How Big Is Your Love?

I grew up believing that God was the ultimate, most important thing about life.

Yet then it struck me, around eleven, that perhaps something else was more important, or at least just as great. The more I grew, the more I realized the wonderful and deep value of love. Yet if God was surely the most important and greatest of all, where did love fit in? Was it only a close second? I couldn’t comprehend how that could be, but love surely couldn’t exceed the importance of God. It was all very confusing.

I wrestled with this for weeks, and I still remember the very day the answer came. I was sweating and uncomfortable in warm clothes on a hot day, inside a little church building, for the funeral of an unknown mother of a family friend. But my ears perked up as my eyes were opened to the pastor’s words: God love and He is love; in loving others, we are serving God. 

It all made sense then and I grew very relieved that I could give to both equally, serving God through my love, and loving when I did God’s will.

I wondered, How big can my love become? I knew it was just tiny then, but I had hope for more in years to come.

After the message, we sang:

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

~~~

Now I work at a Thrift store five days a week. Like anyone who works in customer service, I have a “survival smile,” and a painfully fake happy voice I can use on command. Half the time, I pretend to show interest in the little stories of woe and joy I am told.

Because the days are long and I’m tired at the beginning, middle, and end.

Because the questions are unending. “Can I see this?” “How much is that?” “Where are the other Thrift Stores?”

Because the demands won’t cease. “That’s horrible that you charge tax!” “Show me that!” “That’s mine!”

Because people swear and yell over their opinions on our organization and prices, sales and hours. Because others steal, concealing under clothes and switching their dirty shirts for ours. They make a mess of inside out tops and jeans in baskets on the floor.

As the days, questions, demands, and offenses pile, I grow in bitterness, slowly but surely resenting all those in and out of sight. Hating the very ones I vowed to love.

The more I live, the more I resent. The man who swears and yells; the woman who leaves her dirty shorts in the dressing room. The imperfect people, living in their grit and grime, unwilling to change, aware of their guilt, but seemingly unashamed.

How big is your love? I hear from a Voice within and above and around.

“This isn’t about love!”

HOW BIG IS YOUR LOVE? I hear it again, but it’s time to cash out and pack up and drive home.

How big is your love? The wind whispers hollowly, but I’m fast asleep, dreaming of a new day.

~~~

It’s several years since I was at that funeral where I learned that God equals love and that love is the best thing we can give. Sometimes, I forget for split seconds or minutes, hours, or even days how seriously God requires this. Perhaps I even forget how much He pours this love over me.

And it’s been weeks now since they’ve come and “terrorized” my little store front and made me work extra hard and apologize to paying customers. But still the anger and bitterness and utter resentment burn in my heart.

Now we set up tables and carry bags of food from the nearby trucks. My head is spinning a little, knowing I might see “some of them.” Some of the people I’ve grown to resent.

We work together, facing the crowd of hungry people. I smile in spite of myself.

Suddenly, I see her. She’s picking clothes out of the full bags we’ve brought, trying to find at least one suitable top. But she doesn’t make a mess this time.

Her frame’s as forlorn as ever. She weaves in and out of the garbage bags and other hopeful souls, searching for something to fit her tall but tiny body.

She is made vulnerable to my eyes and I gasp inside while handing out sandwiches. How big is your love, Elizabeth? How great and wide? How deep and strong and firm and vast? Apparently not very big, I realize, suddenly coming face to face with my own hidden shame.

“I am no more deserving of this love than anyone else.” The realization hits me like a dart.

How big is your love? 

“Not as big as it should be. Not big at all. Tiny. Pitiful. Sinful,” I answer, truthful at last.

And she, the long-resented woman scurries off into the deep blue summer night while I watch in shame. She’s reminded me of my unlove, my sin, my disgrace. 

How big is your love? 

From this day on, it shall be bigger. Much, much greater and deeper and stronger and firmer and ‘vast beyond all measure’.”

Why?

Because my Father is love and He first loved me. 

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

 

 

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