Projecting Love (With Reference to God Part 3)

“All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; they that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee: there is none understanding in him.” (Obadiah 1:7, emphasis mine)

That’s the downside to going with the flow and allowing the pressure of peers to make us into something. I’m not talking about borrowing and copying fashion statements, nor even ideologies. I’m referring to something in between that’s a little harder to pin down.

Who knows what it is inside that tells us that what we sense about others is accurate. (No question-mark, it’s rhetorical.) Where do we get this notion—so prevalent in mixed company—that we know what another is thinking? That others share the same feelings as do we? I’d venture to say that it’s some sort of mental disorder brought about by an inverted empathic response. I’m no shrink, and this is only my opinion, but we as a race have a horrible habit of “projection”. We take what we feel, for good or ill, and “project” said feelings to others. I know I’m guilty of this. There’s an aspect to this though, that I feel is even more underlying than the simple aforementioned definition. Without resorting to either a pure supernatural explanation, or a scientific one, let’s look at this from a simple and logical standpoint. And in light of this most basic of verses:

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) Yes, there it is again.

How does God love us? Let us count the ways. Because He loves us in whatever sin He finds us. That’s the whole point of His having sent Jesus to die for us. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16) Put yourself in the place of the duplicitous person. How would God love you there? Humor me here. For whatever reason, you have decided not to be an honest individual and whether or not you still believe God’s out there (kinda hard when you know you’re a fake and think no one sees it), you don’t really care. Know this though, God loves you whether you’re honest or not. He didn’t let you get away with your games, but saw to it that you were caught. He then forgave you and set you free. This is love. “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son (and daughter) whom He receiveth.” (Hebrews 12:6) It’s what brings us back from the abyss. And so backing out of this prescribed identity change, think about how you can love someone who you see as dishonest. Does this mean that you let the liar get away with their spurious speciousness? Their duplicity? I would wager to say that it’s the divine perspicacity of the Holy Spirit—His discernment—that shows us when someone’s not being honest with us. And I know I’m going all over here, but follow me.

What is love to the person with no conscience? To the person who betrays the trust of another, whether the victim realizes it or not? To know how to love the liar is to know how God loves you in the same state. And if you can’t relate, try. This is the heart of intercession. To put yourself in the place of the person going to hell—as did Jesus—and cry out to God for mercy on their behalf. This is love. Inwardly. Outwardly? Ignore them (I’m referring to those you don’t know or live with). It’s called positive reinforcement. Enabling someone by letting them lie to you is the opposite of love. If you know someone is lying, then this does not negate the Golden Rule as elucidated by Jesus. It means that you get the opportunity to forgive them and move on. Trust God. Not them.

The people who God was addressing in the verse from Obadiah had wasted their life trusting the untrustworthy. They wanted to believe that Edom would take care of them. Yet nothing was further from the truth. We make the same mistake when we project on to others what we want them to be instead of seeing them as they are through the eyes of love. Yes, this is an overarching statement made after the fact, but think of the individual instances of interaction that multiplied on a large scale that turned into what God described: “the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; they that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee…” That wound is what surfaces when a lie erodes and we find that we’ve been trusting where we had no basis to.

Love is wise, love is aware, love forgives. Love calls it like it sees it. It’s what God does for us, and it’s how He asks that we interact with everyone.

And love will heal that wound in you, if you need it.

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Crosshatching (With Reference to God part 2)

Crosshatching is a method of shading whereby an artist (using pencil) criss-crosses lines in varying densities so as to render a work shaded to whatever degree necessary to achieve desired realism.

Each person who comes into our life, leaves a line and shades over us. Their influence is making us into something. But what? Are we becoming more real? Do the friends we choose add depth to our outlook? I believe that while we may be receiving surface definition from those in our lives, the actual image that we’re being transformed into necessarily comes from God alone. This is why this verse is so important. At any and every stage of our development, it’s vital that we keep this at the forefront of our outlook. Like the reference that we’re working from when copying a work of art and making it our own. Unlike writing, it’s not considered plagiarism when you copy a work of (visual) art, provided you pay homage to the original artist. But then publication of the copied piece is another matter altogether.

So, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Sometimes the lines drawn over us are so many that it ends up blacking out any trace of definition or detail. So much goes into the making of us as fully-formed individuals that our lives become so overshadowed that we can’t see clearly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Psalm 121 (verse 5) says “The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.” Darkness isn’t always negative. It could be simply the darkness of not knowing. Not understanding. There are ways in which God has destined us to walk that we haven’t yet grown into. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We’re being rendered into a fully formed work of art. One that is beautiful where it counts: with reference to God. And remaining in His shadow is where we find the image from which we actualize in light of everyone else. It takes time, but the greatest works always do. It takes time to stand the test of time.

