Across the street from my house is a beautiful weeping pink cherry tree. It stands about thirty feet tall, and its limbs drape like an umbrella with thousands of pink blooming petals bursting forth on every branch. The cherry tree even leans slightly to one side as if straining under its very beauty. Scripture says, “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” This thriving tree is like a visual representation of that for me. God’s little creative reminder as he says, “Beloved, love as passionately as the blooms bursting on my tree. Love so much you lean with the weight of my love pouring out of you.”
Love is like just about everything else: you can’t give what you don’t have. We’re born with the capacity to love and be loved, but we aren’t born with a full love tank. Love is poured into us from the day we take our first breath, and the degree to which we receive love is the degree to which we’re able to love others.
Even if we receive a lot of it, that love still falls short of what we’re designed to receive. We were made in the image of God, which means we were created for perfect unity and love in fellowship with one another. That’s the capacity created within us to give and receive today, not what we’ll receive in heaven. It’s no wonder why the love from others doesn’t fill the hole, that void we feel when we’re all alone and brave enough to be honest with ourselves. A voice deep inside whispers, something is missing. But we dare not say it aloud because we either think we think we’re already abundantly blessed, or we fear the simple unknown of what that thing is that might fill our tank to the brim. The cry from our soul goes so deep we can’t image there being a love big enough to fill it much less sustain us, even to the point of overflowing, as life drags us through the mud of loss, grief, betrayal and abuse.
That thing, however, is within reach.
We have a God who loves so deeply, so magnificently, that he IS love in his very nature. Not only is he capable of love, has love, and can love, but He IS love. Because of this, if we don't love we can't know God. He shows this love so perfectly by being willing to extract a part of his very self, Jesus Christ, and let him be crucified by the people he desired to save in order to build a bridge between fallen man and a perfect God. He did that. It’s already done, and nothing can change it or undo it. Because that love has already been shown it’s just there for the taking, amen! All we have to do is accept it, and live in that relationship with Christ to enjoy it.
How do we live in that relationship? We listen to him (read the Bible), talk to him (pray), and enjoy him (worship). It’s like any other relationship. There’s conversation and simple enjoyment of one another. The more you get to know someone the more you love them, and the more their habits start to rub off on you. Thankfully this only works one way: our sin can’t rub off on God, but his qualities can rub off on us, which is why scripture says to “clothe yourself with Christ.” In doing so, God’s ability to love the unlovable will begin to show in how you love and care for others. Through your relationship with Christ and obedience to him, you learn how to accept the abundant love that changes you so you can love others to the degree he designed and created you to love.
Year after year I find myself awed further still of his immeasurable love for me and how he continues to pursue and fight for me. When I’m ready for him, he digs deeper still, and then he shows me how to do the same for others. Through his Word, prayer and worship, he takes me by the hand and says, “Look up, beloved. Look at me. Trust me.”
As I stare at the elegant tree bowing under the weight of the blossoms it so generously produces, I look forward to seeing how God will produce the same weight of beauty in me as he shows me how to love others the way that he loves them. As my roots go deeper into fertile soil he produces the blooms, and eventually the fruit, in due season. A love that comes without reservation, pride or concern for self. The kind of love that waits patiently, stands firm in the face of oppression, and holds fast to the Father to persevere. The kind of love that’s willing to let go. More than anything, a love that draws attention to the source of love - the God who gave it.