Growing in Love

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Of all the ways I could have chosen to start this article on Growing in Love and that is what I landed on? No deep theological definition. No heartfelt memory of my wedding day. Just a 1990’s club hit. In all honesty, it’s a lot harder to write about something as broad and as complicated as love. What IS love anyway? In this article, we’re going to look at the different definitions of love and practical ways you can grow in love in key areas starting TODAY.

As I talked with many of you about what your word of the year for 2019 was I was surprised to hear that many of you chose the word love. This was a common word on our women’s ministry facebook page too. In my experience, when you choose a word and share it in a community of like-minded women, you’ll notice that certain years have common themes. For example, the last couple years there have been many women, myself included who have chosen the word ‘simplify’. Other years I noticed a common word being ‘peace’. This year I have noticed several women with the word ‘love’ as their word for the year. Here are a couple of explanations of why:

I’m choosing LOVE for 2019. The bedrock of absolutely everything we do has to built on LOVE- All knowledge, miracles even casting a mountain into the sea, does not mean anything if it’s not rooted in love. God show me how to love so I can love others and point them to YOU. – Kelley B.

I feel God leading me to focus on the word love in 2019 because it’s what we are called to do. And when I say love, I don’t just mean the people who are easy to love. I feel I’m being called to love the people in my life who are the hardest to love. Jesus said we should identify ourselves simply by how we love people so it is my goal to love well in 2019 & always. -Airika K.

As I look forward to 2019, I’ve decided that my “word” and my focus is going to be LOVE.  God has laid this word on my heart and confirmed over and over already that Love is what is most important. Gods never ending, unfailing love for each of us, and for the love that we must give to others. I will Love God, myself, family, friends, strangers. Love those that love me and also those that have hurt me.  Love those that are similar to me and those that are different. “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” 1 John‬ ‭4:11‬ ‭NLT – Quincy K.

If you knew these precious women, you might be surprised that this would be their word of the year. I know each of them and can attest that they love others WELL by my definition of the word! On the surface, this is a word that seems like it should come easy. However, we know from life experience that sometimes loving others well and loving them the way Jesus would love them is the hardest thing we do! This is an ongoing process and easily the most important calling we have on our lives. It is, after all, part of the name of this website and podcast. We are going to first dig deeper and look at some of the Biblical definitions of love. Then we will make it personal and look at some of the ways we can practice love today!

I remember in my 11th-grade Creative Writing class we studied the Greek definitions of love, and I thought it was fascinating. This was my first introduction to Greek word studies and while I can’t remember what paper we had to write, the lesson stuck with me. Fast forward to one of my first Bible studies and I was reintroduced to the Greek definitions of love except this time within the context of the original language the Bible was written in. The two of these experiences ignited a love for Greek word studies. When we seek a deeper understanding of the context and meaning of the original text, we gain a deeper understanding of the heart of God. Let’s look at the three different definitions of love found in the bible so that we can better understand what God is calling us to. They are eros, philos and agape.

Eros

Eros is a Greek word that means longing and desire. The word is taken from a Greek god by the same name. Cupid is the Roman version of Eros if that helps you understand. Just as one of Cupid’s arrows strikes you and you ‘fall in love’, so is Eros love brought on by a feeling. Relate that back to longing and desire. Isn’t that the way romantic love typically starts? The purpose of Eros love is that this feeling leads you through the next stages into a more meaningful sacrificial love. While the word eros does not appear in the Bible, it is portrayed in the old testament Song of Solomon. Song of Solomon is a poem between two lovers. If you haven’t read that book and think the Bible is boring… stop what you’re doing! It’s steamy! In this context, eros is a beautiful gift from God. However, it should come as no surprise that what was meant to be a beautiful gift that leads to deeper connection oftentimes becomes selfish. The modern word ‘erotic’ is derived from the word eros. Now don’t misunderstand me, I believe that a healthy marriage has plenty of eros! The problem comes when eros feeds into a society that operates largely on an “I got mine” mentality. When the primary goal of eros is to satisfy a selfish desire without care to develop a deeper relationship with the person.

 

Philos

Philos is best translated into what we consider brotherly love, the love one has toward a friend or companion. In 1 Peter 3:8 Peter uses the word Philos when he says, “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” I love how Beth Moore describes Philos in her study on the fruit of the spirit titled “Living Beyond Yourself”. She looks at different scriptures that use the root word philos and points to important characteristics of this love we have for friends.

1 Peter 3:8 All of you, live in harmony with one another, be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. We love them like family.

Luke 14:10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. We place our friend in high personal position, we hold them in high esteem.

Luke 15:8-9 “Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ We have shared experiences, the joy of one becomes the joy of all.

