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Treasure Love

Treasure is valuable.  It’s hard to get, but worth working hard for or even sacrificing for.  It is desirable, enduring, and not easy or common.  Someone in search of treasure would not let any obstacle stop them from obtaining it, even if the journey was long, difficult, and costly.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches us about finding treasure.  He says,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

But what does heavenly treasure look like?  We know how to recognize gold and silver and jewels.  Fortunately, we have the Bible as a heavenly treasure map.  As we try to follow its directions, we find the greatest treasure of all—God’s love.

Paul writes in his letter to the Colossians,

“I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

God’s love for us is amazing.  Not only does He love us beyond what we can imagine, He has called us to act out His love to the people around us.

When the Jewish leaders asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, He responded, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.  And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  Later, Jesus again instructed his followers to love, saying, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The love God gives us and wants us to have for one another is treasure love.  Like treasure, this love is precious and has lasting value.  It’s not easy, common, or convenient.  It requires hard work, endurance, and sacrifice.  Our love is our testimony.

Worldly “love” is self-serving, conditional, based on feelings and circumstances, convenient, fickle, and fleeting.  It gives up when the going gets tough. It’s not a treasure—rather, it’s a dollar store find, bought to be used briefly and carelessly, then discarded without a thought when it inevitably wears out.

In contrast, the treasure love God wants us to have for one another is based on God’s love for us, not our feelings or circumstances.  It is sacrificial, faithful, perseverant, lasting, and given freely.  It is tough and willing to stick through challenges, difficulty, and hardship in service of God and others.  In the words of 1 Corinthians 13,

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

We see an example of what treasure love should look like when applied to our daily lives in Matthew 25:34-46, where Jesus tells a story about the end times.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

One of the ways God wants us to show our love for Him is by serving others and tending to the needs of those around us—the hungry, the thirsty, the sick.  

Romans 12 says,

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another is showing honor.  Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought of what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

This passage adds some more facets to the love God wants us to have for each other in prayer, peaceful living, and humility.  When we rejoice with those who rejoice, we celebrate their joys unselfishly.  When we weep with those who weep, we walk alongside those who are suffering or mourning and help them carry their burdens.  Galatians similarly adds, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

To help create a clear picture of treasure love, I have a story for you.

When I checked my Facebook this morning, I got a notification from memories that said “Four years ago, you posted: Only four weeks until my first college Move-in Day! feeling nervous and excited.”  Seeing that status this morning was particularly meaningful to me because I am now a college graduate.  And for a while in college, I wasn’t sure that would be the case.  Things got pretty rough for a while.  I got some mental health diagnoses, and spent some time in the hospital, but I still made it through because of God’s work in my life, especially the many ways in which God’s love was lived out through the people around me.

Getting a mental health diagnosis seems to be one of the quickest ways to find out who your real friends are—who is actually living out the love of God and who is just there for the fair weather.  For some people, once I was ill, even if I kept everything I was going through to myself, I was suddenly perceived as a burden. Friendship suddenly became too much effort.  People were suddenly too busy for me, talked behind my back, and excluded me from groups where I had previously always been included.  They made excuses because friendship was no longer convenient.  Even though they had plenty of time for worldly things like online games, youtube, and social media, they no longer had time in their lives for someone who was struggling and in need of genuine, treasure love.  They didn’t stand to gain anything from me in my time of need, so they turned their backs on me.  That sort of friendship is fickle and based on worldly, cheap “love.”

On the other hand, though, I found there were people in my life who really truly did love the way God wants us to love one another.  My two roommates at college showed me this kind of treasure love.  They helped me remember to eat regular meals.  They took me to the grocery store to get gatorade and ginger ale when my medication was making me sick, and the health center wasn’t identifying the problem.  Once the health center did realize that it was a medication issue, they visited me in the hospital, even though 1. there is still a stigma attached to the psychiatric ward, and  2. they were both extremely busy with student teaching.  Not only that, but one of them did my laundry for me while I was in the hospital.  (You know someone is a real friend when they excavate an accumulated heap of dirty socks and other articles of clothing left from weeks of paralyzing depression and anxiety attacks and invest the time and effort to wash it!) When I got back out and was trying to catch up on work in order to graduate, they celebrated the little successes with me, asked what I needed, and supported me all the way.  They really did bear my burdens, weep with me when I wept, rejoice with me when I rejoiced, and help me when I was sick.

