I have heard many, many commentaries about love, and what Jesus meant when He told us to love one another. I wholeheartedly agreed with the idea that love was a decision, not a feeling. I liked that idea that it was expressed more out of choice rather than emotional sentiment. I went along with that until I got cancer.
It was weird how it all happened. One day I found out that I might have cancer. Now, they couldn't tell for sure because the tumor was so small and the needle thing didn't reveal much. I was newly pregnant so they decided not to operate quite yet.
I see now how God prepared me in advance for that time. He had given me a friend years before whose mother was a prayer warrior and miracles happened when she prayed. So we decided to begin praying each week, though my faith was tremendously weak. We both had toddlers so we prayed over the phone. It wasn't long before we began to see miracles from our weekly prayer times. Through the next few years, we hardly ever missed a week, and could always tell a difference in our hearts/lives/children/husbands/attitudes when we missed a week of prayer. It was our medication and we needed a dose each week or we were a total mess, unable to cope with life.
After several years of becoming totally dependent on God for everything, and learning through our prayer time what life was really all about - God, I learned about the cancer. Throughout the pregnancy I drew closer to God than ever before. The possibility of dying really does amazing things for your relationship with God. And the Scripture proved true that if you draw near to Him, He draws near to you. He drew so near to me that I actually began to experience His love for others. I spent so much time with God (probably neglected my children horribly as I immersed myself in the Bible) and I just was so filled with love for others. I had mercy and compassion on everyone. It wasn't a choice kind of love at all. It wasn't what I thought it would be like to love others, it was a total feeling thing. I felt love for others. I would see people at church and just want to love them, find out what was going on in their lives, pray for them and I just cared so much. I couldn't even find it within myself to judge others, think negatively about their faults or be irritated with them. I was filled with compassion for them. I prayed for other people more than I prayed for me - and I had cancer! I think that I was feeling a small taste of the love God has for others. A tiny drip in the ocean of His love was given to me and I felt it. I was also fully convinced that God had total mercy and compassion for me, and I think it was also that knowledge, the knowledge of God's excessive, unwarranted, unreasonable love for me that allowed me to forget about myself and totally care for others.
When I actually found out it was cancer, it was like finding out the bump on your finger is actually a wart. Yuck. I hoped it would be cured, but wasn't all that worried about it. I'm telling you, this was all because of my obsession with God. I went through radiation and some very difficult times - I'll spare you the gory details. However, the experience was probably the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me in my life. I was just so close to God that I actually was filled with the knowledge of His love for me and others. It was amazing. It was completely satisfying. I knew what it was to be satisfied with Jesus and in need of nothing else - not even my own life. Now, I did feel sad to leave my children without a mother, but I was so certain of God's love for them that I wasn't even worried about that.
I'm so thankful that God allowed me that time and experience. I feel like I know from experience what it is like to genuinely love others from the heart. I personally am totally incapable of loving anyone like that, even my children. It was only through a close relationship with the Lord that God was able to flood me with that kind of love.
Now, when I think of being close to God, you know, being really, really right with God - I know it's expressed by my love for others. I know when I'm not walking in step with the Spirit because I'm more concerned with me than with anyone else.
The experience left me fully convinced that when God tells us that we must love others, it isn't just a choice to be good to them, treat them with honor and show charity - it really is a feeling. But it can only come through total surrender and allowing God to fill us with that love.
That was a mountain top experience for me. It taught me a lot about the character and love of God. Oftentimes in the busy, harried days of homeschooling, I forget what it's really about. I get bogged down in the details and in all that isn't going as planned. I get frustrated with how much I can't get done and feel like such a failure in different areas each day. Yet, I know that I know that the answer lies in drawing near to God. That is the answer to the hunger of my soul for rest, peace, joy and especially for the love I want to have again for every person God places in my path. The kind of love that doesn't think about oneself, of being loved back, the kind of love that God really has.
"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Galations 5:6b