A few days ago, I had the privilege of attending and conference called The Strengths Summit in Asheboro, NC, presented by the Gallup Research Group.. It was a two-day conference centered around helping people discover their natural strengths, talents and abilities and ways the church can serve as a catalyst for helping people live more self-aware and more comfortable in their own skin as they grow to see their true uniqueness.
While there, we were asked to personally look at our top strengths (according to the StrengthsFinder assessment) and underline in the descriptions the things about those strengths we actually believed were true.
It’s easier to focus on what’s not true, isn’t it? As I continue to learn more about this, it’s been interesting to see how certain strengths I have are much more easily identified and affirmed by others than they would be with me.
Which brings me to a huge point in this thought…that you can learn things about yourself that if you don’t have people in your life to affirm those things and literally love those things into you, it will eventually make no difference. Chew on that.
This has caused me to think of it this way: Have you ever given someone a compliment, but it’s almost like they refuse to believe it? Is it difficult for you to accept compliments?
Earlier in our marriage, I remember Molly and I having a conversation while we were driving about our identities, things we were learning about ourselves and some of the things that had served to shape us for good and for worse. I remember being frustrated around that time – all the way back to when we were first dating – when every time I’d tell Molly how beautiful I thought she was, it was almost like she didn’t want to hear it. (By the way, I did get permission from her to share this) I also know there have been many times when Molly has tried to affirm something in me that I’ve refused to accept. Things like: you’re a great man, to which my response would be, yeah, right.
This brings me to this thought: What does it mean for someone to love you into your future, to love you into your true self? Theologians have called this escatalogical realism, a term meaning to be loved into your future. It’s the idea of having someone in your life who isn’t simply loving you based on the person you are presently, but instead, based on the person you’ve yet to become. Simply put, it’s a way of loving that makes someone better. It’s a way of loving that sees the potential in the other person and chooses to love them into the person they’ve yet to become or only dreamed of becoming. It’s not loving with a selfish agenda, making the other person into what you want them to be (that’s what some people would call tough love; a way of coercing someone to become what you want them to become) ; it’s a love that recognizes the uniqueness of God in the other and chooses to love in such a way that it’s drawn out. It’s selfless. It takes time, energy and focus to see. That’s escatalogical realism. And if you know anything about God’s love (agape – a Greek term for God’s unconditional, unmerited love), there’s quite a similarity.
Something I’m coming to love even more about Easter is that it’s such a tremendous reminder of what this kind of loving truly looks like. It’s a picture of Jesus seeing our future and the person we’ve yet to become, setting His face resolutely toward Jerusalem and a Cross, laying down His life – all out of a love that desires to make us beautiful. It’s Jesus’ willingness to take the filth of our sin upon Himself, leading to an offer for us to exchange our filth for beauty – all out of an extravagant love that simply wants to make us better than from where it first found us.
To borrow something I heard again this week, we are all people who live out of our identities; the problem is, most of us have yet to accept who we truly are. The truth is, no matter how you see yourself, the Cross is God’s way of loving us into who we were truly meant to become.
This way of loving has caused me to change how I pray for my family, friends and the people around me daily. Every week, I ask the Originator of this way of loving to help me love Molly and Julia in such a way that I make them beautiful. I ask the Father to help me love the people around me in such a way that I’m making them better.
I’m simply trying to learn what it means to love someone into their future…
Just a side-note: 8 out of 10 Americans are focused more on improving their weaknesses than improving their strengths. Contrary to popular belief, we have more growth potential in our strengths than our weaknesses. What that means it that you’re much better off learning to love the person you are than trying to become someone else. In addition, most people go to their graves having no real clue as to who they are. There’s a difference between humility (having a healthy, balanced understanding of who you are) and false humility (ie: “I’m nothing special”). If you want to learn more, I encourage you to catch our next Core/Partnership Meeting at Awaken, Sunday April 6th following worship. A huge part of the vision, not only for Awaken Church, but also for me personally is to see people come fully alive spiritually as they discover the true value in themselves…one that God sees, causing Him to love us in such a way that it’s drawn out.