Let’s Get Dirty

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”    – C.S. Lewis

The word “love”—along with it’s many definitions—is splattered all over the pages of the bible.  You won’t have to look very hard to discover that love is patient and kind or sacrificial and selfless.  But this week, the Lord has been teaching me about another way to define love that isn’t spelled out as clearly in the scriptures.

Love is… dirty.

And just to be clear, I’m not talking about the bow-chicka-wow-wow kind of love…but nice try.

This kind of love is messy and uncomfortable.  It inconveniences you and it requires you to take risks.  It’s a love that suffers, that gives, and that exhausts you day after day.  It’s hard and time consuming—and it will most definitely cost you something.  It’s also important to note that this kind of love isn’t about you—it’s about them.  And to be honest, when I see opportunities to give and receive this kind of love—I prefer to yell “fire” and run as fast as I can in the opposite direction. Continue reading “Let’s Get Dirty”

“An Other” Kind of Love

There are days when I would love nothing more than to throw my bible off a cliff. A really high cliff.

Let’s be real.  Sometimes I don’t like what the bible says.  However, just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean that it’s wrong.  The bible commands me to do things that I don’t always want to do, and the reason I don’t want to do those things is probably because performing them often requires a significant amount of humility and/or courage.

Forgive.  Love.  Be kind.  Be honest.  Confess.  Let go.  Wait.

Those things are tough.

Loving people that you don’t want to love is especially hard.  I may not have a husband to experience this truth with yet, but I do have a mom and a dad.  Just ask my mom about all of the “lovely conversations” we’ve had from across the house when I was a teenager (I dare you).  There were moments when my mom and I desperately wanted to send each other on a one-way trip to the tropical island called  “Stop Giving Me Such A Hard Time.”  Maybe you’ve heard of it?  It’s only 200 miles from the “Because I Said So” Rainforest.  Despite those rough patches, there were plenty of moments when loving my family was easy.  It came naturally and flowed out of me without a second thought, and those are the moments I cherish the most.

My boss from Ambassadors Football, Ben Marais, spoke about what it meant to love one another while we were hosting a bible study in prison this past week.  During the study, he did something so simple, and yet so incredibly profound.  Ben broke down the word “another.”  Instead of solely identifying the word as a reference to “an additional person or someone of the same type,” he challenged us to think of the word as “an other.”  Someone who is different from us in one or multiple ways, someone we may not agree with, and/or someone who may not even like us.

For example, it’s really easy to love my little brother Brian because he’s just like me (sorry mom, I feel your pain) but in lanky boy form.  We both enjoy playing video games, watching sports with Dad, drinking Starbucks coffee with mom, playing practical jokes on our unsuspecting sister Melissa, and laughing over the fact that Grandma is so terrible at texting.  Loving him doesn’t take much effort.

But what about loving a friend who “stabbed you in the back” or the boyfriend who cheated on you?  What about loving the racist who lives next door or the Christian with the cardboard sign on the street condemning everyone to hell?  What about loving your opponents on the soccer field or the kid who broke into your car and stole your favorite handbag?

The Bible doesn’t just say to love those who are easy to love, the Bible also says to love your neighbor (which is everyone), to love your enemies including those who persecute you, and (drumroll please) to love each and every person as you love YOURSELF.  Yep.  It says that.  I’m dead serious.  You won’t find that in the Book of Sam’s Opinion’s 4:2.  You can find it in Matthew 22:37-39, John 13:34-35, and Matthew 5:44.

When I love myself, I don’t hesitate.  It’s practically reflexive in the sense that I don’t have to second guess what I am doing or why I am doing it.  If I am hungry then I will eat, if I am tired then I will sleep, and if I am bored then I will watch a movie or sketch.

So what does this mean in the life of Sam?  It means that if I see the girl who “wronged me” on the side of the road in desperate need of a lift, then I will immediately pull over and welcome her into my car (instead of speeding past her in raging fury).  Not because she does or doesn’t deserve it, not because I am trying to make her feel guilty for how she hurt me, and not because I am trying to prove what a wonderful person I am.  None of the above.  I do it because Jesus commands me to.  If God is love (1 John 4:7-8), then I have the opportunity to share Him with anyone and everyone I meet through what I say and what I do.  Since His love is powerful enough to shine through the broken cracks of my life, stifling it would mean hindering another from being able to experience God through me in a beautiful way.

Quick reminder to all of my fellow imperfect human beings out there:  I will fail.  There will be days when it may take me a lot longer to love or forgive, and there will be days when I don’t do it at all,  but that’s what grace is for.  It’s also a great reminder that even when my love fails, God’s never will.

So as I enter into every situation, I will strive to love with an open heart and without fear because I am reminded that in my “unlovable moments,” God never stopped loving me.

Be Still and Know

“Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes!”

1 Samuel 12:16 (NIV)

For those of you that don’t know me that well….

“Standing still” is not something that I enjoy doing.  In fact, I despise it.  That’s why I majored in Exercise Science in college, that’s why I have played multiple sports in and out of season since age 4, and that’s why I will never work in a tiny cramped office cubicle (I wouldn’t last a week).

