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Run to Love - Love is at the door

In one version of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, a selfish young prince living in a lavish castle is visited one bitterly cold winter night by a poor beggar woman. She only seeks refuge from the cold in exchange for a single rose. The prince is repulsed by her wretched condition and without a thought turns her away at the door, but a moment later the beggar woman transforms into a beautiful enchantress. The prince tries to reason with her but realizing that the rich young prince is completely devoid of love she casts a spell on him and his entire castle transforming him into a hideous beast. The rose he rejected is left with him as a reminder that his only hope for restoration lies in finding someone who will love him before the enchanted rose finally withers and the enchantment becomes his permanent state. As it turns out, the one thing the prince lacks the most is the only thing that can save him. LOVE.


What if you and I are no different than this young prince?


I remember a similar bitterly cold winter morning years ago sitting in the parking lot at 7-11 having just gotten gas. It was one of those mornings when your exhaled breath rises like a cloud and is carried away by the wind. We don’t typically get this kind of cold weather very often where I live but that day it was barely ten am and still in the teens. We had gotten some snow the week before and now everything was frozen solid including all the tools in my van. At that moment I got a text from my friend Michael asking me if I could help him with a project he was doing for one of his customers. He needed something trimmed and didn’t have the tools to do it. I had things to do. I think my number one priority for the day was keeping warm and avoiding the cold, but in that moment I had this flash of inspiration. It was one of those times when I felt guided completely apart from my rational senses. I decided to drop everything and immediately go and help my friend with his small project. This would mean driving some distance to his location and setting up my tools outside in the bitter cold. I texted him to let him know that I was on the way to assist him.


Just unwinding an extension cord in this weather was a painful endeavor. I remember there was a stiff wind blowing and I had my thin work gloves on but even so, my hands hurt from the cold in a way that only extreme cold can make them feel. Setting up my table saw at a job is typically not a big deal but today it was painful. Every metal surface was the temperature of the air around me. Cold beyond measure. I knocked on the door and Michael appeared with a big smile on his face. I knew he was genuinely grateful for my help but I think he was a little perplexed that I had agreed to come on such short notice to help him. Let me be clear. On this bitterly cold winter day, no one in our valley would have been willing to come and do this small task for him. It would have gotten done one way or another at some point by someone sometime but not in that moment. There’s just no way. For me, that was the whole point.


I didn’t show up at my friend's job like the enchantress showing up at the prince’s castle with a rose to survey his heart, but in some ways what I was doing had fellowship with that. You see I wasn’t looking for anything from my friend Michael that morning except this. I wanted him to know that I loved him and that what I was doing that morning wasn’t just business, it was a pure selfless act of love towards him as my friend. Sometimes I can pay someone to do something for me whether they really care about me or not, let alone love me, and still receive the same benefit from their service. I always say, you can pay people to serve you in a lot of different ways, but you can’t pay someone to love you. At that moment I was wondering if he would grasp this. I desperately wanted him to get it.


An hour later after I had finished the job and packed my tools I said my goodbyes to Michael and he expressed his appreciation to me and said how much do I owe you? I said hey, why don’t you buy me lunch sometime? It was kind of a lame thing to say at the moment because I wasn’t looking for a free lunch date, at the same time I didn’t want to spell out my real intentions that morning. I was hoping beyond hope that he would somehow know what this was and agree with me. That this wasn’t just business, it was something more. He paused and said, well we can have lunch sometime but what do I need to pay you? My hope faded away in the blinding winter sun. A week or two later I got a check in the mail for thirty-five dollars, my hourly rate at the time and honestly it broke my heart in a way I can’t fully explain. We never did have lunch. I wasn’t just mourning my friend's inability to get the memo. Like what would I have to do for you? What’s the demarcation point? How far would I have had to go? If I had given him one of my kidneys to save his life, would that have been enough? Now I’m just being dramatic but hopefully you get the point.


This is the problem. My capacity to fully unconditionally love other people and God is completely and forever connected to my ability to allow myself to be loved by God and others. Without receiving the one I cannot have the other. How many times have other people gone out of their way to extend love or kindness to me while I was completely oblivious? Completely not getting it at all. How many times has God done outrageous lavish acts of love on my behalf while I just took it in stride? How many times have I presumptuously attempted to conjure up love for those around me when I haven’t been able or willing to receive it for myself? Was that dark bloody day on Golgatha just another day at the office for me? Will I ever get just how much I am loved by God and how much that love has cost him? And why do I still try to “pay” for things that have no price tag because they are impossible to monetize? Yet still I try. In the final analysis, this wasn’t just something between me and Michael, it was something between me and God.


In 1 John 4:19, it says, We love because He first loved us. If that is true then the love I possess in my heart only exists there because I was willing to receive it from God and others and somehow in the process it became part of me. Like drinking from an enchanted spring that somehow turns me into a fountain. My friend Michael was just being himself that day, just like me, or any of the rest of us, while I was desperately looking for something in him that I oftentimes cannot find within myself. The knowledge that I am truly loved at a level that I cannot fully appreciate or ever understand. And the only way to extend that truth to those around me is to finally once and for all receive it for myself.


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