The love they showed me helped me to better understand the love of God, and that is what we are all called to do for one another.  1 John has a lot to say about treasure love, including “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”  Our love for one another bears witness to the world of God’s power and love.  The way we love can lead people to Christ if it is different than the love of the world.  Finally, treasure does not only bless God and those around us, but the person giving the love.  God has invited us to love one another in order to be a part of His greater plan and share in His joy.  Jesus says,

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.  This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

God’s love is a treasure that is not meant to be hoarded.  Go out and share it.

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Friends Like Samwise Gamgee

Samwise Gamgee has long been one of my favorite characters.  A stalwart and faithful friend, he travels with and fights alongside Frodo to the end of all things and beyond.  Throughout my journey of mental illness, I have grown to love this humble hero of Middle Earth more and more.  His relationship with Frodo, and his compassion, support, and understanding for Frodo’s burden of carrying the ring are exemplary of the truest and deepest of friendships.

During the darkest times of my battle with depression, I felt like Frodo—drained, worn, too weak to press on under the crushing weight of my burden.  Some people turned their backs on me, said and did hurtful things, and broke my trust.  Yet in the midst of that darkness, I discovered that not every Samwise Gamgee is fictional.  I found that some of my closest friends were truly there for me no matter what.  I want to encourage you that despite all of the stigma still in the world, there is still goodness and hope.  And my hope for each of you reading this is that you will not only find, but also be, a friend like Samwise Gamgee.

  • The friend who will walk with you into Mordor.  This friend does not abandon you after learning of your illness, but stands by you and fights alongside you no matter what.  Although some “friendships” failed the test of learning my struggle, others only grew stronger.  For these friendships, being genuine and carrying one another’s burdens brought us closer together.

Frodo: “I am going to Mordor.”

Sam: “I know that well enough, Mr. Frodo. Of course you are. And I’m coming with you.”

  • The friend who will carry you when you can no longer carry on.  As Frodo and Sam near their destination of Mount Doom, the ring around Frodo’s neck becomes an increasingly heavy and terrible burden to bear.  When Frodo collapses under its weight, Sam is there beside him with words that have stuck with me since I first read them, “Come, Mr. Frodo!  I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”  Sam picks up Frodo, who no longer has the strength to fight forward, and carries him despite his own hunger, thirst, and exhaustion.  This friend knows she cannot fight your depression for you, but is prepared to be there for you in real, tangible ways throughout the war, even to carry you when the fight is too much for you.
  • The friend who stands beside you in your darkest hour. Frodo: “I’m glad you’re with me, Samwise Gamgee, here at the end of all things.”  For me, these were the friends who walked me back to the dorm from the crisis counselor’s office at odd hours of the night, let me cry freely, bandaged my wounds, visited me in the hospital regularly, and did my accumulated weeks of laundry while I was in the hospital.
  • The friend who reminds you of your reasons to fight.  When everything seems dark and it is hard to hold on to hope and all of your reasons to keep going, this friend is there beside you, pointing to the light.  At a point in my life when I could not see the value in myself, a friend told me how I had been a lighthouse to her through her storm.  This recollection became a lighthouse for me, too, a beacon of hope in the darkness of depression.

Frodo: “I can’t do this, Sam.”

Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness, and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end, because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

Frodo: “What are we holding on to, Sam?”

Sam: “There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”

  • The friend who reminds you of the beauty and good in the world that is waiting for you on the other side.  Sam: “Do you remember the Shire, Mr. Frodo? It’ll be spring soon, and the orchards will be in blossom. And the birds will be nesting in the hazel thicket. And they’ll be sowing the summer barley in the lower fields. And they’ll be eating the first of the strawberries with cream. Do you remember the taste of strawberries?”  Even when you can’t remember all the things that once brought you joy, this friend remembers and safeguards them for you, reminding you of them when you can no longer see them.  She is there when the voice of depression tries to tell you there is nothing left for you and that the battle is not worth it, to give you hope.

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”  ~Gandalf