Increasing Your Capacity to Love

If I truly wanted to follow Christ and be His disciple, I was commanded to love and be known for my love. But my capacity to love needed to increase. How could His love make a difference in my life?

If you weren’t the most loving woman in the world, would you realize it?

It’s not always easy to recognize a lack of love in yourself, but God has a distinctly gentle way of revealing weaknesses and creating strengths in the lives of His followers.

Years ago when I was in the thick of parenting my elementary-aged kids, I reasoned that because I was a loving wife and mother, I was loving enough. Feeling like I only had the energy and capacity to care for my small family, I carved out time for my family, friends, and neighbors, and was comfortable in my cozy life.

When I finally felt ready to add something else to my schedule, I joined an inductive Bible study in the book of John at my family’s new church. Week after week I was thrilled to get my homework finished and was absolutely content with digging into John’s account of Jesus’ life.

Yet at the end of the six-month study, when the women’s ministry director asked each participant how we had personally been changed by the book of John, I could think of nothing.

No change. No transformation. Absolutely no answer to give.

My lack of an answer felt really weird to me. How could I pore over Jesus’ teaching week after week, month after month and not be changed? Was His truth falling on deaf ears? Did I have a hard heart?

Jesus’ words during the Last Supper kept replaying in my mind:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35, ESV

A commandment to love

If I truly wanted to follow Christ and be His disciple (and I did), I was commanded to love and be known for my love. But I was a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom who felt absolutely comfortable in my little Christian bubble. How could His love make a difference in my life? How could He use my love to influence the few people around me?

Even though I fooled myself into thinking I was a loving woman, if I hadn’t studied the truth of the gospel of John, would I have ever stopped to realize that I wasn’t as loving as I imagined or hoped?

Wake-Up Call

Now that I had a wake-up call, I longed for transformation and began praying for a greater capacity to love others well. If God could expand my borders and circles of influence, all while working in my heart in a powerful way, maybe I could show His love to the world.

Within a couple months, the Lord began answering my prayer. Through my nine-year-old son’s unexpected audition and leading role in a local production, God plunked my family right in the middle of a diverse local theater community.

While my son was preoccupied with practices, I was backstage listening to stories of the men and women who were radically different from anyone my family knew.

Suddenly, the truth of the Gospel of John spilled into my heart as I learned how to intentionally love those who looked, thought, and lived very differently than I did. I admit I felt a bit like the new and improved Grinch, whose heart grew three sizes in one day. While these men and women were so different, I found myself truly loving them and being surprised by the intensity of love.

Expanded borders

From that creative beginning, I watched God continue to expand my borders and radically multiply my capacity and desire to love. Always feeling a little awkward when entering a new situation or season of life, I’d pray and ask the Lord for help, guidance, and His love.

By simply asking thoughtful, sincere questions as a way to get to know new people and by taking time to truly listen and care, it became easier and easier to love well. I found my introverted self truly enjoying the conversations and relationships.

The funny thing was the more I intentionally chose to love in the name of Jesus, the more love I actually had to pour out and share with others.

Since that study in John, the Lord moved me into the women’s ministry director role at that very church, where I now get to pour His love out to hundreds of women each day.

For a woman who realized her love was limited to a small group of people, Jesus’ love changed my own heart, opening up a new way of life where loving others brings so much joy.

It might have taken years, but I did experience a transformation with the gospel of John. And it was all because of love.

Do you love others with abandon? Or do you realize you that your capacity to love needs to increase?

Images courtesy of Unsplash.

Hilary
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