You know that great Hollywood divorce story? The one where former spouses remain good friends who greet each other with an affectionate smooch over a gourmet espresso?
Mine is not that kind of story.
It was ugly—brutal to be honest. When it comes down to it, all divorces are. To say divorce was “amicable” is like saying there was a civil war with no casualties.
Our divorce came after six years of marriage and a heart-wrenching series of selfish choices, unfortunate blunders and missed opportunities for reconciliation: and culminated with two stunned college kids exiting a courthouse with their matrimonial hopes and dreams reduced to the ink on a divorce decree.
Civility was abandoned on those cold hard steps as well. The ensuing war games dragged on for years, followed by an equally long cold war. Consequently, my heart is no stranger to anger and resentment. The foul taste of bitterness lingered in my mouth for decades. Thirty-some years have passed, and some days I still find myself digging through the rubble.
So imagine my astonishment this morning when I realized that I love him.
It happened as I was praying for a miracle for a 25-year-old lying in a coma in a Neurology ICU four states away. In a nearly incomprehensible event, this young man went from operating a tractor on the family farm to lying in a coma in a matter of hours. It seems a yet-to-be-determined virus had entered the spinal fluid and traveled to his brain. Four weeks later his life remains in the balance.
What is the connection? This young man is the son of my former husband: the younger brother of my two oldest children.
The past month has been interwoven with prayer vigils for my son and daughter, and especially for their little brother. My husband has kneeled by my side. The three children God blessed me with after the divorce have joined in intercession for this young man with whom they share a sister and brother.
Our hearts break at the thought of any parent facing such darkness. Knowing our own children are directly affected makes their anguish nearly palpable. We have shared tears and sleepless nights crying out to God. Emotions have oscillated between faith and doubt, desperation and hope with each medical update.
This morning I sought the Lord again for a miracle. My heart was heavy at the thought of the deep pain his parents would endure should they lose him. As I whispered my entreaty, I found myself overcome with love for this boy’s father —love for my former husband.
It was not the resurrection of romantic love buried years ago. Nor was it the kind of love exchanged with a close friend, or the familial love shared with those at the heart of my life. What I sensed was the awakening of love of another kind —love born of compassion for a fellow human on journey through this life.
I love him as a kindred sojourner—a soul who shares the trials and disappointment common to all of us. I love him as a person who gets up every day and wrestles the same demons we all contend with, a person striving to find peace in the midst of the chaos of life: who, like many of us, is living a life that has not turned out as planned.
Above all, I love him as a brother in Christ.
Though I am no longer part of his life, I can relate to his pain. I am sincerely thankful he has a wife by his side. I’m grateful that the Lord gave him two additional children to help heal the wounds sustained in the battle that sacked our marriage.
I can’t foresee the outcome of this situation: only God in His Sovereign wisdom knows His plan for this young man. However, I do know that a miracle has already happened—miraculous healing in my heart. It happened when I wasn’t even looking for it, and it is evidence of the fulfillment of a promise:
This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds. Hebrews 10:16
I don’t know if I have ever felt more connected to the truth of this scripture than I do now. By “coincidence” I have been meditating on the book of Galatians this week, which includes this moving and timely passage:
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. Galatians 5:13-14
When sin came into the world, it fractured the heart and soul of humanity. Love for our fellow man is held hostage to imaginary borders of cultural difference, ethnicity, and skin color. It bends to the winds of social trends, political views, and cultural proclivities.
Even within the family of faith, we employ humanistic philosophies and persuasive rhetoric to side-step the command to love. We say that love has reasonable limits. It is justifiable to withhold love from those who are not worthy; emotionally healthy to erect walls against those who have offended us.
Genuine Love knows nothing of such things. Love transcends the limitations of our human hearts. It longs to spill over into every situation. Love yearns to run wild in open fields, unfettered and gloriously free.
Jesus’ death on the cross paid the ransom to free us from the bondage of sin. When we received Jesus our emancipation was granted—we became free to love. Learning to live-out that love is a process that walks hand in hand with our sanctification.
The Law of Love is a proclamation: a license to LOVE— enabled by gratefulness for how deeply WE are loved—supernaturally fueled by the One who IS love. The Lord birthed in my heart a love I never imagined—love that could not possibly originate with me. It is love that could only come from the Father himself. It is a gift.
Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 1 Thessalonians 4:9
Genuine love is no respecter of persons. It is not self-seeking, based on feelings, compatibility, or even likeability. It is free of conditions and contingencies. God knows that in learning to love, we experience freedom like no other. The darkness of anger and resentment causes blindness —lack of clarity, lack of direction, causes us to stumble. Love, on the other hand, illuminates our path so we can see where we are going.
Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:10-11
My flesh naturally desires a return on the investment of love. But Christ calls me to a selfless life, one that is poured out as a drink offering for the benefit of others. I will endeavor, through His strength, to obey the Law of Love.
Beloved if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:11
Did He know when He spoke those words what we would face? Absolutely. Did He know the kind of people we would deal with or how they might hurt or offend us? Absolutely. He understood perfectly: He became the “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” so that we could love as He first loved 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
Jesus gave His life to redeem the unworthy. He poured out His perfect, everlasting love on the unlovable. Genuine gratitude for our redemption translates into LOVE —crazy, senseless, reckless, unjustifiable love—LOVE that reflects the heart of Jesus.
I choose to surrender to love, because I know the One residing within me can accomplish what I am powerless to do. Jesus’ eternal love conquered sin, death, and the grave. There is no circumstance, no person, no hurt or offense beyond the reach of His love that flows through me.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
How about you? Is there someone you are convinced is beyond your ability to love? Surrender to love today and allow Jesus to love through you. Oh, what joy it will be to look into our Beloved’s eyes on that Day and know that we did not bridle the extravagant love possible through Christ living in us.
Let the Lord be glorified as we walk in the Spirit—guided by the Law of Love.