December 2023
Spiritual formation
Where Lies Love's Greatest Desire?

The greatest desire of one who loves is to give himself, fully and unreservedly.

I came across a striking sentence that shouldered my mind down a long path with no end in sight (and that was a good thing). Let me share it with you.

Love's highest desire is not to appropriate, but rather to give (Edmund Clowney, Christian Meditation, p. 81-82).

It doesn't stand out too much, does it? The abstraction may dull the copper of the prose. But look closer. There is a patina. There is color, if your eyes do some work.

What Are You Doing Here?

Start with the basics. What are you doing here? Most of us would use the word "love" at some point in our answer. We're here to love others. And, if we're bold enough, to love the God who made them. Love is not just an action; it's a legacy. It's what we leave behind when the vapor of our life melts into the light of time. I still know my father's love for me, long after his death. And I know of his love for God.

Love is not just an action; it's a legacy.

Love stays. It seems fleeting at times, as the wind. It rushes towards us from a hidden place, lifts us into levitation, and then rushes away like a torrent. So, we think that it comes and goes. But that's an illusion. Love isn't a fleeting sensation or a feeling. It's a relationship stitched into the fabric of reality. And once the stitches are woven, they can't be undone. There's no seam ripper for true love, for love that's pure, rooted in the God who is love. True love stays.

What Does Love Do?

But if love is a legacy, if love stays, then what does it do? Edmund Clowney's answer: it gives. It's highest desire is not to take or receive, but to offer. Love is open hands. It's no coincidence that the lasting image of God's love for us is Christ's body on the Christ, his hands pressed open, held open by the will of love. On the cross we have the portrait of God's action toward us: love-based giving. And what greater gift could Love give but itself? What greater offering could be made than the actual person of God?

And the well runs even deeper. Why is love's highest desire to give? Because Love is the Trinity (1 John 4:8). Love is the Father giving himself to the Son, who gives himself to the Father and the Spirit, who gives himself to the Son and the Father. On and on it goes. Love is giving at it's core because that's who God is. In other words, true love always gives because God always gives. We can't separate the word "love" from the character of God.

And You?

Are you starting to see the patina in Clowney's words? He's not angling an abstraction for intellectual effect. He's talking about the person of God, which means he's also talking about who you are, because you're made in God's image. If love's highest desire is to give, and if you've been given the greatest gift in the universe (God himself), then what is your love giving right now?

If you and I don't have an answer to that question, that's a big deal. It's not a small thing to be unaware of or unintentional about who you are. That's affecting your legacy. Right now. As you breathe, your legacy is being laid down. You're writing yourself into the tapestry of time, by the grace of God. You're being stitched into history. What pattern are you going to leave behind? The answer to that question starts and ends with giving. Your love, for everyone in your life and for the God who is life, is a matter of what you give.

You'll have a thousand opportunities today to give. You can give your time, your attention, your focus, your body, your wisdom, your worship. You can give even in listening to your two-year-old tell you about her nightmare, in watching your son play a rubber-band song on the back of a chair, in patiently waiting for your daughter to finish telling you about the bird she saw outside, in brewing your wife's coffee. These little acts of giving seem so insignificant. But they're not. They're just tiny stitches. Taken together, they are leaving your legacy.

Give one moment at a time, my friends. That is love's highest desire. And it's beautiful, isn't it?

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