To put it simply…let me confess.

Hi, My name is Sam, and I’ve struggled with a Martha Complex for 23 years. (whew, glad that’s off my chest)

The story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 is one that constantly challenges me because it forces me to ask the questions: What is the most important thing in my life? What are my intentions behind what I do?  Does my value come from what I accomplish or from who I am?

So, now I am in South Africa and I want to be honest… there are days when I feel absolutely useless.  Language barriers, unfamiliar environments, and tons of free time before the coaching season begins in February has made this period of “resting and preparing” really difficult for me.  My mindset has always been “put me in coach!”  I want get out there and I want to start getting things done, but sometimes that mindset can cause more harm than good.  I tend to be impulsive and impatient, and it’s easy to “get ahead” of myself without waiting on the Lord for direction and wisdom.

But, God is pretty awesome at comforting us when we need comforting.  He’s also great at speaking Truth into confusing and difficult situations, and He reminded me of something important through this verse in 1 Samuel.  This futsal ministry in South Africa belongs to God.  My gifts and talents and abilities are gifts from God.  He’s in charge, He’s the director, and He’s the organizer.  He doesn’t ask me to do a bunch of amazing and marvelous things for Him.  He calls me to stand still.  He calls me to listen, to enjoy, to watch in wonder, and to just “be.”

He’s taken me outside of my comfort zone.  He has brought me to a place where I have been asked to sit back, relax, and watch Him work, and THAT goes against every natural fiber in my being.

But, I am learning that my identity and my value should not be rooted in the things that I do, because I would never be able to do anything good if it wasn’t for God.  Jesus uses the example of cutting a branch off of a tree and seeing how that branch ends up withering from lack of nutrients instead of producing fruit.  As hard as it is to admit sometimes, I can do nothing apart from Him.

My identity needs to come from the fact that I am fully and completely loved, whether I am an invalid who is completely dependent on others or whether I am a successful athlete who is fully capable. God’s love for me and His calling on my life are not dependent on my abilities to “do stuff.”  He promises to be the equipper and the provider, all He asks me to do is to show up and trust Him.

Mary sat at Jesus’s feet.  She didn’t allow a big dinner party to distract her or frustrate her from what was most important.  From my personal perspective, Martha was focused on people pleasing while Mary was focused on “simply receiving.”  Both loved Jesus and both were loved by Jesus, but one sister embraced Him while the other tried to impress Him.  Jesus says that Mary did the better thing.

This journey is going to stretch me in more ways that I ever could have imagined, but I know that God promises to finish the good work which He’s started in me.  I get to see my Heavenly Father do some incredible things in South Africa.  I get to witness His sovereignty and His power and His love for His people…

and I get to say, “wow, thats my Dad… look at Him go”

and because of grace, I get to feel Him smile upon me because He calls me His Beloved, and there’s nothing that I can do to separate myself from that beautiful truth.

Freedom for the Fool.

One of the most comforting verses in the Bible (for me) is 1 Corinthians 1:27-29:

 “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

I cannot thank God enough for making sure that this verse appeared in Paul’s writing.  Each day I realize how incredibly weak and imperfect I am, but each day I have also been granted the wisdom to realize how incredibly great God is.

I was given an opportunity about a month ago to co-lead a women’s bible study for seven ladies who are in the process of transitioning from prison to living in the real world.  Each Wednesday at 11:30am, my partner Andrea and I meet these women and spend an hour sharing truths with them, building relationships with them, and simply loving on them.

Each week I am blown away by these women.  Every single one of them has gone through a trial, a hardship, an obstacle, or a hurt.  Every single one of them has made mistakes that have cost them something in one way or another.  Every single one of them could have given up and called it quits. 

But, here they are… with a hunger for the Word of God, with a renewed hope for their futures, and with a desire to love and to be loved by their Creator.  

I came in to teach and lead these beautiful and strong women, but in reality, each time I sit with them and listen to their stories and their hearts… they teach me.  The Lord humbles me every time I walk in through that door, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more than that.  I have learned that just because I personally have not gone to prison, it does NOT mean that I am above them in any way. I struggle with some of the same things they do, and no matter the age or the ethnicity or the crime, we are all equal and we are all human.

God has a way of knowing exactly what we need when we need it, and I can honestly say that I have fallen in love with seven new sisters who are just like me.  Broken and imperfect, but loved and cherished.  

After growing up in a church where everyone puts on a mask of perfection, it is probably one of the most refreshing things to be able to be myself and share my “dirty laundry” with other women who have just as many “clothes” as I do.  

This is church.  This is Christianity.  Acknowledging our weaknesses, renewing our minds, and coming together to build each other up in the Lord’s strength and love.  He is bigger than our past mistakes, He is bigger than our hurts and our pains, and He is bigger than our guilt and our shame.

I am in a season of learning what it means to love the unloveable, to serve even when its hard, and to be humble in every circumstance.  As difficult as this season is, I know God is using it to prepare me for South Africa, for ministry, and hopefully (one day) for marriage. So far so good, but there’s much more road to travel down… 

So as the classic cliche says it best, its time to:  Let Go and Let God.