I have to admit, y’all, this post has stumped me for a while now. What do I write about love? I have writing of it before. I have studies that focus a whole week of homework on it. I have taught it for years in a graduate level organizational development course as a model for a leadership career. And then there are the doubts of what can I say that hasn’t already been said? Haven’t we heard it all?

And as I dig in my yard, crouched down with a hand rake, moving river rock so I can de-grass a planting bed, I start thinking. I currently rent a home, and the train of thought, in an effort to not curse the contractors who put sod in the planing bed, was “if this were my home…” If this were my yard, I would tear it up and put in new sod to make up for the years of previous renters’ neglect. If this were my yard, I would re-fence it so that front yard spigot was actually in front of the fence and the backyard spigot was behind the fence. If this were my yard…. you get the picture. The list of improvements, differences, and investments I would be willing to make differ because I am renting.

Still, though, the list also differs because of the agreement I have with my property manager. I cannot tear up the yard without permission, but I can weed it. I cannot change the physical structures, like the fence, but I can weave 100 feet of hose through it so that I can get water where it needs to go. Why do I follow these rules? There is always one motivator of the potential fees I would be assessed should I break the rules. However, I used to work as a property manager. I know the damage renters do. I saw the filth they would leave behind. And I value my word. I agreed to follow these rules as a renter. I will show the property manager the respect due based on that agreement, and I will follow the rules laid forth. (But if it were my house, I would have a dog…just saying.)

And as thoughts of yard care mix with thoughts of a post on love, the interweaving come through. I have been thinking about Hosea and love. I often joke with close friends that nobody signs up to be Hosea. Nobody reads through scripture, and when picking their hero, they think, “You know, I really would like Hosea’s life.” It’s not that he’s the last chosen at recess for the dodgeball team. We pray and hope that we aren’t Hosea. And we pray for the strength that if God asks us to be Hosea, that we would be able to endure. (Simply “enduring” life is such an appealing approach.)

I have heard it preached that Hosea’s unconditional love fore Gomer is a picture of God’s love for us. And really, scripture flat out says that. What strikes me in thinking of love is that Hosea’s love for God is what had him going back for more. It was Hosea’s love for God that allowed trust in God’s direction for his marriage. Hosea’s love for God gave him the perspective needed to go find the wayward wife and bring her back to a place that Hosea very likely already understood she would flee from again. It was Hosea’s love for God that led to his obedience.

Why? Because the yard wasn’t his to dictate. Just as I have limitations to my yard work dreams based on the agreement I made with a property manager, Hosea had limits on his life based on his love-agreement with God.

And so do we. Could we run roughshod over the people in our lives? Sure, that is one option. But as Christians, we agreed that we would follow Jesus’ approach of loving our neighbors, praying for our enemies, and encouraging our brothers in Christ. We could choose to go our own way, but we would be violating the agreement we made with the Savior. In receiving His love for us, we then began to learn how much we love Him. And in that love, we live in the restrictions on the life we freely gave to Him.

As I write this, a friend and her family are looking at saying goodbye to a baby they have fostered for all but the first two weeks of the child’s life. They would have adopted if they could have, but God’s plan was different. Within the week, they will put the small one on a plane to fly across the state and be reunited with her bio mom in a rehab facility. The depth and the challenge in this are heartbreaking. And yet, every confusing step of the way, with each going back and forth, they have committed to asking for what they want while realizing that what the child needs from God may be very different. They are grateful for the time they have had, grieving the loss that will come, and yet are still pushing forward. Because the God they love is greater than them, and they know it.

The fruit of the Spirit is love. We love Him because He first loved us. If we can nail that, the rest will be so much more manageable.

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