two women with arms around each other looking down a road from behind

Love Bites

At Collide, we believe that God uses ordinary women to do amazing things. He meets us exactly where we’re at – in our mess, our pain, our joy, and our stories. We’ve been amazed how He redeems our brokenness and empowers women in our community and beyond to walk in the confidence of their identity as beloved daughters.

We’d love to introduce you to one of those women, Michel Williams, who we’ve asked to contribute her voice, her story and her wisdom to the Collide blog.

Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40

If I think about my journey with God, it’s these commands that have shaped me the most; tearing me apart at different times. Simultaneously breaking down while building up, these commands are about removing barriers both between me and God and me and others. When I believed and agreed to follow Jesus, I didn’t yet know what these verses would cost me. People and things I loved more than God were removed from me. While excruciating in that season, the freedom and healing on the other side has brought me a peace I hadn’t known before.  

When we first come to believe in Jesus, we are invited on a journey to understanding what it means to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, it wasn’t just about Him dying for our laundry list of infractions so we can go to heaven; it was also about giving us the power to follow Him where He leads and Jesus always leads to love.  

Love is hard because we naturally want to protect ourselves. It is human to get angry or shut down when we are hurt or when someone disagrees with us. It takes a strength we do not possess to hold fast. The Holy Spirit in residence within us gives us the capacity to follow Jesus but we have a choice to follow the pain or Him and the war inside us is real. Hurtful words, broken promises and relationship betrayals come at us like arrows and we are wounded. Sometimes I choose to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and sometimes I epically fail. Maybe this is life. Maybe this will be our struggle until the end. We get wounded. We wound others. Round and round it goes. It is extremely painful.

God has grown me in this area over the years and it has been one of the most painful lessons of my life. The fight against hurt and pain and to remain in a place of openness has been one of the hardest things I have ever done because I haven’t always chosen God’s way. At times, I have chosen to focus only on how I have been hurt or wasn’t treated fairly. There are times when I chose to live in hate and bitterness, with the focus only on me. Not that my hurt was illegitimate or unfounded but I was unable to focus on loving the other person in light of the hurt they had caused me. Over time, the Holy Spirit gave me the capacity to look at not only how I feel but also at the other person. Of course, this is easier some days than others and I don’t always get it right.

Today I am stronger than I used to be in allowing Jesus to lead me in love. I can sit in the hurt a little better, which gives me the ability to stay open to the person that hurt me. I can go to God with how I feel, forgive, and pray for the person who hurt me with genuine love which is an absolute miracle. In friendship, I am learning that sometimes love is letting that person go because maybe I am not the best thing for them. Despite all the hurtful things done to me and all the ways I think I am right, I may not be right for that person either. What a humbling thing to recognize. I am also learning that sometimes a person’s hurtful behavior towards me isn’t about me at all. Each of us operates out of our own brokenness based on the past treatment of others over time. It’s complicated and if I want grace and forgiveness for my behavior, I must offer it to others.

The reality is that real love bites at times. It’s humbling. It’s setting yourself aside for the good of someone else and it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done.   

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  Matthew 16:24-25 NLT

The paradox is when we choose to give up our own way of thinking or behaving and follow Jesus, we are more able to love as He loves. It is through this shift in our hearts that God gives us life and not just eternal life in heaven; He gives us life on earth. This life is best exhibited in the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control given to us by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). In addition, He heals our broken hearts, binds up our wounds, and gives us the ability to comfort others as He has comforted us.  

Love is keeping your heart open when everything in you wants to run away or shut down in anger or hurt. Love is sometimes letting go when everything in you wants to hold on tight. Love is watching someone we love pursue a path that we know will hurt them and yet not turning away knowing the journey between God and the other person has nothing to do with us. Love is remaining through the pain and walking through it with another. We hold fast. We stay and face the pain because only God gives us the ability to bear our crosses. With all of His strength in us, we go forward keeping our hearts open enough to allow the arrows to come, and praying we have the strength to face them. We acknowledge the pain, we feel the pain, and we don’t shut down or avoid it. Through battle scars, He heals us and makes us stronger; more able to endure life’s pain. This is love and life following Jesus.

When you feel the battle closing in on you, and the pain of life crushing you, take a moment and reflect on God’s love for you. Allow His Love to wash over you. Dig into His word and the promises of His power to bind your wounds. When loving others seems hard, remind yourself how He first loved you and He will give you the strength to love others, even when it’s hard. 

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