Love is spelled T-I-M-E but that’s not the only way to sound love out. It’s also spelled I-N-I-T-I-A-T-E. Initiate.
1. Great Lovers Initiate
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
Initiate. There’s not much zing to this 4-syllable, 8-letter ‘i’ word. Love is spelled time has a better ring.
Don’t get me wrong. Love is spelled time. But sometimes we get it best and feel it most when love comes in other languages like gifts or touch or kind words or service. Love is spelled a lot of ways.
But great lovers initiate. They forgive first and confess first. They invite you before you invite them.
Great lovers take the lead.
When Love Goes First
If you remember your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the altar. First go be reconciled. Matthew 5:23b-24
This is a very hard thing. It takes supernatural strength and superhuman love to go to an offended brother or sister and initiate peace.
First, be reconciled. Go to her. Don’t wait for her to come to you. Initiate.
The best lovers go first to make peace.
I know this because Love came down at Christmas. For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). God sent. He went first to seek peace, to bring life.
Because of his great love, God being rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ when we were dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:4). That is the only place in the New Testament when God’s love is called great love.
Great love brings life. Eternal life is peace with God. Great lovers seek peace. He loved us to life when there was nothing lovable in us. We were dead.
So the Great Lover took the lead and made dry bones live and stone hearts soft as flesh.
Because the best lovers don’t wait. They peace make. They initiate.
2. Great Lovers Risk Rejection
He came to his own and his own received him not. John 1:11
I can barely face the risk of my own favorite books being unloved, rejected. If you don’t like this book, would you please give it back? I’ll find you a better one.
One year, I actually did jot that note and slap it on the front of the book. Talk about tacky.
But I fear bigger rejections too. I fear the rejection of my invites, children, writing, ideas, and efforts. I grow weary of going first. Confessing first and forgiving first, clearing awkward air and making peace are risky. They’re all rife with the risk of rejection. And there’s a real chance we’ll be misunderstood.
Jesus faced rejection. The Man of Sorrows was despised and rejected by men (Isaiah 53:3). His great love would be misunderstood and spurned.
But for Love Himself, it was beyond risk. In sure and certain omniscience, he knew some would not receive his gift.
He knew some would reject His love. His life. Him.
Follow Love’s Lead
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2
You’re invited! Aren’t those about two of the most happy-making words ever? It was only November 13th and there it was. An Evite Invite to the Greene’s New Year’s Eve party. Their early invite showed love.
I got it covered!Or how about when your husband not only cleared his schedule, made the reservation, but also arranged childcare so he could take you away for a night? His initiative spelled love.
Want to walk in an hour? Christin texted me to ask for a walk before I asked her. It’s risky to invite because you might be rejected. What if I already had another walking date? Her text expressed love.
These are little risks. We can only love like this because he first loved us.
But he did love us first. So we can follow his lead.
Know This Love
God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who he has given us…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:5, 8
Initiate and risk rejection for God’s sake.
That’s what’s ringing in these ears this Christmastime. It’s two sides of love I hadn’t much seen. Maybe I’m feeling it now as I ache for someone to initiate, to invite, to take a chance on me.
Then I remember.
A Great Lover did.
Come; see the place where the young child lay. Look at the manger: there is Lamb for the burnt-offering,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
These little tender hands shall yet be torn. These feet that have not yet trod this rough earth shall be nailed to the tree. That side shall yet be pierced by a Roman spear; that back shall be scourged; that cheek shall be buffeted and spat upon; that brow shall be crowned with thorns—and all for sinners!
Is this not love? Is it not the great love of God?
There are good reasons people choose not to adopt. I heard a lot of them. But this week, we celebrate adoption day.
Don’t Force The Duck
Think he’ll like the duck? I wondered aloud.
No idea. We’d never done this before. Jim was as clueless as I.
But I had followed the agency directions and all the pick-up-your-baby rules. The Britax car seat was firmly strapped in the back seat and the paperwork was in hand. Bottle, formula, blanket—check, check, check. My sister met us at O’Hare with the orange-beaked, yellow fella to mark adoption day.
The experts said it would be best to let him wear the clothes he was in and use the bottles they sent and slowly ease American formula into a blend with Korean. They said all the new sights and sounds and smells would be jarring to this six-month young sensory system. They said, Ease in.
No. I wouldn’t force the duck.
They Broke Her Heart
But let me back up. Before we met A#1 at the airport, we heard lots of reasons why we shouldn’t adopt.
The one I remember best came two summers before adoption day. My husband and a good friend, Jo, sat around me on the cafe veranda. I’m not sure how we landed on the topic of adoption. But suddenly here we were.
My friend Caroline’s adopted children both went bad. They rebelled in their teens and never did seem to accept her and Tom as their parents.They broke her heart.Even though they were treated like their own flesh and blood children, it just didn’t work out.
