“When all else fails, read the directions.”

I smile when I hear this adage, but ruefully. I’ll follow a recipe to the letter, but when it comes to assembling a box full of parts, I tend to read the first few steps, think I’ve got the hang of it, and skim the remaining steps quickly. When my “whatsit” turns out to look like a “huh??” I go and find Kevin; he’s a much more patient direction-follower. He gives me “the look,” sighs, picks up the instructions and takes me through them until I find out where I’ve gone wrong. I’m glad he loves me, and that “Love is patient.”

In the oft-quoted verses of 1 Cor 13, Paul gets very specific about what love is and is not. He emphasizes over and over that without love, any gift we have or work we do will be worthless. But he also includes these three words: “Love never fails.”

I often fail at putting things together so they look like the picture on the box. I also fail at love, and then life definitely doesn’t turn out the way I pictured it. Perhaps I’ve started my day well, but part way through I assumed I knew what I should do in a situation, so I didn’t ask God for directions. The parts I thought would come together didn’t; the result wasn’t what I wanted or anticipated. Then the three “Rs” come into play: regret, reverse, and repair (if possible).

Love never fails, but let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. This love is of God, from God and directed by the Holy Spirit. This is love that is pure, God-centred and God-empowered. This is love that builds up, not misguided sentiment that enables destructive behavior. This is love that fosters maturity in us and in others, not anxious people-pleasing that seeks acceptance.

Love like this never fails, but I can (and often do) fail to love like this. That’s on me.

God’s love never fails, but I can choose not to respond to His love. That’s also on me.

When do I love like this, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, others can choose not to respond to that love. That’s on them.

Even then, love hasn’t failed. Loving in this way may or may not accomplish anything in others, but it accomplishes a great deal in me. It moves me away from trusting myself and closer to trusting God. It changes my perspective, and lets me see others more as God sees them. This is especially true of people who are not the most loveable. This kind of love shrinks me and expands God. It reminds me how far I’ve come, and how far I still need to go. It encourages me to keep plugging.

As is true with every aspect of living for Jesus, love is a daily (and sometimes a minute-to-minute) choice. To be a disciple means to be disciplined in our walk with God; to stop and think, “What would Jesus do?” This can’t be just a catch-phrase, but a way of life if we are serious about following Christ.

Lord, please help me to remember that without love, I’m just a big noise. Write this on my heart, I pray:

“When all else fails, look for God’s direction. When all else fails, love.”