Agape

This is the definition used in Galatians 5:22 that describes the fruit of the spirit. Agape is the highest expression of love. It is used 115 times in the new testament and is widely recognized as a love that is not based on feeling (eros) or relationship (philos) but that is based on choice. Agape love chooses as an act of self-sacrifice to serve the recipient. In certain translations, the word agape is even translated as charity, which is a choice to serve based on need. 1 John 4:16 says that “God IS love”. The same word is used in John 3:16 that describes the sacrificial love of God.

 

 

For God so loved (agape) the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

 

 

Perhaps one of the most well-known chapters in the Bible where agape love is used is in 1 Corinthians 13. I bet you’ve been to many weddings where they’ve read the ‘love chapter’. Here is an easy list that says what Agape IS and what it ISN’T.

 

 

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8,13 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

 

 

 

The research loving, Bible scholar wannabee in me could go on and on about Agape love. I feel like we set a pretty good foundation above and would encourage you to dig deeper into these Greek words if you feel led to do so!

 

Now, let’s make this practical!

 

This week as I was trying to decide which area of Love I should focus this article on I kept coming across this quote, “Bloom where you are planted”. I acknowledged it for the nice quote it was and moved on. In the midst of my busy week of mommin’ hard and running my other business I tried several times to sit down and write this article so it wouldn’t come down to my Friday deadline. I’d type out some random thoughts that didn’t necessarily go together and get up frustrated when another project needed my attention. Then it dawned on me as I saw yet another picture of the same quote on facebook, this was one of my sacred echos (persistent voice of God, trying to get your attention!) for the week.

 

Bloom where you are planted.

We don’t always get to choose where we are planted. We are planted smack dab into the middle of our family, our jobs, our community, and other spheres of influence. Do you remember my bucket analogy from this post. These are the areas where we MUST choose to love others well. These are the areas where we have an opportunity to bloom where we have been planted.

 

In the last week, two of my friends on separate occasions have recommended the book Everybody, Always by Bob Goff. (another sacred echo! Ok, God I’ll read the book!) This was very timely considering I was about to write an article on love, unbeknownst to them! This morning I was looking up his book and came across this quote:

“People don’t bloom where they are planted. People bloom where they are loved.” – Bob Goff in Everybody Always

We’ve officially come full circle y’all! I couldn’t believe that last night the quote “Bloom where you are planted” gave me divine direction on what to focus this article on and then this morning after researching the book my friends told me about last week I found a similar quote that expounds on it. WHAT?! Did you catch that definition of sacred echo above? This is it.

I believe that both are correct, both provide value. I believe that we can’t always choose where we are planted, but we can always choose to love others and in the process we both bloom.

Let’s look at some areas in our life that we can grow in love, and bloom right where we are planted. Below you’ll find a list for each with some ideas, you don’t have to do all. Just pick a couple and work on those. You don’t have to go from seed to sunflower overnight, growth is a process.

Love Yourself

Have you ever flown on an airplane? If so, you might know the analogy I’m about to make. The flight attendant says that in case of an emergency to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others. This doesn’t make you selfish! They say this because if you lose consciousness due to low oxygen levels you won’t be able to help anyone else! Let’s relate this to self-love. If you don’t love yourself FIRST, you won’t be able to love anyone else WELL. You might be able to love them ok while grasping for air in your own life, but you won’t be able to love them well.

Since I love using word pictures, let’s look at another one. Think of the cup analogy. We’ve all heard it. Picture yourself holding an empty cup. When somebody bumps into you, does anything spill? No, there’s nothing to spill forth. Now picture yourself holding a cup full of water. When somebody bumps into you, the cup overflows. So it is with love. If you focus on pouring love into yourself and most importantly being infilled with the perfect agape love of God, you’ll be more capable of overflowing love onto the people in your life. One of the best ways to love yourself well in 2019 is to make room for self-care.

10 Ways to Love Yourself Better

  1. Start your day with a morning routine, take care of yourself before anyone else
  2. Read your Bible daily
  3. Reward yourself when you accomplish a goal
  4. Take up a new hobby, or make time for a current one
  5. Eat healthy, find a lifestyle that makes your body feel good
  6. Exercise 30 minutes a day
  7. Speak positive affirmations and scriptures over yourself
  8. Forgive yourself for past mistakes
  9. Find somebody or something to make you laugh every day
  10. Give yourself permission to say NO to things that do not bring you joy

Love Your Spouse

Did you catch that beautiful natural progression of love in the definitions above, specifically in regards to our spouse? This is the only relationship that has the privilege of experiencing all three!

 

 

Eros
A feeling of longing and desire attracts us to our spouse! Ow ow!

