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So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11 (The Message)
I think about love more than I think about anything else. Love, in all its many beautiful and difficult forms. Love, in all its fullness and mystery. Love, in all its glory and all its pain. Mostly, though, I find myself asking:
“Do I love enough? Do I love Jesus enough? Do I love my husband enough? Do I love my family enough? Do I love my friends enough? Do I love my local church enough? Do I love the people I serve enough? Do I love my city enough?”
No, I don’t love Jesus enough. No, I don’t love my husband, my family, my friends enough. No, I don’t love my church, the people I serve, or my city enough. No. I never have.
The title of the passage from Philippians above is called, “A Love That Grows.” Research suggests that as human beings, our capacity for love varies greatly from person to person, and that varying is mostly dependent on external circumstances, oftentimes, circumstances that are entirely out of our own control. Our upbringings, the environments we are born into and raised in, the hardships we encounter, positive and negative relationships that we live through; these are all things that science suggests affect our capacity for love, and I’ve seen this prove true in my own life.
I’m a child of divorce, and it likely goes without saying all of the ways that singular event impacted my ability to date healthily in my dating years, and all the ways it has impacted my marriage since saying I do. In fact, it also impacted my friendships. It impacted my relationship with the Lord. It impacted my view of myself. It impacted my understanding of the local church. It impacted my capacity to love, so anything that required love from me, for a long time, felt like a battleground.
Anyone else relate to this?
I could go deeper, but the truth is, it has taken both spiritual breakthrough and professional help for me to untangle myself from that event in my childhood, which proves clearly that the research about our capacity to love is real, valid, and true.
While our capacity for love may be affected by external circumstances, I think we have choices within that reality. We can choose to settle for whatever we think our capacity for love may be, fairly blaming the things that have happened to us and around us for any lack in this area. It would be easy to simply accept our own individual capacities for love. To acknowledge that life, in many ways, has had its way with us, and the byproduct of that is a lesser capacity. We can settle for what we believe our natural capacity for love is, and go on living and loving as such.
Or, we can look to the way of Jesus, to the way of the cross, and to the word of God. What I’ve personally found there is that Jesus invites his followers to live in, to live by, and to live for, a love that grows.
This means refusing to settle for simply accepting the capacity for love that our external circumstances handed us. This means believing that, with help, we can raise our capacity for love in this life. This means fighting for a love that is tested and tried, sincere and intelligent. A love that flourishes. A love that makes Jesus attractive to all. A love that gets everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. A love that leads to a life Jesus will be proud of.
If we commit to saying yes to this invitation daily, we’ll find that it won’t always come easily, but I believe we’ll also find that this kind of love is always worth fighting for and working toward. So then, what is a love that grows?
While there are a multitude of ways to unpack this, I believe the scripture we began with points out a crucial contrast that gives us a glimpse into what a “love that grows” can look like in all areas of our lives; the difference between loving much and loving well.
A love that grows refuses to settle solely for loving much. A love that grows longs to learn how to love well. There is an intentionality to this kind of love. This kind of love is a journey of learning and leaning in.
I live in Los Angeles, a city deeply marked by brokenness, yet deemed the City of Angels. I live here because God called me to do so, and as such, I have a responsibility to love this city.
When I first moved here, I thought the goal was to be able to say, “I love Los Angeles so much,” and to my surprise, I immediately found it easy to say that. I’m from New York, so the weather alone was enough for me to love this place. Then factor in the nature, the mountains, the ocean, the culture, the food; I found a lot of things to love here, and I personally experienced a quick path to “much” love for LA.
But, that love is clearly based on my feelings toward LA, and as many of us know, our feelings are ever-changing, and as such, that kind of love is easily shaken.
Every city, every town, has its own struggles, and I’m certain that most, if not all, of us could list the struggles of the place we call home.
Daily I am reminded and my heart breaks as I am reminded of my own privilege when I leave my apartment and see my unhoused neighbors, so unseen and uncared for by so many. My love for LA shakes.
My husband and I spent eight months watching our bank account go negative solely from paying bills in this city. My love for LA shakes.
Oh, the time and patience I’ve lost sitting in LA traffic. My love for LA shakes.
