By: Kelly Arena
“Snap, crackle, pop!” I exclaimed as I closed the car door and placed my hand on the burning hot steering wheel. (Yes, being an avid cereal snacker, I have succumbed to uttering cereal slogans as part of my vocabulary.) It’s June in Florida. I parked my car outside and forgot to put up my windshield shade, which tends to cut the heat. The humid sauna in my car is all engulfing as I turn my air on high. It’s a suffocating feeling that demands my full attention. For the first few seconds in my car, my mind is consumed with thoughts that everything is blistering hot and I need to fix the situation.
What consumes your mind? Have you been able to fix what unrelentingly demands attention and keeps you up at night?
In my personal life, the past few months have been an enormous challenge. The past few weeks have felt like I’m emotionally and mentally suffocating…even without the additional weight of the current state of country and world affairs. People very close to me, and people who I have never met, are hurting. As someone who lives in chronic pain, I am keenly aware of how much pain of any kind can command the complete attention of a human being. And just like how I reach for the A/C in my Kia Forte, I find myself reaching for some sort of fix for my heart.
Just as the scorching hot sun of summer lasts for a season, Jesus takes us through many different seasons to ultimately accomplish His plan for our lives. This season of life has stretched me a little tighter than I would have desired, and I am certain this season is not finished. This season of deeply desiring to love my hurting family, friends and community teaches me that loving from my own strength is pointless. During this season, I’m reminded that Quiet Time is not for warm fuzzy feelings. Quiet Time allows me to set aside time to bask in the love of my Savior, and submit myself to learning how I can love in a way that rightly reflects His love. When I think that I can love enough, in and of myself, I am forgetting that our hearts are fragile and easily manipulated, and we are wise to keep that in mind. Proverbs 4:23 is a good reminder; “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
Love is such a pleasant word. Everyone desires to be loved. But love can be exhausting and frustrating and negatively consumes our minds if we try to share it in our own strength. I know, because I have tried that. So many times. I have been prideful enough to think that because I have Jesus, I don’t need a “refresher course” on how to love the person no one else wants to deal with. As if I don’t need grace to love the friend whose life I secretly envy.
1 Corinthians 13 is known as “the love chapter” in the Bible. So it’s no surprise that in this season I have visited this passage often. But being a commonly memorized passage, I think too often I clump it all together, or dismiss it entirely, thinking, “eh, I got that one.” Jesus has been so gracious to me the past couple months to first reveal my own heart and, second, show me how I can improve upon loving each day. So this is how 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 has blessed me recently.
“Love is patient.” How can I be patient? Often praying for patience will lead you into impatient circumstances.
“…and kind;” How can I be kind in my words and actions?
“…love does not envy,” I struggle with envy, and have restarted my gratitude journal to help assuage the tendency.
“…or boast,” The only thing I have to boast in is the Lord!
“…it is not arrogant or rude.” I take time to think before I speak.
“…it does not insist on its own way;” I mean, I may believe I am right, but not everyone has to know… 😉
“…it is not irritable or resentful;” I can be an exceptionally irritable person. Truly. I have people in my life who challenge me and point out my irritability.
“…it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,” My wrongdoing and the wrongdoings around me should drive me to my knees.
“…but rejoices with the truth.” I like to sing and dance in my kitchen and praise the Lord when I hear truth, especially The Truth!
“…Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”
Jesus is gentle and gracious with me, and I am so thankful that He will never give up on continually carving my heart to better reflect Himself. When that happens, Jesus’ work enables me to love Him in a richer way, and love my neighbor in a more meaningful way: by pointing them to our Hope for genuine love.
I am grateful for steaming cars and humid days that remind me of what my heart is like when I want a day, or a moment, of doing life by myself. Realizing my sin and knowing that I am not enough in and of myself is hard to swallow. But praise Jesus that none of our stories have to end there. I am thankful for a Savior who eternally loves without limits. His love never ends.
God took Kelly from being a little girl in speech therapy, to someone who desires to write passionately and speak boldly for the glory of God. In the midst of various trials including living in chronic pain, Kelly chooses to find her joy in the Lord and trust that God has a good and perfect plan. Kelly now resides in Fayetteville, NC as an Army wife to her life-long friend, Jarrett, along with their two dogs Maddy and Radar.