"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10...."The only way to abundant life is the broken way of risk." Ann Voskamp
I don't know anybody who doesn't want the fulfillment of Christ's promise in John 10:10. Yet, as we look at the landscape of the Church, it doesn't seem like most live in the fullness of that promise. Why not? Could it be that we're not willing to enter into the risk, and the brokenness that goes with it, in order to live it out? Has hardness and rigidity taken the place of the tender, malleable, abundant, yet broken way of Christ..........and His cross?
As a pastor, the hardest lesson I have had to learn, and trust me, I'm still learning, is that those I love will often not love me back. Not only will they reject that love, they will at times, perhaps many times, betray, abandon, even attack it. There will always be one consistent trait of seeking to live in the agape', selfless love of Christ; it bleeds. And it's the bleeding that tests the sincerity of that love. Trust me again in that the sincerity of that love in me has been tested many times, and too often, I've been found wanting. Too many times I've shrunk back from entering into the risk of unconditional love....and robbed myself of living in the fulfillment of His abundant Life.
It's very human to seek to protect ourselves from pain, and there is likely no greater risk of pain than that found in giving our love to someone who not only may reject it, but may not deserve it in the first place. When that happens, our fleshly tendency is to construct "walls" of protection around our hearts. We make damaging proclamations like, "I'll never let anyone hurt me like that again." There's power in such words, and when we proclaim them, we invite hardness and an unloving spirit into our lives. With them comes isolation, insensitivity, and a numbing, disabling spiritual walk that isn't of His Spirit at all. It's a life that is the exact opposite of what He defined as abundance.
We think abundance is measured by what we've accumulated, what can be measured and counted. Or, in the amount of comfort and pain free living we experience. Christ says that abundant life is all about what and how much of ourselves we will give. Amy Carmichael said that you can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. Giving of ourselves, which makes us vulnerable to great pain in return, but an even greater gain in the measurement of the Kingdom. Voskamp says, "The only way to live a truly remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks of His love everywhere you go." That's risky. It's also the way of Christ, the way of the cross.
I know we have to set up boundaries with people, and we can do this in His wisdom and discernment. Yet at the same time, in His leading and way, there can be no boundaries on our being open to bestowing His love upon the people He brings into our path each day. Random, yet consistent acts of His love. Kind words and actions, combined with the willingness to give of ourselves, oftentimes to perfect strangers, and just as often, to those who've never shown any inclination to do so to us. It's a risk, but oh the abundance that can be ours in return. Lives lived out in cocoons of self-protection will never know this life. It's found only in the broken way of sacrifice and risk. To what degree is that way yours and mine? He calls us to lives of constant risk-taking. Do we come....or do we continue constructing our cocoons?