I’m not Pollyanna now and I wasn’t then. Nor were all my hopes of happiness hitched to the adoption cart. All the sessions with our adoption social worker guaranteed some measure of realism. Still, this was a bitter pill.
It happened to my college roommate Pat too. Her adopted son John never seemed to bond, even though he was with her from day one. He said vile things to them, left home at 18 and never came back. Pat said he’s only called a handful of times in all the years since. And then, only to ask for money.
Sobering isn’t strong enough to describe the effect of her words.
No, adoption just doesn’t seem to work out.
No Illusions Of Adoption Grandeur
That bubble-bursting conversation wasn’t the only one. We can’t say we weren’t warned. Our social worker, our friends, and our own knowledge of adoptions gone sour insured we were under no illusions of adoption grandeur.
But no illusions does not mean no hope. Not living life like I wrote it frees me to take part in a far grander story. The hard and heartache in this chapter does not mean adoption wasn’t part of God’s plan for our family.
Still, a grand story with a hope and a plan don’t make living it easy. A#1 tests my mettle and I test his. This National Adoption Month, I admit, it’s been harder than I ever imagined.
Make No Mistake
Do heartache and pain mean we made a mistake? Do conflict and strife mean we misread God? Does trying and hard mean we’d all be better off if we’d chosen not to adopt?
Because adoption is forcing us to trust, causing us to hope and teaching us to love. And last I knew, those three were the only lasting things: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
This is the adoption month message that came.
But it’s not just for those directly impacted by adoption. It’s for all of us who second guess decisions made in good faith whose results are far harder than we imagined. Maybe it was a decision to get married, to bear children or to remain a faithful friend. The message is for all of us who, for Christ’s sake, love right on.
For us sinful, disobedient people who keep on loving and, as we do, come to know and love our Father better. Our heavenly Father had a chosen, child named Israel who spurned him. It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the hand, but they never knew that I healed them (Hosea 11:3). And, All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people (Romans 10:21). To love this way, those who do not repay, is the love that God rewards (Matthew 5:46).
So my adoption month message for us is a question:
Don’t Force. Trust.
I didn’t force the duck on November 2, 2005. And 16 years later, on November 2, 2021, I didn’t force a hug.
I can’t force golf, chess, or good friends and I can’t force dental floss, haircuts or good books. I can’t even force the veg. Once I was a royal tastemaker, but now I’m a short order quesadilla chef.
In all these things, I must trust that my God will meet all of this son’s needs without me pushing my way. In other words, this adoption, this son, and this God—his way is perfect—are forcing my force-it, control issues.
Could it be that one big reason God formed our family is so that that I’d quit thinking I can force my way? So that I’d trust that the perfect Father—whose own children resist and rebel, who spurn his love and break his rules—is completely able to lay hold of a heart?
A#1 wasn’t much of a snuggly, stuffed animal guy. But this beloved son is fond of the duck. Sixteen years after we met our stoic, six month-old A#1 at the airport, I snuck into his room to take a picture of Duck
I didn’t force the duck and the duck stuck.
Don’t force the duck has become my reminder to trust. The duck is my reminder that God can lay hold of hearts without me.
I know this adoption story isn’t over.
Afterward: Two Quotes from Two Articles About the Good and Hard of Adoption
There is no such thing in God’s economy as an “adopted child,” only a child who was adopted into the family. “Adopted” defines how you came into the household, but it doesn’t define you as some other sort of family member. In the Book of Romans, Paul defines all Christians, both Jew and Gentile, as having received a common “spirit of adoption” (Rom. 8:15; 9:4). -Russell Moore, Adopted For Life, Ten Years Later
Some adoptions cause quite a bit of pain and grief in the lives of moms, dads, sisters, brothers, and other relatives. But just because there’s conflict, it doesn’t mean that the adoption wasn’t meant to be…God uses all things, especially conflict and struggle, to work together.. and bring about a good “end.” -Mark Gregston, Pitfalls Of Adoption
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
I heard an expert say that you are qualified to teach a “master class” if you know 10% more about something than others. A handful of scintillating course topics I could teach crossed my mind when she said that. Then Sorry, can’t make it, lit up my screen. I knew my topic: loser-itis.
Actually not loser-itis, even though I’ve got some experience there. But who’d take that class? No, my masterclass would not be about loser-itis, but about how to fight loser-itis.
Fight Loser-itis Right 101
The next text confirmed my topic, Something came up. See you next week. A couple friends declined my invites and my husband rejected my plan, and someone unsubscribed from my Facebook group all on one day last week.
But even worse than outright rejection are those soul-desolating, joy-decimating crickets that come when you pour your heart out and not. a. peep. For souls who long to influence, those chirps are deafening.
This all was inflammatory. It triggered my loser-itis.
