A couple weeks ago I shared that while I recently fixed my neighbor’s fence, I still needed prayers about my learning to enjoy doing so.
Somebody took up that prayer challenge, because when I went back to my house a week later, I discovered that the sidewalk on my side of the fence had been carefully weeded. Somebody blessed me in a far bigger way than I had blessed my neighbor!
This is the secret to freely loving others. Rather than feeling cheated, we experience ourselves as a recipient of even greater love. Jesus says that he who thinks he “has been forgiven little, loves little." But the person, forgiven much, loves much. “We love because he first loved us.”
The problem is that a lot of us have not known anything but counterfeit love. In Charlotte Bronte’s novel, Jane Eyre, the religious leaders of a school for orphans so mistreat orphan Jane that it’s obvious they don’t care about Jane as much as they do about appearing benevolent in front of potential donors. Real love isn’t attention seeking, like this. Love is not a come on. It’s not always a fundraiser. It doesn’t want anything in return. Love weeds our yard anonymously.
The story of our age is one of loved-starved people trying to be nice in order to get other love-starved people to love them. But this isn’t love. It’s manipulation. The genius of Bronte’s novel is that it shows those of us, who have been scarred by manipulation, that we are not respecting ourselves by continuing to seek love in the wrong places. We can be filled up by God’s love so we escape neediness and stop making manipulative demands of already depleted people.
We find love from others when we quit demanding it. We find our lives by secretly giving them away. Filled with Christ, we enjoy mending others, asking nothing in return. It’s then that it is far more likely we will find ourselves married to the person who secretly weeds our sidewalk for no reason other than they love us.