Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Devotionals for the Heart: Love Scale

The Love Scale
A devotional by Sharon Musgrove

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
—1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV)

Belief in Jesus Christ offers forgiveness, and the clean slate He gives is the opportunity to turn from bad behavior and start new. Like a baby learning to walk, new habits are hard to create! We fall down time and again. How do we know if progress is being made toward living this new life when we keep messing up? Perhaps we could use a tool of measurement – a Love Scale.

A mentor introduced me to a Christ-based relapse prevention curriculum, years ago when I was volunteering in a residential recovery program for women. This “Genesis Process” walked its students through identifying why they were addicted to substances or self-harming actions and what it would take to walk away, free from that lifestyle. It was possible but it required intentional daily work.

Lives were changed through that process and hearts were healed. Every person who put effort into learning about God, and their relationship to Him, was blessed by improvement in their problems. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” These women entered the program hardened and angry, but they graduated hoping in their bright future and rejoicing in a fresh start in Christ.

One of the tools of the curriculum was a list of relapse warning signs. It was a scale used to identify current thoughts and feelings that would escalate toward degeneration of recovery, if not caught and corrected. This tool was invaluable.

Harmful behavior is not limited to the addict. No one lives perfectly as “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 ESV). I struggle with my behaviors despite church attendance, daily Bible study and volunteering in a Christian organization. As much as anyone, I need tools to help me stay on track. I doubted the average person would be comfortable, as I was, using instruments of recovery. So, I prayed, asking for a revelation that would be received by people not in treatment.

Love was the answer to my prayer. Specifically, a scripture that describes the characteristics of love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is a well-known passage that lists the aspects of living like Christ. I can run my daily concerns through this passage and know immediately where I am stumbling.

My daily concerns include thoughts like these:

Love is patient ... Am I patient with my kids?

Love is kind ... Oh dear, I snapped at my mother!

Love does not envy ... Yesterday I yearned for a life like Amy’s.

This passage becomes a Love Scale, weighing the purity of heart and the progress of walking with Christ. Any heavy burden can be measured by this tool to see where love is lacking, where the holes in trust and faith lie. You have to be willing, however, to hear where you are in the wrong.

The simplicity of belief in Jesus is that treatment for slipping into old patterns is surrender, not trying harder. Unlike the game of Chutes and Ladders, where you slide to the bottom and start back at the beginning, a repentant heart puts you right back at Jesus Christ’s side. We fall and He offers a hand to lift us right back to our feet.

This Love Scale keeps me in check time after time. It’s now on my wall, in a place where I tend to retreat when I’m hurting. I pray for clarity, put my burdens on the scale, and look at the answer.

Where, in your walk with Christ, do you keep tripping up? What situations trigger you? How do you respond? Friend, I encourage you to keep the Love Scale handy. Used with humility, this scripture will guide you in new habits, helping you discover where you are still weak. Jesus is right beside you, encouraging with His words and assisting you as you grow stronger in His way.

Author Bio:

Sharon Musgrove is a self-proclaimed sociologist. The opportunities opened to her, over the years, have led her on a fascinating journey observing human behavior. 

She has a diverse background in business, fitness and health industries. This background led her to a unique position writing curriculum and teaching for two private, Christ-based, residential recovery programs. Both recovery programs served women primarily from the homeless community.

Sharon has traveled multiple times to Kenya, serving on medical teams and teaching in the rural Maasai communities. She's been privileged to participate in Leadership camps for maturing young women. These annual camps have a mission of encouraging and empowering the impoverished, underprivileged, and often abused young Maasai girls.

Easily identifying personally with the brokenness of the women she's served, Sharon now sees all people as needing more encouragement regardless of cultural or socioeconomic status. Within these ministries, Sharon has witnessed the transformative power of loving words spoken to the broken-hearted. Sharing God’s love and witnessing its transformative power has become her passion.

In her leisure time, Sharon enjoys her garden, health food, travel and a good story. She and her husband, Jeff, make their home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They have two grown children. Currently, Sharon is writing her first Christian historical fiction novel utilizing her study, experience, and understanding of self-destructive behaviors.

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