But recall, while I am a certain expert on loser-itis, I’m fairly sure I know 10% more than many about how to fight loser-itis. I don’t have a syllabus or slide show yet, but I’d love to share three fight tips that help me beat loser-itis— and they’re all 100% free!
Belt On: Fight Loser-itis With Truth
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist. Ephesians 6:14
No one has a chance against loser-itis—that discouragement that comes with failure, rejection and being ignored—unless truth undergirds.
Truth number one for every Christian is that in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. That’s Romans 8:37 and it deserved its own post. If you’re in Christ, you are not a loser. Period.
Here are the three other truths I’d unfold with those enrolled in my master class.
1. Sow On: Forget The Weather App
He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. Ecclesiastes 11:4
Failure is part and parcel with trying. You can’t have one without the other. As Christians we are called to sow generously. We are to invite and initiate and bare our souls for the sake of the Name, even if no seed grows—or grows now, or grows where we can see it.
Because, you do not know if it will grow, but you will not reap if you do not sow.
This I know. There will always be excuses not to take a risk, and good reasons for caution, too. But if we observe the wind, we will never sow. At some point we must take that step into the river and stop looking at the weather app.
So when loser-itis bites, remind yourself that failure is part of success. Because not all seeds will grow. But none will grow if you don’t put yourself out there. Which leads straight into truth number two.
2. Love On: Accept No
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
This is a proven winner in the fight. Hard as it is, we’ve got to give others the grace to say no, or even to say nothing. We are not entitled to a response. And if the rejection is personal and a downright outright rejection of us or our message, it is still for us to give grace.
Because everyone we meet has struggles we don’t see. And sometimes the healthiest thing is to say no.
We all say no. And when we do, we want others to receive it well. Do unto others, as you’d have them do unto you. But it’s only the blessed meek who can go bold—can ask and invite and sow— and graciously take “no” for an answer.
So go meek, love on, and be kind. For everyone is fighting a hard battle. Which brings us to truth number three.
3. Keep On: Tend Your Little Patch
Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9
Don’t look past your front door for a cure for loser-itis. Odds are, there are people inside your house could use some TLC. Thirty years after she gave it to an insecure 7th grader, pining away on a Friday night, Mom’s advice to me is evergreen.
I can’t count the times I’ve fought off loser-itis by texting or writing or phoning a friend. Maybe I can’t pick the circles I run in, but I can love the ones in the circles I’m in. Love the ones you’re with.
Jonathan Rogers helps me here. I mentioned his words before. Rogers says we all have a territory,—a little patch of ground that is yours to cultivate. Your patch of ground is your unique combination of experiences and perspective and voice and loves and longings and community. Tend that patch of ground.
Serve them. Keep on. Tend that little patch.
Rejected, Victorious, and Lover to the End
That would be my master course, three truths to help fight loser-itis.
For some of us, saying no is worse than 1,000 mosquito bites and a week of sleepless nights. I mean, saying no hurts!
We relational types hate to let others down. We hate to disappoint.
For others, it’s not saying no that’s so terrible–it’s hearing and taking no that hurts worse. Being rejected rates right up there with jumping in Lake Michigan in January and getting stung by angry bees in August. That bad.
This post is for those of us who are more undone when we hear no. No, your son can’t take that class- your dog is not allowed in here -you can’t take off Friday – I can’t watch your kids. No, we can’t make it.
No. Sorry. No.
The first text read, Late meeting. So sorry I’ll have to miss tonight.
Then, I forgot it’s my son’s half-birthday. Sorry I’ll miss.
And, Abigail, so sorry I can’t make it. It’s our anniversary.
That- more or less- is how the texts came in.
Grace had stretched me far but now it felt personal. Resentment was starting to grow.
Because it’s hard to take no.
When We Are Rejected
So here we were. We three, then four, out of the dozen who’d been part of our little summer Psalms study. Then two more texts.
Here are 5 truths that help me face rejection and take no with (some measure of) grace.
1. Remember Who else was rejected.
This gives me perspective: God Almighty was rejected–God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
Remember that parable of the guy who threw the big party and invited many guests? At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
Remember the excuses? They’re in Luke 14.
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
Talk about rejection! Those texts messages are miniscule, not worth comparing. Even after I reserved the room and sent the invites and spent a couple hours prepping the study guide. Small potatoes. Teeny-tiny, speck-of-dust potatoes are my little rejections compared with that rejection.
Those texts were just polite little no’s to a Wednesday night Bible study. The host of the real party is God the Father. (See Matthew 22.)
In Isaiah 53:3 the Son of God, the Suffering Servant, is described as despised andrejected. When He came to his own, his own received him not. He said, The Son of Man must suffer and be rejected.
