By Shoa Zilch
Love bears all things, trusts all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:7
In my world, love was a concept actualized only in the movies. It was a product of “western idealism.” Talk of love was always followed with an eye-roll and a snicker. As a child, love translated to approval or disapproval. My arranged marriage at 18 only solidified the idea that love was a sentiment that stemmed from a well-earned approval. In other words, if I didn’t do well, love was NOT in the air.
Scripture calls our bodies vessels. What we fill these vessels with, is all that we can pour out. After I left my Muslim faith, not only was I physically isolated, but I was spiritually homeless. I drove endless, empty miles in my head looking for a place to call home. Acceptance was my greatest longing, and rejection my greatest fear.
As I moved on, I met a new breed of people-Christians. What struck me most about them was their joy and abounding love. When I was with them, smiles were easy and their extended hands of friendship genuine. Old habits, however, die hard. I struggled to reconcile my hurt with Jesus’s command to love one another. Although I could not understand it then, God broke me down so completely, only to build me up new again. Through Jason, my new husband, he poured in lessons of unconditional love. On the days when I was most unlovable, my husband’s firm faith in God’s promises got us through. He became the presence of Jesus in my life. The bond shared between him, and his parents were gospel lessons of commitment to be regardless of the circumstances. They loved like Jesus. I began to accept that the Living God loves unconditionally, and through Him, so could I.
If we have Jesus as our point of reference for love, we can stand steadfast and be strong enough to overcome emotional burdens that are meant to cripple us. In time, I was able to go back and face my abuser and forgive him. I was able to forgive family who had left my children and me when we most needed them. Forgiveness was not enough though. God wanted me to go back and be the face of Jesus to them. It was one thing to forgive my tormentors. It was an entirely different thing to bring them back into my life. While I struggled with the thought of being kind, I struggled even more with the idea of sharing the gift of Jesus with them. Surely their mocking hearts did not deserve the gift of such eternal grace.
But God does not waste a single tear. How would they change if they didn’t hear? How would they hear if someone didn’t tell them? God took my broken life and healed it. Then He sent me back to them so they could see firsthand that only Jesus can make an everlasting change, that His love is real, that the Living God is not petty or whimsical, and that His rock never moves.
I wish I could say it has been an easy road. Most certainly not. It is hard not to do all the talking and instead, let Jesus be the face they see and allow Jesus to work in their hearts. Has God laid a burden on your heart for someone? What can you say that can disarm that guarded person? Sometimes it is just a quiet prayer and the sincere love of Jesus on your face.