Updated: May 18, 2020
A couple weeks ago, my husband and I gave each other the gift of time. Free time seems hard to come by so when we saw a relatively open weekend, we decided that we would each have a full day to go and do whatever we wanted to do – free of any responsibility.
I started my day at one of my favorite spots, a local arboretum. Within a few minutes, I can be transported from my neighborhood of brick and asphalt into a beautiful natural wonderland. It’s a sacred space where I can slow down, soak in the beauty of God’s creation, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to me.
On this morning, as I sat on my favorite bench, under some Redwood trees and beside a gentle stream, I watched as leaves floated by in the current of the water. The thought struck me,
What if I allowed myself to be carried by the current of God’s love?
I was reminded of a trip that my husband and I took with some of our closest friends last year. We went to Bend, Oregon to celebrate my husband’s 40th birthday. We spent a few days with no schedule and no demands. It felt strange to be so free, and I had to remind myself to relax and let the day pass as it did. We spent a lot of time floating down the Deschutes River on inner tubes. I fully embraced the opportunity to lie back and let the current of the water carry me. I felt like those leaves that I saw floating down the stream today. I didn’t have to work. I didn’t have to plan. I didn’t have to force anything. I was just present and went wherever the water led me.
While I know that I cannot spend every day floating down a river, I feel God calling me to bring that mindset into my everyday reality, into the ways that I receive and give love. So often I feel the need to strive, to control, to force things into place, and then I feel so frustrated and discouraged when those attempts fail or when I can’t live up to my own expectations. But God reminds me that I don’t have to do anything to earn His love.
God loves me because I am His. He created me so that He could love me. He doesn’t love me so that I will love him or obey him or produce for him. God loves me because God is love (1 John 4:16). And we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). It’s not out of obligation. It’s not as a way of securing God’s love or proving that we are worthy of it. Even if I never poured out a single ounce of love on anyone else, God would still love me. He can’t help it. It’s what He does and it’s who He is.
If I could fully receive that, I would stop trying to earn and strive. I would stop believing the lies that I need to do more and be more. I would trust that I am loved and accepted just as I am. And I would let God’s love carry me. I would let it flow through and around me.
If I fully receive God’s love, then I can’t help but pour out His love on others. There are no criteria for who deserves my love. And there is no agenda tied to that love. I do not love so that I will be loved in return. I do not love so that I can influence someone else’s behavior. I do not love so that I will get some desired outcome. I love because I am loved, and I recognize that everyone is just as worthy of love as I am.
The Greek word for God’s love in the Bible is agape. This agape means “seeking people’s well-being without expecting anything in return” (according to The Bible Project). Agape is love without expectation – without expectation of change, without expectation of being paid back, without expectation of being appreciated. It means loving no matter what, and it means that love is never wasted.
I am loved because God is love. And I love because God loves me. It’s as simple as that. Let go of control. Stop trying to force everything into place. Let the current of God’s love carry you.