STOP! In the Name of Love

By Lani Cole-Mitchell
It’s that time of year where life gets busy, crazy, perhaps even chaotic. Holiday plans are in full scheduling mode and I, personally, feel a sense of urgency and need to embrace the celebration of this season with family and friends as best as I can since we all didn’t have that same opportunity last year. With all the planning and eagerness to make this the “Best Season Ever” are we trying to make up for lost time and actually missing God’s presence and message in all of this?
We, as Christians, know that we were created not only in God’s image and likeness, but more specifically, to be in relationship with each other. Those relationships are modeled by kindness, compassion, grace and love. Let’s be honest for a moment….I am sure there are situations where you were planning and preparing for a holiday event, and had every and all intention of doing so with a heart full of love and filled with the Holy Spirit. One comment, one action, one text could easily derail that. Oftentimes, especially during the holidays, emotions take over and we are so fixated on the planning and prepping that we often push aside God’s presence in that relationship and bring about other emotions such as anxiety, tension, pain and frustration. 
I was recently reading a devotion entitled “A Better Way” that my husband shared with me from the YouVersion Bible App. These questions dug deep and really made me stop and pause and reflect:
“Does that tension leave you feeling anxious, frustrated, or resentful?
At some point, we’ve all been there. Spiritual intimacy becomes a distant memory, and you’re not sure what to do or where to turn. What do you do when the work you’re trying to do for God is destroying the work He’s trying to do in you?”
So what can we do in those moments? How do we train ourselves to lovingly respond instead of quickly reacting? I turn to Micah 6:8 when faced with situations like this:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

When we “stop in the name of love” (God’s love) and take a step back and ask God to be present as we work out the emotions we are experiencing, we are putting God first and bringing Him back in to that place where we inadvertently pushing Him out. Also, if we allow ourselves to be open to the perspective of the other individual, we may see things in a completely different light and ultimately come to a place of understanding and grace. Trusting that God is with us in all of these moments is crucial to nourishing strong and meaningful relationships with each other. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pursue the truth and have open conversation with the person we may have issues with. What I am saying is that when approaching others, take some time first, think it through, pray over it, and allow the Holy Spirit to be present in the way you respond. Communication is key, and doing so in a loving, kind, and affirming way is a great way to allow God’s holiness to be a part of these difficult conversations.
Author, Lysa TerKeurst recently tweeted:
“When we’re walking through circumstances
that seem unfair or hurtful beyond what we can bear,
we must allow God to shift our perspective with truth.
In the midst of your wilderness, let God whisper His truth that He is good.
He is good to you. And He is good at being God.”

We also have a unique opportunity to come alongside each other, as a church, and be fully present with those who are experiencing difficulties in relationships. Life is not meant to be done alone as I alluded to earlier that we were created to be in relationship with each other. I encourage you to reach out to friends and family who may be struggling in certain relationships. Just simply listening and being a physical presence for someone can go a long way. Late author, Rachel Held Evans, shared these words: “…Christianity isn’t meant to simply be believed; it’s meant to be lived, shared, eaten, spoken, and enacted in the presence of other people. They reminded me, try as I may, I can’t be a Christian on my own. I need a community. I need the church.”
I’d like to share a prayer with you, friends, and hope you will turn to these words when needed most: Dear God, as the holidays approach, may we all take a moment to stop and listen to each other with open ears, minds, and hearts. May we lean into you, God, and trust that even though our emotions initially take over, you are present and walking alongside us. Help us to remember that what may seem like an inconvenience to others, is most likely a feeling of overwhelming and to put our trust in you, our good God. We are grateful that you continue to pursue us fiercely and love us through these moments. I pray that our actions are ones of response and not reaction, and that we are vulnerable, honest, and fully trust that you are working with us and through us in all that we do. Amen.

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