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5 Ways to Receive God’s Love | by Amy Julia Becker

Summertime contains wonders – 15 hours of daylight, salt and sand and sun, bike rides and cookouts, and walks on the beach. Summertime also contains lots of time with other people: neighbors, family members, extended family members. It sounds fun, until I start muttering about how my sister didn’t do the dishes, or about how my neighbor’s children stay up too late, or about how inadequate I feel in a bathing suit.

Being around other people often provokes judgement in me, towards myself, and towards others. However, I want it to, instead, provoke love.

If you’re anything like me, you want to offer God’s love to other people on a daily basis, but you find yourself coming up short. I’ve learned that what I desperately need is to receive the overflowing and abundant love of God first, and then offer that love to others.

In recent years, I’ve begun to practice five ways to receive the love of God:

  1. Pay prayerful attention to love. Read through Bible passages about God’s love and meditate on their meaning (some scripture you might consider: John 15, 1 Corinthians 13, Ephesians 3:14-21, 1 John 4:7-21). Read passages about Jesus, the embodiment of God’s love. Use your spiritual imagination to envision yourself as a beloved child, climbing up onto God’s lap, being welcomed and received just as you are.
  2. Let other people love you. For many people, it is easier to give love to others than to receive it yourself. And yet the nature of love is reciprocal and relational, so love is incomplete when we don’t allow it to come back to us. Look at John 13, when Jesus insists on washing his disciples’ feet. The disciples must admit their need for Jesus’ cleansing touch. They have to allow him to humble himself and love them. Similarly, we receive God’s love by allowing other people to care for us.
  3. Take communion. Receiving the bread and the cup – the body and blood of Christ – whether you think of it symbolically or literally, offers a physical reminder of God’s love for you. Rituals that involve our bodies offer a physical reminder of God’s loving actions in our lives and for the world.
  4. Look for God’s love. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes: “Love is patient. Love is kind.” Every time you see patience or kindness, you see God’s love. You can receive the actions and words of other people – even those who do not believe in God – as a gift from the God of love acting in and through us.
  5. Practice loving others. Again, love is relational, which means not only do we receive it as we open ourselves to God’s love and to the love other people offer us, but we also receive it even as we offer it to others. When we are patient and kind, when we are forgiving, when we sacrifice time or sleep or desire not out of grudging resentment but freely, we are participating in an eternal wellspring of love. Our giving is also receiving.

In Ephesians 3, Paul prays that the Ephesians would become “rooted and grounded in love.” That’s my prayer for myself this summer, that my roots would grow deeper and deeper into the nourishing soil of God’s love. Just as the sunshine and rain of the summer help the plants and trees grow all around me, I pray that the daily encounters I have with other people would help me, and you, grow up in love.

. . .

Amy Julia Becker is the author of White Picket Fences: Turning Toward Love in a World Divided by Privilege (NavPress, 2018) and she has written three other books as well. She lives in western Connecticut with her husband and three children. Find out more at amyjuliabecker.com.

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