No greater love…

Remember how we used to pull the petals off of a daisy and chant, “He loves me, he loves me not!”  And be upset when the last petal said, “He loves me not!”  How naive to think that a little flower would determine our fate with a boy!

And then the days when we wondered if the weird feelings in our stomachs were signs of love – signals to let us know that this must the one, or at least someone very special!  Just a bit of attention, a smile, a candy heart on the desk, a special evening out, a caring gesture would lead us to think, “He must at least like me – maybe even love me! I do hope he loves me!  I want so much for him to like me and then love me!”  We’d lay awake at night, unable to sleep after that first kiss.  Or go home sick in the stomach because he was with another girl.  Or think he was asking us on a date, only to have him make it clear after we reached the restaurant, that this was lunch was dutch treat!

Oh, the hours of wondering, hoping, guessing, looking for the clues, trying to read the signs.  I often wonder how many other good things I missed out on because I was so caught up in thinking about those things and not what is most important?  How many beautiful sunsets did I take for granted because I was wallowing in self-pity for myself? How many opportunities did I miss to bless someone else because I was so consumed with making sure he noticed me?

It’s Easter weekend and last night we watched “Son of God” as a family.  Jesus was so mindful of those around him, always kind, attentive, ready to look lovingly into the eyes of each person he met, as if that person was the only person there. Do I give others that much of my focus and time?  Am I completely there when they need me?  Or am I thinking more about what I’m going to say next or need to get ready to do next?

Others in this life will leave us, disappoint us, not have time for us, make little sacrifice for us.  And not only will they do that, but I will and have done that.  I’ve left others, disappointed others, made promises I haven’t kept, protected myself by being unwilling to sacrifice my comfort, time, possessions for others.  I can be very selfish and self-absorbed.

But, there is one man, one perfect man who always has time to listen to me.  He always protects me, comforts me, carries my burdens and makes a way for me.  He has promised and will never break that promise, to always love me and sacrifice His life for me, even when I have broken my promises to Him, spent my precious time thinking about only myself.  I watched Him last night, take a cruel, horrible, inhuman beating for my faults, my sins, my brokenness.  I watched Him stumble and fall over and over again, as He, in excruciating pain and complete exhaustion, carried His own cross past jeering crowds, past those who only the week before had praised Him, past the streets where He had lovingly touched the hearts and minds of thousands.

And as I watched Him hang on that cross, struggling for every precious breath, making sure that his mother was cared for, asking God to forgive the men who nailed Him to that cross, I kept hearing in my mind, “He did that for me.  For me!  I should be on that cross. That is what I deserve.  I am the one who has failed to love unconditionally, the one who has thought only of myself, the one who has judged others and broken promises.  That should be me!  I don’t deserve to be loved like this!”

So often I’ve tried to put this in a picture for myself to help me grasp the depth of what He did for me.  I imagine that I am in a courtroom, being tried and having been found guilty, I am sentenced to death.  And as I am being led away to my death, the judge himself, the one who just declared my sentence, stops the guard, comes down off his raised bench, takes off his judge’s robe, unlocks my handcuffs and tells the guard to handcuff him instead.  My judge, the one who just proclaimed me guilty and sentenced my life to end, stepped in and took my place.  I watch him being led away to his death. He looks back at me, and with amazing love in his eyes, tells me he loves me and that I am free from guilt, punishment, shame.  No greater love….there is no greater love than to lay your life down for another.

The Good News is He, Christ, didn’t just do this for me.  He did it for every single person, no matter how good or bad we have been.  In God’s eyes, we have all sinned.  We have all failed to live the life He calls us to live.  We all deserve punishment.  We all deserve death and eternal separation from the one, true, perfect God.  But, in His amazing plan and unbelievable LOVE He has demonstrated that there is no greater love  than this….that He laid down His one and only life for YOU!

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