I’ve just started reading Provoked by NYCR’s President and CEO Juan Galloway and the first chapter talks about how he has been provoked by God to love more fully and sacrificially. As I was reading, I couldn’t help but think about how I connect with parts of his story. I am a selfish person and one who does not love others out of my own self. God has had to do a bunch of work in my heart in order even get me this far; and I have so far to go. If I look back over my spiritual life, I can see points and seasons where I was being gently drawn towards love through the situations and people that had been put in my path and story.
Haiti was definitely a crucible moment for me: physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was surrounded by people who needed love more than many of whom I had met in life before. I had the chance to grow closer to love every day. Many days I didn’t accept that call and just kept to myself, but the days where I chose to love sacrificially were the days that I had more peace than anything. I was living in the will of God for my life more fully on those days. Looking back on that time, I know that God had called me to Haiti in order to work on my heart. While I was indeed helping people who really needed it and building up my brothers and sisters in Christ, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I needed to be there in order to have my heart molded.
I’m a pretty stubborn guy when it comes to spiritual disciplines and practices. I don’t take the hints easily and God rarely ever gets my “yes” when asking the first time. I am ashamed to admit this but it’s true. I can’t understand the patience of God when it comes to people like myself. Yet he still chooses to offer me great opportunities to serve him and expand his Kingdom? Like whaaat…
Well this new opportunity in NYC is no exception to his continual call to grow in love. My love has been challenged over and over while serving the people of NYC and I am grateful to say that I believe it’s been growing. God knew that I didn’t care for homeless people or people of NYC for that matter, yet this is where he chose to send me. The stretching is real folks! 1 Corinthians 13:3 says, “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” (NASB) This is the true challenge: that we, that I not only give people stuff, but that love is given. Love is a spiritual muscle and it needs to be trained in order to grow stronger and expand. This is why God puts us in challenging situations and gives us the grace to not only get through them, but to grow in the process.
My love hasn’t always been this warm. It used to be cold. It definitely isn’t as hot as myself or God want it to be. There’s much learning and growing to do in the love department for me but I know that I am in the right place for it to happen. I just have to let go of my selfishness and open my heart to those who need to be loved.
A quote in the first chapter of Provoked caught my eye, it is actually a passage from another book called The Three Battlegrounds by Francis Frangipane. It reads as follows:
“Is your love growing softer, brighter and more visible? Or is it becoming more discriminating, more calculating, less vulnerable and less available? This is a very important issue, for your Christianity is only as real as your love…”
This text is provoking.. provoking of thought and inward assessment of one’s own love. Let it provoke you like it is provoking me to love others more fully, more readily, more sacrificially.