Nothing could have prepared me for all that LA holds when I first moved here and blindly loved the good things in this city so much, and what I’ve found is that loving something so much is wildly different than loving something so well. And we can only love well what we know well.
I’m called to love Los Angeles well; to go on a journey of learning the ins and outs of this city, the lowest places and the highest ones, the darkness and the light, the beautiful and ugly history and the beautiful and ugly present. I’m called to believe for the future of this city, even when, especially when, things look bleak. I’m called to love LA in all its glory and all its pain.
The love I am growing in for LA is a love that is tested. It is a love that has been truly tried by fire. It is a love that doesn’t always come easy, but always proves worthy of my love, because it is a love the Lord has called me into. It is a love that takes time and effort. It is sincere and intelligent; not sentimental gush. It is a love that flourishes, a love that grows.
You’ve probably noticed, this isn’t just about LA. We can apply this to anything that we love in this life, and as believers, as people who want to raise our capacity for love, we should.
Think about a time when you met a new potential friend. You know the moments; when you naturally click with someone, when you immediately feel like you’re cut from the same cloth, when that instant friendship connection is just there. Isn’t it so easy to love that person so much?!
By the end of our first time hanging out, my best friend Jennah and I had both exclaimed that we already loved each other so much.
It’s been five years since our friendship began, and though the majority of our friendship has been a long distance one riddled by a global pandemic, our friendship has not only survived the past five years, but has actually thrived through them, because we don’t just love each other much anymore, we have learned to love each other well.
The love I am committed to in my closest friendships is a love that is tested. It is a love that is tried by the fires of this life, but never extinguished by them. It is a love that doesn’t always come easy, but always proves worthy of my affection and attention. It is a love that takes time and effort. It is sincere and intelligent; not sentimental gush. It is a love that flourishes, a love that grows.
I could apply the same mindset to my marriage, but it’s Valentine’s Day and there is no lack of great writing being released on marriage today, so allow me to end on the One who is the most worthy of all my love, all the days of my life.
Jesus Christ captivated my heart many years ago now, and I’ve never known anything like this covenantal love that we share. His love for me has saved me a thousand times. He has loved me back to life in a thousand ways. His love has left its comfortable home on a cold, dark night to come out and find me, a wandering daughter. He brings me back home, back to the fireside, back to His embrace.
If I lived a thousand lifetimes, I would never be able to say, “Yes, I love Jesus enough.” Our love is too vast, too overwhelming. It’s too unfathomable and sacred. I hope that I never feel as though I’ve arrived in my love for Jesus. That I always know there is more love to grow into; new heights, new depths, and more of myself to give.
So though I would never say I love Jesus enough, I do work to love Him well, with an every day intention to love him better than the day before. I long to love Him well, because I know Him well, and He is worthy of the very best of my love.
In 2023, I can confidently say, my love for Jesus has been tested and tried by the fires of this life, but never extinguished. My love for Jesus is intelligent and sincere. What started as sentimental gush as a child has grown into a mature knowledge and laid down way of life. It is a love that takes time and effort, and deserves every bit of it. It is a love that flourishes, a love that grows.
There is no love that grows without Him. He Himself is the invitation, and when we say yes to Him, we say yes to a lifetime of a love that grows. And when others see the love He is growing in us, when we commit to partaking in a love that grows, He is the one who ultimately gets the glory. His love changes everything, and our love is meant to point others to Him, our salvation. This is a love that echoes through eternity.
We are made to be a people of love, for His name’s sake.
To love the people and places we are called to, to love Him above all else, with a flourishing, intelligent, sincere love.
“To live a lover’s life, bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11 (The Message)
How might our cities, friends, marriages, relationships, workplaces, children, and so on, be changed by us saying yes to this hard and holy invitation? How might we change ourselves?
And so, this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)
Cheyenne is a wife, a proud dog mom, and the High School Ministry Director at Vintage Church Los Angeles. Born and raised in New York, she made her way to Nashville at 18 where she received her BA in Christian Leadership from Belmont University. She has always had a passion for writing, and loves getting to glorify God by coming alongside various ministries and the local church to develop curriculum and devotional content.
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