Phillipians 1: 9-11 (The Message, emphasis mine)
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
Sometimes I think I love too much, and sometimes I think I barely love at all. Mostly, I think this scripture hits the nail on the head: I need to learn to love appropriately. As redeemed people, I think we have hearts that are being redeemed. They are filled with good impulses, urges to love others, but loving others gets tangled up on the way to “as we love ourselves” with “so they will love us back.” Love gets complicated and sticky and messy.
When we love to get loved back, we set ourselves up to be disappointed, because the love that returns to us can’t be sufficient–it’s starting out instantly in our debt (after all, we paid for it up front). As long as love is a currency of exchange, it’s not loving appropriately. In Christ, love and grace are grafted together from the root. Love is given out of a surplus of grace, without regard to relative merit or odds of compensation, or it’s not love.
When thought about this way, it becomes clear (or it should) that we cannot love. At least, we cannot love under our own power. We can’t give what we don’t have. In order to give love as if you’ll never run out, you have to have an endless and certain supply. When I’m not loving appropriately, regardless of whether it feels like I’m “overloving” (giving too much out of my own needyness in hopes of payback) or “underloving” (being stingy and trying to “conserve” my supplies of wellbeing) if you trace the problem to its source, I think it has to lead to a place in ourselves where we’re blocking receiving God’s love.
There are a million reasons and ways to do that. This is not about those specifics.
It’s about the fact that when you find that hair clog in the pipes of your soul, you’re looking at a mess equivalent to what that metaphor brings to mind. Yuck. I’m not speaking in theories and conjectures here. That’s pretty much my present, gritty and unpleasant reality. Getting that clog cleared out is not fun stuff. And while you’re doing it, everything gets muddied and kind of gross. But even through that, you can see that things are moving in places of your heart that had gotten stagnant. A stirred-up mess is the price of restoring the flow of grace and love into your heart (and thus, back out into the world that needs it.)
Prayers of peace and grace to those who stand over their own messy souls right now, plunger in one hand and pipe snake in the other, prepared to make things a little worse now so they’ll get better after.