Love Is the Baby In a Manger

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Can I make a confession? Relationships scare me. I haven’t always been this way. I used to be able to make friends pretty easily, and I felt like I was a pretty good friend too. But then, for some reason, they just got confusing. I’ve always known that after the initial fun time of getting to know someone — what some would call a honeymoon phase — comes this thing called work. It’s that not-so-fun part where expectations aren’t met and humans fall short. Feelings are hurt and people either decide to work through it or throw in the towel. 

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, I found that it was easier to have friendly acquaintances than close friendships. Having those friendships is something that I have to push myself to do because God did not create us to do life alone. He created us to be in community with others. 

It’s not that I don’t like people, because I do. I actually love people; I just don’t like having conflicts with them. It’s easier to just be by myself. When I find myself connecting with someone, or even in a close relationship I already have, I sometimes notice that I am kind of on edge, waiting for them to point out something that I’ve done wrong. How I’ve unintentionally hurt or offended them. 

Yes, it seems it would be easier to just live in my own world and not have to worry about all of that. But God has not called us to easy, has He? So, like it or not, I make myself push past the awkwardness of conflict and find the treasure of meaningful relationships that God wants me to have.   

Being a pastor’s wife, I have had many types of friendships. I am thankful for all of them, even though some don’t exist any more. I’m learning that that’s okay too. Every relationship I have had has taught me something, and even though I didn’t think any good could come from it at the time, I am still becoming a better person because of them. Maybe you can relate.  

I’ve had friends that have offered to be the listening ear I thought I so desperately needed. That sounds good, right? But have you ever had a friend that seemed to be able to pull all of the stuff you didn’t really want to say right out of you in the name of being the person you could vent to? I have. Guess what happened. That person heard what I said, but because of their past experiences and hurts, they heard what I said through a filter of their own past hurts and experiences. They then constructed their own stories about me that just weren’t true. 

This caused a lot of confusion and hurt feelings. I believe they had the best intentions, but they, just like me, were flawed and it did not end well. I didn’t need someone to vent to because it just kept me focused on my problems. They did not need to hear my venting because they weren’t capable of carrying the load that wasn’t meant for them to carry in the first place. 

I’ve also had friends who were so good to me and went overboard to give me gifts and good things. That was so nice and gracious of them, right? Well, it was until I didn’t return what they did like they thought I should have. I’ve heard recently in a Bible study and a book that I’m currently reading that if you are giving something in order to receive something in return, you’re not truly giving with a pure heart. 

Now, I’m not saying that you should always be taking and never giving. No one wants a friend like that. But if I give you a gift, your thanks should be payment enough for it. If it’s not, then it wasn’t really a gift. It was a down payment on something that I want you to give back to me. That type of friendship left me confused and always feeling like I wasn’t enough. I dreaded receiving things from them because I felt like something was always expected in return, but I was never exactly sure what it was. 

There are other kinds of relationships that are confusing. Family relationships as well as dating relationships. Let me just say that I am so thankful that I am married and don’t have to deal with that any more. I am praying for all those who are single that God will send you who you need and you won’t have to waste time with people who will not be gentle with your heart. 

Relationships can get messy. We do have needs that can be met by friends but when one flawed human being tries to have all of their needs met by another flawed human being, it’s always going to come up short. This leads me to my go-to response to things like this: isolation. This is definitely not the solution, but being part introvert, I can feel like I am fine without other people around a lot of the time. I enjoy being alone for the most part and can think of plenty of things to keep myself occupied and happy. I’ve never been good at drama and usually at the first sight of it, I’m out. 

I’m quite simple, actually. I’d rather be alone than try to figure out what people who mean one thing but say another are trying to make me understand. Manipulation and mind games are absolutely not my thing.  

So how does one live in community with so many flawed people who have big emotions and expectations? There’s only one way. It’s to know what true love is. 

When I think of the story of Jesus’ birth, my mind has a hard time understanding what kind of love He had to have for us to leave heaven — a perfect place — to come to earth — pretty much the complete opposite — and live a life of being rejected, suffering pain, and almost constant misunderstanding of who he really was. 

He didn’t have to do it, but He knew it was the only way that we could be with him in heaven and He thought it was worth it. He thought we were worth it. He knew that we would come up short. We would never be able to repay Him for the gift that He was giving us but he gave it anyway. Our acceptance of Him was enough. 

If there were anyone that could manipulate us to do what He wanted, it would be Him. He knows the very number of hairs on our heads. He knows what makes us tick. What makes us do what we do. He could very easily make us do what He wanted us to do. Yet, He doesn’t. He wants us to choose Him. So He waits for us and makes it so easy to come to Him. 

Have you ever seen someone who makes it hard to love them? I’ve had friends that I see so much in. I want them to succeed. I want other people to like them. I want to do good things for them, and then they do something stupid that makes me want to just take all of the things I wanted to do back, or not do them at all. They’re just hard to love. 

God is not like that. He makes it so easy for us. Everything about Him is good. He doesn’t force us to love Him but He makes it hard not to. And when we do things that aren’t His will for us, He doesn’t get angry. He doesn’t yell and say, “I told you not to do that”! He doesn’t pout and say, “after all I do for you, and you still can’t get it right”? If anyone had a right to say those things, it would be Him. He doesn’t do that because that’s not the kind of God He is. 

He is perfect love. 1 John 4:18 says, “there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” 

He doesn’t just allow us to abuse His love with no consequences either. He loves us so much that He even shows us how we should deal with abusive behavior. He gives us clear instruction on what is expected of us as His child. When we step out of His will, instead of yelling or holding it over our heads, He simply will not allow his presence to dwell where sin does. 

This is why He can give instruction on how a man is to love His wife. The Word says in Ephesians 5:25,husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.”

I think a lot of men would say that they would lay down their lives for their spouse because, honestly, most men aren’t going to have to face that dilemma. It sounds really romantic to say that, but how many times will a husband be faced with how to handle an offense against his wife? And how many times will a woman be faced with how to handle an offense against her husband? That happens way more often.

Jesus has given us the perfect response. He allows space, and He does it without yelling what He is doing. He doesn’t say, “If you can’t straighten up, then you have to go away from me until you can learn to do what’s right”. Nope He just quietly allows us to go until we realize what we’ve done and come back to Him. He doesn’t want distance between us, but He loves us enough to allow us the freedom to choose Him. Do you know what else He does? He draws us back to Him with His love. The Bible says in Romans that it’s the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. He is so good that just as soon as we call out to Him, He’s right there.   

What we have is a very flawed view of love without Him. Even with Him, it’s so easy to get it wrong. But when we rest and bask in His love every day, it’s so much easier to see others through that love and go to Him to have our needs filled up instead of imperfect people who are just not capable of the kind of love that He gives. 

Thank you, Lord, for the gift that you gave us of yourself when you willingly chose to come as a baby in a manger.

Telina Frye is the author of Dare to Dream, as well as a pastor’s wife and mother to her 13 year old son and 10 year old daughter. 

She is a singer/songwriter and a natural born dreamer. Telina is also credentialed in the Church of God as an Exhorter and holds a Minister of Music License. She serves as the worship leader at the church where her husband serves as lead pastor. 

Telina loves having deep, meaningful conversations about what is and what could be. She hopes this blog will inspire readers to dare to look past what is, see what can be, and reach for the impossible.

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