This one is big. It’s the perspective I want to have whenever I hear no. And not just in retrospect, but line by line as the texts roll in. When people upset my plans, I want to be like a woman I read about named Janet.
Someone who knew her said,
She delighted in seeing her plan upset by unexpected events, saying that it gave her great comfort, and that she looked on such things as an assurance that God was watching over her stewardship, was securing the accomplishment of His will, and working out His own designs. Whether she traced the secondary causes to the prayer of a child, to the imperfection of an individual, to obstacles arising from misunderstandings, or to interference of outside agencies, she was joyfully and graciously ready to recognize the indication of God’s ruling hand, and to allow herself to be guided by it. (From The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart, quoted In Keep a Quiet Heart, by Elisabeth Elliot)
When people say no and reject our requests, this too reveals God’s ruling hand. The half-birthday and the locked car and all of those texts were God’s ruling hand.
When we are told no, the Golden Rule still applies: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
When we have to say no, like I had to say no to my sister this afternoon, about watching my nieces and nephew tomorrow, I felt bad. I don’t like to disappoint. But Danielle understood. In fact, she sounded a lot like Janet.
Oh well, she said, I was on the fence about going to the party, anyway.
She took my no with grace and made it easy to say no.
I need to do the same. I need to do unto others when they say no to me. Odds are they like saying no about as much as I like hearing no.
4. Be disillusioned, in a good way.
I know that sounds strange. Because disillusionment isn’t usually good. It’s the feeling of disappointment we get when we find out that something isn’t as good as we believed it to be. But we can be disillusioned with people in a healthy way.
Jesus shows us what that looks like in John chapter two, where it says that he did not commit himself to them…for He knew what was in man.
The disillusionment which comes from God brings us to the place where we see men and women as they really are…The refusal to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering in human life. It works in this way — if we love a human being and do not love God, we demand of him every perfection and every rectitude, and when we do not get it we become cruel and vindictive; we are demanding of a human being that which he or she cannot give. There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we allow ourselves to get disillusioned, we won’t demand every perfection or resent every rejection. We’ll be quick to remember others are frail and finite, with limited time and energy, too.
Being disillusioned is another of saying we don’t resent those who refuse or reject us. We take it with grace because we know that we all stumble in many ways. We don’t demand of others what they cannot give and we sit loose to our plans.
Good disillusionment means we aren’t devastated when our peeps say no.
5. Keep sowing.
This last “tip” for taking no has been immensely helpful to me, especially when it comes to the rejection and no’s that come with Kingdom work.
In Ecclesiastes 11:6 the Teacher says,
Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle; for you do not know which will succeed,whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.
This passage, I’m coming to see, is about holy boldness when we, to use Jesus’ own words, sow the seed of the Word. Not everyone- maybe hardly anyone- will accept my invitations to a Bible study or Vacation Bible School or dinner or a walk.
But we need to keep sowing and asking and inviting. Because we do not know what seeds will grow. But we will not reap if we do not sow.
Put something out there that God can bless.
We can be too cautious. We don’t want to be the farmer who watches and waits for perfect conditions and never plants or reaps. There’s always a chance that the seed will stay dry or blow away when you plant. Or that a storm will knock it all down the day before harvest. You never know.
But Ecclesiastes 11 is a warning to us, when we hear no and only a few people show and the ministry seems a bust. It’s a warning to not stop sowing.
Whenever we engage in kingdom enterprises we offer to the Holy Spirit something he can use to save peoples’ lives. Some of us are so risk averse that we keep waiting to invest. That’s the picture we get in verses 3 and 4. The Preacher is asking us to invest in the Kingdom. If we want the blessing of it, we’ve got to exercise our faith and put something out that God can bless in return.
Don’t wait for the perfect circumstances. Don’t hold back in fear. Step out in faith. Not faith in your own efforts but faith that God can do it. But faith that God will take whatever you do and use it somehow for his glory. When it comes to kingdom work we should be venture capitalists willing to risk for the kingdom.
God is God and we are not. We don’t know God’s ways. We don’t know if our efforts will take and seeds of the Word will grow. But, we do know that we will not reap if we do not sow.
We cover ourselves up and lock ourselves into the closet of the manageable…The things we can manage are in that closet. We believe that’s the only way we can protect ourselves.
And it just so happens that the Psalm our little remnant studied Wednesday night was Psalm 121, the one that starts with, I lift up my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from?
The Psalm ends with an immense, security-building promise for God’s children. Not only is He present and powerful, God promises to guard and watch over you. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore (Psalm 121:8).
You can risk yourself to the glory of God. You can live dangerously for God, because God will watch over your life. He will watch over your very soul. He will protect you and guide you and bless you and guard you all your days.
God promises to care for us and to guard our very souls from this time forth and forevermore. This means we’re free to request and invite and love others in risky ways, because the LORD will keep us.