by Francine Ho
What does it mean to truly love another as God desires for us to? What does it mean for us to love like God loves? – These were the questions that ran through my mind as I read through the Advent reflection for this week. As I brought this to prayer, I came to the realisation that I go through my life telling many people that I love them, I go through my life telling many people that I love God but at times, I didn’t really know what that entailed. I recognised that my life was lacking the great depth of love that the Lord calls me to.
In prayer, I was reminded of Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
For me (like many of us), it is easy to love those who are my neighbours and who treat me well, to love those who I can understand and empathise with, to love those who love me back. But God calls me to move beyond my human self and to love those who are difficult to love. The reflection carried me face-to-face with my weakness and I began to see how I fail to love those who I cannot fully empathise and sympathise with, those who I am unable to understand.
Coming to this realisation, Jesus brought to light an acquaintance in that season whom I was struggling with. I had heard that she was hurt by me because of something I said. I could not understand why and my initial reaction was to get defensive. I wanted to explain to others and to her that what I said was out of care. At that moment, my only focus and desire was to explain myself to her and get her to see my point of view.
But on reflection, the Lord revealed to me that my desire was selfish and for my own gain and benefit and that I was not willing good for her but instead, willing good for myself. I wanted to be seen in a positive light and to be understood. God invited me to spend my week praying for her, letting go of my own wants and surrendering her to the Father.
During that week, the Lord expanded my heart to love beyond what I was comfortable with. By His grace, I learnt that loving sometimes means letting go of the other, letting go of my own wants and letting go of what others think of me. In prayer, I had to slowly surrender my own desire to be heard to the Lord. I prayed for my acquaintance intentionally and gradually, I stopped feeling angry and frustrated and instead, felt a sense of great peace. As I struggled and was stretched to love more like Christ, I was moved because I realised that God’s love is perfect and even more than I could ever imagine. His love for us is patient and kind and freeing. It is one that is not forceful or restrictive and is always for our good. This is a love that each and every person receives and is a love we are all called to receive and reciprocate.
Joseph, in his desire to love God and to love his family, had to let go of his reputation and his own plans for the future. Joseph’s love for God was a deep surrender and trust in His faithfulness. That is the same love God calls us to. Brothers and sisters, will we let go to love like God loves?