“He (and she) that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)

See, looking at God is the only way that we become anything. I know of no other way to put that without sugarcoating it. And I’m loath to do that. When all we do is look outward—at things, at objects, at images without—without looking at God as revealed by Jesus, then our humanity will be stunted and the references and inferences we draw that we subconsciously add to our lives will not make us into who we’re meant to be. I’m speaking to the person who believes in God and the veracity of the Bible. All of this might sound like so much bunk to the pragmatic non-believer but consider this: without God, your life is based upon that which you perceive and whereas perception is ethereal and evanescent, changing with whims and times, God is always there. Always the same. Always a reference point from which to limn, to shade and to render a life as is. This cannot be done by human beings only.

“Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth.” (Ezekiel 8:12) There’s the darkness of unbelief that’s without God. Where everyone seeks to actualize based upon others’ opinions and perceptions. And then there’s the darkness of shade from God’s hand, underneath which He is fashioning us into who He wants us to be.

“Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139:5-6)

The love we receive–and allow ourselves to receive–will in turn make us into the fullest expressions of ourselves for others. If you want to love others, you must know how God loves you. Look to Him. That’s all that He shows.

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

False Negatives (With Reference to God part 1)

“In the multitude of my thoughts within me Thy comforts delight my soul.” (Psalm 94:19)

I believe that the way we treat ourselves is how we end up treating others.

How much inner dialogue do we deal with when approaching and interacting with strangers? Assuming we’ve grown up and moved on from the rule our parents instilled to “never talk to strangers”, what is it that we read from when we see a stranger for the first time? Is it love? Is it Jesus? Do we look at them through eyes of cautious, if hopeful, loving gregariousness? Reason I ask these questions is because it’s so easy to become closed-off and standoffish when we’re hurt, that we end up developing a warped inner sense of perception to where the very people that God wants to use us to bless, become the people that we ostracize and shun because we sense something about them that’s not only not nice, but not correct. You follow me?

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

This verse is so dense with meaning that it’s almost pointless to try and sum it up with a few sentences. A better way would be to use it as a prism through which light is refracted every which way. The angle that I’m thinking of here, is that of believing the best of someone. Paul said it well when he wrote “let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philippians 2:3b) The implication here is to think of others with high esteem, treating them in a way they may not deserve and surely wouldn’t expect. It means endeavoring to see the beauty of God that’s inherent in everyone and treating them with the same love that God shows you. And if you’ve been hurt by a person of a certain character type or even by someone who has a certain physical characteristic, then anyone who even reminds you of said offender is likely to trigger a response (even if you’ve forgiven and forgotten the offense). Moving forward, an even more nebulous notion or impression might come to us, based on nothing but what we sense, however indistinct. And before I go any further, I’m the biggest advocate I know for relying on one’s gut feelings. Don’t take this the wrong way, but if you sense something about someone that you know to be right and the only thing you know you should do is leave, then do it. I’m not talking about the impressions we get that are concrete and without a doubt God telling us to stay away from certain individuals. I’m talking about a fleeting and amorphous sensing that isn’t in line with God’s word and how He’d have us treat the largely normal demographic.

Surely you’ve done it? I have. I think everyone has at one time or another. I look at someone and make a judgment call based on something I perceive and then look in their eyes or talk to them and am immediately hit between the eyes (my own) with the false judgment that I levelled at them mere moments before. A wasted opportunity to show love. Don’t worry though, ask for forgiveness and God is sure to show you His love anew and also give the opportunity to do the same to someone else. It’s like a cut that heals. The system closes and the Holy Spirit can flow again.

The way to alleviate and eliminate the “false negatives” (for lack of a better term) is to not only realize that God loves us, with all our faults, failings and foibles–and forgives, but also to be willing to see others the same. Don’t worry, if there’s someone with whom you shouldn’t have anything to do, the Holy Spirit will protect and prevent and deter (and detour if need be) us from having anything to do with them. But those in-between, the ones who might seem shifty and shiftless but aren’t, are the ones that God would use us to encourage into becoming the best versions of themselves. The more we take our silent inner impressions to the Holy Spirit for verification and validation, the more people will God be able to shine His love upon–through us.