In the middle of love

Jesus replied,
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart,
all your soul, and all your mind.”
Matthew 22:37
Admittedly, I’ve recently made fun of my informal title as the “missing” middle sister. My current middle place in this life is a balancing act of singleness, motherhood, sharing custody and working full time. I say that as more of an explanation for my absence than lamentation for my circumstance. God is truly using this season of my life to draw me closer to Him and has taught me more about His sufficiency than ever before. I am still learning what it means, every day, to ”consider it joy”. All of it. Joy. Right here – in the middle of morning car rider line and commuting…
Both of my children are becoming increasingly inquisitive and curious every single day about God and how He relates to their lives. For whatever reason, they have chosen our morning drive time to speak those questions out loud. Sometimes the questions are funny, sometimes they are awkward. They are almost always hard.
Last Friday, Chloe simply asked, “Mommy, do you love God more than you love us?”


My heart answered through my words before my brain had a chance to react. Resolutely resounding a definitive, “Yes.”

I meant it. Wholeheartedly. And I knew that I meant it and with that swift answer came relief, remembering the time in my life when I couldn’t have answered that question so quickly – or said yes so honestly.

Looking back, I’m not sure I really knew what love was until I had my children. The birth of Chloe had awakened a vulnerability inside of me that I didn’t know existed. I can remember rocking her as a newborn, sobbing, feeling as though my own heart were now residing on the outside of my body. I’d never loved anything – or anyone – so much. It was overwhelming – and frightening. It was years later that I experienced the depth of God’s redeeming love for me and began to learn what it meant to truly love Him with all of my heart, mind and soul – and not just pieces of myself.

I knew that I had about five minutes of time left to explain this to my children who were sitting in the back seat, both feeling a little miffed.

“Don’t you think that makes us feel a little sad?”, Chloe asked – although it was more of an accusation.

The world has it’s own definitions of what love is, but thankfully we have His word. Truth that I didn’t fully grasp until I was a grown woman and truth that is summed up for us beautifully in 1 John 4:
All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love.
God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.
And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect…
Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
We love each other because he loved us first.
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.
I shared the truth of that scripture with my children. I explained to them that because God is love, it is only through loving Him first that I am able, as a Mommy, to love them.
And perhaps the hardest lesson of all (for us mommies) – that they were created by God, bestowed to me as gifts from God for however long He allows and I’d be remiss not to love Him firstmost and foremost. Fully grasping the brevity and fragility of life, surrendering to His authority over the lives of my own children, I’d be remiss not to have an anchor for my soul.

I was raised by my maternal grandmother who ingrained in me as a child that the mere thought of losing one of us – her children – was enough to send her over some ambiguous edge of which she would never recover. I learned from her bravery and her strength as she had weathered the storm of being widowed not once, but twice.  My perspective became skewed to emulate hers: losing a spouse was obviously surmountable, losing a child was not.

Dear Mama, I love you so – can I tell you that through His love you have a secure tether to the God of all comfort so that when life brings you to that proverbial edge, you are secure. Sisters, can I tell you than in all things - yes all things- “we are more than conquerors” through His love.
As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:36-37)
I turn back and look at my children in the back seat and tell them, “And that love in your heart you feel for Mommy, that is from God, too. I pray that you will love him first, too – and more – and the most.” They kiss me goodbye as we pull to the curb at school, seemingly understanding and satisfied with the answer I’ve given them. I watch them as they walk along the sidewalk into front doors of the school.
My children. They are the little loves of my life. But, ultimately, they are His. I was instantly reminded of the familiar story in Genesis, the testing of Abraham’s faith:
“Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.” Gen 22:2
It is a difficult passage of scripture for us to wrestle with. In the next verse, we see Abraham not questioning or hesitating, but simply obeying. Fully ready and willing to offer his child – but Isaac was more than his child – he was the very fulfillment of a promise that had taken years to come to fruition. Isaac was the promised heir from God Himself – and yet God asks Abraham to return Isaac back to Him as a sacrifice – and Abraham is willing. On that mountaintop, knife in Abraham’s hand, the angel intervenes and says, “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.”

Oh Lord, give me the grace and wisdom to not withhold my own children from you.
Because, I have a tendency to cling too tightly. I overcompensate and at times, I overprotect. It was a long, long learning curve for me in adulthood to learn what it meant to lay down my own life daily, to surrender, to honestly pray, “not my will, but yours”.

Jesus reiterates this to us in Matthew 10. He says, rather explicitly, “Anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

What Jesus is saying to us as His children is that we must love him first and foremost, or we do not love Him at all. What Jesus is saying to us as parents of our own children, is that we must love Him first and foremost, so that we may love our children as He has intended – fully trusting Him.
Last night, as my own children soundly slept, I read the words of a young mother who lost her firstborn daughter Christmas Eve in a tragic accident. Today would’ve been her third birthday. My heart is heavy for the family, and yet so encouraged by their faith, so thankful for the testimony of a mother who is living out what it means to live right in the middle of His love. She wrote a beautiful post tonight and simply ended with this, a glorious glimpse of love:
“I think back on the most powerful verse in the Bible on God’s pure love for his people. As much as I loved Ann Reese, it doesn’t compare to God’s love for His people. Thank you, Lord, for your promise of eternal life for those who love you: John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world,that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – Amy Grote
Lord, give us the grace, strength and courage to live in the middle of surrender - and in the middle of your love. 
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,
neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39


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