And now these three remain : faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. --1 Corinthians 13:13
The experience of love in this world will always be tainted with perceptions of it that are less than love. We are surrounded by distorted, weak, and even perverted ways of love. God's kind of love is not simply a concept that we analyze, define, and then simply live. Love is a way of life that we discover how to live on a journey of living with and relating to God and others. In some ways it is like a good story, a love story, the we listen to, ponder, talk about and even participate in. It is one story that "remains" actually the greatest story of all. But it is God's story and to learn this love, we have to learn it his way.
Let me illustrate how we learn this story from the my childhood growing up on a farm. In theory someone could learn how to run a farm by reading books, listening to experienced farmers or maybe even getting a degree in agriculture. But the farming life is played out not as a set of theories or concepts that one learns but as a grand story of living with, responding to, and joining in the mystery of nature. I learned this story as I walked it out with my father, grandfather and uncle. I learned how farming works by entering into their life stories and then participating in that story.
Learning the reality of God's love is a bit like this. While books, sermons, and concepts about God's love can be helpful, God's love story, which reveals God's kind of love, is only truly discovered as we listen to and participate in that story.
As we allow this grand love story to reveal God's kind of love, we discover over and over that it is different than we expected. But this is the nature of revelation, which is something that comes to life from outside our preconceived notions or expectations. The revelation of God's kind of love is always a surprise. It's always different than we expect. It's something mysteriously so good that we don't know what to do with it.
On the farm, life is full of unexpected twists and turns. While their is a degree of predictability, every year looks different. Nature is full of mystery and uncontrollable forces. The story of farming is about learning to work with this mystery. God's love is wild and mysterious, closer than our own skin but so different from us that we don't know how to respond to it.
On the farm the mystery of nature keeps the farmer humble because he knows that he is not in control. The farmer is a lifelong learner because the story of farming is never mastered. Likewise God's love story cannot be mastered; it cannot be controlled. We are lifelong learners. We never graduate from God's school of love. We simply let the story of love enter into our imagination and ask the Spirit to empower us to enter in the story more deeply.
At Woodland Hills Church, we have developed a specific way for us to hear and enter into this love story and thereby learn about God's kind of love. It is simply called The Story. You can download a copy of it hear XXX. Take some time to simply read this story and reflect on it.
Hear is a prayer that cam help prepare your heart as you read:
God our Father, I confess that I don't have a complete understanding of your love. Reveal yourself to me as I read this story.