When I was given the chance to preach a couple of weeks back, I was debating playing a recorded song. The song had spoken to me strongly and profoundly when I first heard it and perhaps stronger when I thought of it in context of heaven. The band is a folk-rock group out of London called Mumford and Sons. You can listen to the song here. The song is called “After the Storm” and the line that continues to grab me goes like this
And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.
I have grown weary in failure and frustrated at a lack of consistency in my ability to love my neighbors. Clear is the command of Jesus that we are to Love God and Love others; the beauty is in the simplicity of these words but only once a human attempts to live this out does he or she discover the monumental task at hand. I constantly fail my friends and family and vice versa. My good intentions to serve go awry when there is a hint of pride, self-service and arrogance. My idea of sacrificing for a brother or sister is tainted by an expectation to get something in return. A friend lent me a great book that explained this better than I could. The following is an excerpt from Henri J.M. Nouwen’s In the name of Jesus (p. 38).
[There is an] unconditional love [that] the evangelist John calls God’s first love. “Let us love,” he says, “because God loved us first” (I John 4:19). The love that often leaves us doubtful, frustrated, angry, and resentful is the second love, that is to say, the affirmation, affection, sympathy, encouragement, and support we receive from out parents, teachers, spouses, and friends. We all know how limited, broken, and very fragile that love is. Behind the many expressions of this second love there is always the chance of rejection, withdrawal, punishment, blackmail, violence, and even hatred. … These are all the shadow side of the second love and reveal the darkness that never completely leaves the human heart.
Nouwen goes on and provides hope to all who have experienced the aforementioned (p. 40)
The radical good news is that the second love is only a broken reflection of the first love and that the first love is offered to us by a God in whom there are no shadows.
My nature, human nature in general, is often reactionary. I am driven to do things because someone did something first for me. The reason we love God is because He first loved us. His love is perfect and without shadows, as Nouwen put it; it was not spurred on by anything we did; it came from His nature and His nature is love (I John 4:8). We can never match this love because His was first, and ours was a reaction. As I mentioned before, my discouragement with my incomplete love exists but it is overwhelmed by hope! Finally the lyrics of this song become relevant. “There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears and love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears.” There is a day in which this second love, the human love, will become like the first love. A day when we are face to face with Jesus and he gives that sweet first love which was always there, yet the love we return is just as sweet. We must live in constant awareness of our task to love God and our neighbors and not give up because we can never fully do so. Be encouraged by the knowledge that when we get over our hill as the song says, over our life here on earth, He waits for us to love and be loved perfectly.