to come down from Heaven and show us. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” 1 John 3:16 (NIV).

I know I love God, but I also know that He loves me and you more. He loves us to the cross . . . and back.

_______________

This post was originally posted on Linda Kruschke’s Blog, and is offered here as a reminder of how much God loves the broken believers of the world.

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