 

Philos
That initial attraction grows into friendship. As we learn about our common interests we form a relationship with that person where place them in higher esteem than ourselves, rejoice together and become united in shared experiences.

Agape

Friendship turns into a sacrificial love where we commit to putting that person’s needs before our own. At least, that’s what marriage is supposed to be.

 

 

 

A healthy marriage has to have components of all three types of love. Hopefully, we’ve hit these home hard enough that you can recognize each type in the list below.

10 Ways to Love Your Spouse Better

  1. Make time for date night
  2. Make time for regular intimacy, get a little eros up in your marriage girl!
  3. Dress your best for your spouse, the way you do when you go out. They deserve to experience your best effort sometimes too! Put away the sweats!
  4. Show interest in their hobby, ask them about it!
  5. Join them in their hobby!
  6. Honor them with your words, don’t put them down to others
  7. Pray for them daily
  8. Make lunch for them or have dinner ready a couple nights a week when they get home (I include this because my husband has specifically told me this would bless him)
  9. Respect each other with your words and responses
  10. Ask THEM how you can love them better, they know better than I do!

Love Your Children

You’ve seen the signs at Hobby Lobby, “For this child, I have prayed”. Oh, how precious! Do you remember that first day your child was born when you just stared in awe at their sweet little face? Could you ever imagine a day would come where you would lock yourself in your closet crying into a carton of ice cream because you just.need.a.flipping.minute alone? Listen, I get it! One of the areas I resolve to focus on most this year is loving my children better, because they deserve better!

10 Ways to Love Your Children Better

  1. Be present, put down the phone
  2. Pray for them daily
  3. Read to them daily
  4. Get on the floor and play with them, don’t just watch them play
  5. Stop yelling or work on yelling LESS. Progress, remember?
  6. Limit their screen time
  7. Take time to teach them new skills
  8. Join them in their hobby or interest
  9. Honor them with your words, don’t put them down to others or embarrass them on social media
  10. Build them up with your words, tell them you love them and why daily

Love Your Friends

One of the greatest treasures I have in life are my girlfriends. One of my best friends Jess runs a website where she shares real-life stories meant to encourage and reveal the heart of God. She does this with personal content and also by inviting guest writers to share their own stories. This guest post had me laughing hysterically with a description of what might have happened in the Garden of Eden if Eve had her girl tribe with her. You can read it here. The point is, it’s important to find women that you can do life with who will call you up. To find women that won’t just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. Friends who will laugh with you until they literally pee their pants or cry with you when they don’t have the words to ‘fix’ your situation. These kinds of friends are worth their weight in gold.

 

10 Ways to Love Your Friends Well

  1. Call or text them, check in!
  2. Ask them how you can pray for them, and then actually pray for them
  3. Make time for girls night
  4. Bring them a meal when a big life event happens
  5. Schedule play dates or lunch dates
  6. Honor them by not gossiping about them to others
  7. Become each other’s accountability partner in some area
  8. Be honest with them if they’ve hurt your feelings, open communication is key
  9. Guard your heart from jealousy, don’t compare yourself to her
  10. Include them, don’t assume they don’t want to join or can’t join… even if they can’t make it for whatever reason, they’ll appreciate being included

Love the Unlovable

I saved this for last because it’s a doozy. This is the most difficult way we are called to grow in love. We all have these people in our life. The people that are prickly. The people that walk into a room and suck the joy out. The people who treat us just plain bad. This topic alone is so hefty and SO important that for the sake of this already long post I can’t dive into it fully. Perhaps this is a post better suited for a different day when we can really dig in deep. I’m sure you’re already picturing the unlovable people in your life. Maybe it’s a neighbor that seems to constantly be picking a fight in your subdivision or calling you to complain about property lines. Maybe it’s a co-worker that puts a negative spin on everything or lies to your boss about you. Maybe it’s an ex-best friend. Maybe it’s your Mom! Whoever it is, they might need love most. Think back to our cup analogy. Maybe their cup has been empty for so long, and you are the only one who is willing to fill it up with whatever love you can muster. You can do this friend. THIS is a perfect example of agape love.

10 Ways to Love the Unlovable

  1. Forgive them for any way they have hurt you
  2. Resist the urge to get offended by what they say or do
  3. Pray for them
  4. Look for ways to bless them
  5. Send them a card or write them a letter
  6. Invite them to church, your house or out to lunch
  7. Give them the benefit of the doubt, don’t assume the worst
  8. Ask them about their life; family, interests, dreams
  9. Bring them a small treat; candy bar, trinket, something that shows them you thought of them
  10. Meet their negativity with positivity, don’t give up on them!
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