imageHow much is too much?

We strive, we try, we do our best, we beat the beast within down, trying to tame it. Like a can of Dr. Pepper shaken not stirred, waiting to blow, we shove our frustrations inside and call it long suffering. But if we are honest, we are just eating ourselves into obesity, the obesity that comes from super-sizing our ability to handle the elements from without. But that is just it: our ability.

We can’t give grace or mercy or unconditional love for long, especially when it is being demanded from a source that also struggles with this. So we continue to shake the soda can, knowing full well what will happen. We call our struggle for personal control a fruit of the Spirit: Long Suffering, Patience, maybe even Gentleness or Kindness, but perhaps it is just well practiced biting of the tongue. Perhaps on closer examination, there are bloody gashes in one’s mouth from holding back so long. So how much is too much? How many times do we allow the can’s in our lives to be shaken in our own strength? How many times do we bite back words in the name of love, “what more, in the name of love”?

Unconditional means Jesus loves me in my wretchedness. Unconditional means I am to love as He loved me. I can’t. I should, but I can’t. Jesus poured out grace again and again to people who rightly frustrated Him. Jesus spoke the truth in love, even if the words seemed unkind, to white washed tombs and religious zealots, who didn’t do it right either. Jesus didn’t need to bite His tongue, the only piercings He had were not on His tongue, but on His Hands and Feet. His unconditionalness, His grace, His love resulted in a cross, crown of thorns and a spear in the side.

I am not like this even in the wildest desires of my heart. Perhaps in a moment of deep devotion I may admit an inkling of desire to the Lord for this type of love, but when the rubber meets the road, or any other type of organic material, I fail, miserably. How does one speak the truth in love and not shove the frustration down? When does one swallow hard and administer grace, turning the other cheek. Jesus did both. He spoke out against hypocrisy, He offered undeserved forgiveness, He quietly was lead to slaughter. Do we spin the wheel and pick the proper behavior? Do we roll the dice and follow the dictates of our emotional stability for the day to determine whether a gentle answer turns away wrath, or love covers a multitude of sin? How and when do we speak truth in love or turn the other cheek?

The can has been punctured and the dark liquid is hissing out, but I want to do it right. I just don’t have the strength on my own. I can’t pour out the grace when the frustration is spewing out my side. I can’t pretend the unconditional love when the soda can seems to have intentionally been shaken. Pretending only results in a sticky mess.

The fruit of the Spirit is love….unconditional, gracious, merciful, forgiving. Are any of us doing it right? Do any of us really love as Christ loved us? Only on our best days, when everyone is looking perhaps do we shine like white washed tombs, but what about when the bones and skeletons are animated and rattling our lives? Then what? Do we unconditionally give grace?

It is a bitter drink realizing how far I am from this. Can I honestly sing the words, “Show me how to love like you have loved me”? Do I really want the burning fire to destroy those things in my life that are keeping me from loving in this manner. Am I willing to be so closely examined by the Spirit, and ready to adhere to His movings in my soul, that I must obey His promptings?  We cry that we want to be like Jesus, we want to be like Jesus, but won’t submit to the humble suffering, the non-grasping manner in which He lived His life for us as an example.

I believe our songs and our prayers are conditional because we say when and how much. We dictate to God what we are willing to do. We want heaven, but not the cost of the ticket. We want Jesus, but not the blood that was shed. We want His love, grace and mercy, but not at the expense of giving up our rights to our issues, our rights to ourselves. We want our Dr. Pepper in a can and in an icy cup, not realizing we can’t have it both ways. So we strive to look like Christ and continue to swallow our anger in the name of patience and not give it up completely to the One who died for all the angry, hard to love, people in the world.

If, then. If I am a sinner, I will go to hell. If Christ died, I can be saved. I am a sinner, Christ did die, then why am

I hanging onto the things that He saved me from?

Unconditional love is humanly impossible.

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