Living Loved When Living’s Hard | Day 8
Reading | 1 Peter 3:1-7
“Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 (HCSB)
I’m writing this, facing a window showing the dreary, Autumn sky. This is my favorite place to be, especially in the morning – sitting at my table, a mug of coffee, and a cinnamon spice candle burning. I’m not in a rush; I’m enjoying the first few sips of coffee and taking the time to wake up. My heart is full from a four-hour chat with one of my best friends last night, and I’m still reflecting over some of the things we talked about – areas we wanted to grow in, our experiences of worship, our love of Jesus.
I’m realizing how vastly different my life looks like from a year ago.
Last year, my life was marked by busyness, by working long hours, by making sure everyone was happy and cared for. But it was stable. I mean, I worked with children, so there’s always an aura of uncertainty, but for the most part, I knew what each day would bring.
This year, my life is marked by uncertainty. It’s a season of learning, of learning about my God and learning to trust Him, because I don’t know what tomorrow may bring. It’s a season of learning to trust and be seen by the people He has placed in my life. It’s a season of vulnerability, of admitting that I am not the “perfect Christian girl,” and that’s okay, because I’m starting to believe that that person doesn’t exist.
As I reflect on the changes my life has seen, I wonder if the Christians Peter wrote to felt the same way. I imagine their previous lives were marked by certainty and routine. I’m sure they spent time discussing sports and politics with their neighbors. They probably watched one another’s kids, living as a community.
Then it all changed because of a man named Jesus.
Suddenly, these people were being attacked and accused by the same neighbors they just had dinner with. They were hated by bosses they had loyally worked under for years. Spouses were in constant conflict over their newfound religious beliefs.
Over and over again, Peter urges them with the same principle: “Live loved, even when it sucks, so others will know the love of Jesus.”
That’s exactly what Jesus has asked of us.
Sister, what I’m learning is that the only way we can live loved is when we know Who loves us. And once we know Who loves us, the opinions of others simply fade away. They don’t matter. Only One Person’s opinion matters – the One Who died to give you a life so that you could live a life abundant.
I’m re-reading Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. Interestingly enough, both times I’ve read Shauna’s book, I was living in two vastly different seasons; one was marked by busyness and constant achievement, the one I’m in now marked by slowness and times of silence. I’m realizing there is good in both seasons.
Everyone’s seasons of life look different, just like everyone’s life looks different. God has created each one of us with unique combinations of gifts, passions, and desires, and He has placed us in unique seasons to help us cultivate and strengthen those gift, passions, and desires.
One thing that will remain the same for all of us, though, is lives that are marked by opposition and suffering. The only way to persevere through is to know you are loved. And by being loved, you have a purpose.
There’s something about being loved that makes you feel invincible. If I have my friends’ support, if I know they are there cheering me on, there’s no doubt about what I can achieve. How much greater is that security when I remember I am loved perfectly by the Creator of the Universe?
This is the one thing the Christians in Peter’s time had to hold on to. He was asking them to go against culture, to live in a way that was radically different than their neighbors. Wives were expected to take on the religious beliefs of their husbands; people were expected to fight back when falsely accused; a person was expected to look out for himself, not the benefit of those around him.
Friend, if you think about it, it’s not too different from how we’re expected to live today.
I was talking to a friend from college, and she mentioned feeling like there is a timeline of sorts with a checklist of life events and ages by which one is to achieve those events. Of course, this isn’t true – there’s no predetermined rule book that says you have to be married and have three kids by the age of 28.
But, whether we want to admit it or not, we all compare ourselves to that fictitious timeline. It’s all over social media. In checking Facebook or Instagram, we see the major achievements our friends are reaching: marriage, children, careers, promotions, vacations, houses. We feel a sense of urgency, that we need to catch up or we’ll fall behind and miss out.
I once read somewhere, “I am as single as a pre-packaged slice of Kraft cheese.”
Some of us will marry; some of us will stay single. Some of us will have children; some of us will struggle with infertility. Some of us will pursue careers and own businesses; some of us will stay at home.
And that’s exactly how God intended it.
Sister, God has a unique path set aside purely for you. A path that is marked by your uniquely created seasons of life to strengthen your uniquely designed abilities.
The more I rest in this season, the more I learn to be still in the presence of my God, the more I’m realizing that He’s not concerned with the outside appearance or the outside successes. He calls each of us to a different life. He creates each of us with different strengths, different weaknesses, different gifts, and different passions.
The exact specifics of where you are in your life do not matter. What does matter is your heart.
Are we living lives fully dedicated to serving Christ with all that we have?
If you can answer that question with a “Yes,” you are exactly where you need to be. If you are using the resources you have, the place where you are at in this moment, to love God and love people, you are doing this life thing right.
All God has ever asked of us is that we walk humbly, love Him, and love people. There are no other checklists we need complete. There are no qualifications we have to have.
We need to stop the comparison. We need to stop the jealousy. We need to stop the feelings of inadequacy. Because of Christ’s sacrifice, you are enough. What you are doing is enough.
Stop trying to live the life determined by other people. Stop trying to live someone else’s life. Living a life heavily influenced by the opinions of other people may lead to great things. Great things may happen, but are they your great things? In Present Over Perfect, Shauna says, “I simply followed the natural course of things. And great things happened, mostly. But over time I realized they weren’t necessarily great things for me. They were maybe someone else’s great things, and I was both taking up the space that was meant for them and not standing in my own space, like wearing someone else’s shoes, leaving them barefoot.”
Are you living the life God has marked out specifically for you? Are you living a life that is more concerned about cultivating a heart after His, a heart marked by peace and gentleness? Or are you more concerned with the opinions of others and living a life that is determined by a committee of imperfect people?
This is your one life. This is it. You get to decide how you live. Your life doesn’t have to match up with the opinion of others, no matter how well intended and good those opinions might be. They don’t live your life. They aren’t uniquely created for your specially crafted life. It doesn’t matter if your life matches your best friend’s. It doesn’t matter if someone else would love living your life. The only thing that matters is if how you are living matches up with how God has made you and called you.
My pastor recently said, “When someone is willing to die for you, you don’t have to wonder where you stand with them.”
I don’t know what season of life you are in right now. But what I do know is that you are completely and irrevocably loved by Someone who was willing to die for you. He loves you so much He has designed a life specifically tailored to you and who He has created you to be. There’s a special freedom found in living a life free from the opinions of others. Feelings of invincibility and weightlessness are found when you trust that the only opinion that matters is from the One who holds the world in His hands.
Use that freedom to live in a way that unapologetically loves and glorifies Jesus while unapologetically loving and serving people.