The original blog can be found at LoveandRespectNow.com by clicking here.
I was sitting on a plane preparing for a Sunday message when a peculiar verse caught my attention. Paul, who I can safely presume has no clue what it feels like to physically give birth to a child, writes, like he does, “I have labor pains that you may be well formed in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 4:19).
Though Paul didn’t actually give birth, he did use a great word picture that illuminated for me, as a pastor and counselor, a question I must answer.
Do I hurt that deeply for people I come into contact with to be well formed in Christ?
Even more, what would those pains actually feel like in my everyday life?
I am on a journey to answer those questions, and I believe the answers need to be sought out by each one of us. Here’s why: Not only do the answers lead to others’ spiritual growth, the answers impact every relationship we encounter. How you approach dating, romance, marriage, employers, parents, kids, and even strangers.
Feeling the Pain
My wife Christi and I saved money to take a vacation to Italy with some friends last summer. As we visited the island of Capri, an elderly gentleman who spoke no English walked up to me and pointed to his camera. Thinking he was asking to take our picture in exchange for money, I looked him square in the eye, shook my head, and boldly declined.
But as we stepped away and were admiring the beauty around us, I noticed a distinct heaviness in my spirit, a heaviness that distracted me from the incredible landscape.
As I looked around for the man I had just rejected, I noticed him standing alone, simply gazing around. My heart sank.
I realized he had wanted me to take a picture of him.
Stepping away from my wife and friends, I walked over to this frail, seemingly lonely man. Reaching into the black fanny pack around his waist, he handed me a battery operated, film camera from the 1990s and pointed to a building in the distance. After making his way slowly to the foreground of where he had just pointed, he turned around, gestured for how he wanted me to hold the camera, and then looked at me with eyes like that of a puppy, offering up what could barely be labeled a smile.
Not once did we utter a single word to one another. Yet I’ll never forget the influence he had on my life. I followed him around the island for a while that day, dragging behind me a heavy heart.
No wife. No kids. Alone. On a beautiful island. And nothing on him but an old-school film camera and a fanny pack.
It was not a lightbulb moment; it was a lightbulb day.
Feeling Better, or Loving Better?
If what I felt on the island of Capri was anything like Paul is talking about when he describes the feeling of labor pains for another person, then I felt a glimpse of it that day.
And at some level, each one of us has felt this deep sense of compassion and love toward another, an illuminating moment you’re probably thinking of even now.
What if we approached every person, every relationship with the same compassion and love we feel in moments like these?
I believe it would take care of many of the questions we ask about our relationships; questions that are seemingly quite insignificant in comparison.
In dating relationships, how far is too far? In marriage, what if my spouse is mad or hurt because I spend too much time at fill in the blank? At work, what if a coworker or employee is not performing or threw me under the bus?
Can you imagine putting your boyfriend or girlfriend, your spouse, or your coworker’s wellbeing ahead of your own? Feeling such compassion and love for them that they may be well formed in Christ?
The Bible’s definition of love is “that [Christ] laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16).
Why is it so hard to love? Because the opposite of love is fear, not hate.
When we’re scared that someone may not or cannot love us in return, we either build walls around us or we compromise by doing things we vowed we’d never do in order to feel loved.
Living in fear makes the relationship about us. Living in love makes the relationship about them.
The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear. Let’s stop spending the rest of our lives trying to feelbetter, and start spending our lives trying to love better, so that everyone we encounter with old school cameras and fanny packs may be well formed in Christ Jesus.
Are your relationships based in fear or in love?
What is a moment you felt deep compassion for another person?
What are some practical ways that we can love others to make them well formed in Christ?