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Refreshment in Refuge

    by Gina Burgess

Return to Me in Thanksgiving
Date Posted: November 20, 2016

What does the movie Little Women have to do with unconditional love and with God’s plea to “Return to Me!” in Jeremiah?

There I was, ten years old, standing in the movie theater and just crying my eyes out. Big, sloppy tears soaking the front of my shirt, making it stick to my chest… not a tissue to be found, either.

“Get your coat on, Gina,” Mom said as the credits to “Little Women” were rolling on the huge screen in front of us: The old black and white one starring June Alison as Jo, and Peter Lawson as Laurie.

“But, Mom,” I wailed, “why didn’t they get married? They loved each other.”

At ten years old, that’s what I thought love was all about, especially the Christmas love stories where the snow started falling and the boy and girl were kissing and the natural next move was marriage and a baby. That’s the way it happened on the big screen so that’s the way it was supposed to be in real life, right?

Satan’s Lie Number One…

There is only one true love for a person.
Here’s a news flash, in case you haven’t figured it out yet… Love is a choice. Here’s an addendum to that lie: You can’t help who you fall in love with. How many times have you heard that on the Hallmark Channel? Or more likely, some movie about married people falling in love with someone other than their spouse.

The thing about Jo and Laurie was that she wasn’t ready for love’s commitment. Jo knew love is a choice, and she knew that Laurie wasn’t for her. The real challenge is choosing to love in spite of the faults instead of loving because of the beauty of face and form and exciting, fizzing chemistry. True love is choosing to love when it suddenly becomes work instead of romance.

Satan’s Lie Number Two

When a person finds “true love” then it’s smooth sailing after that: No work, no problems, no conflicts. Prince Charming and Snow White kiss, snow starts falling and there’s a fade out to the sunset. No more conflict, no more problems. If you have lived past your second decade you know this is False.

Ask any couple who has been married more than thirty years what the secret is to the longevity of their marriage and you’ll hear from every one of them of commitment, and of working at keeping the love fires burning. Today we have books and consultants who tell us that love must be worked at. Yet, Hollywood would have us believe that love just happens, that it pops in then leaves at the first storm. The sad thing is, society is starting to believe that blather. Hollywood turns a Christian story about love like The Vow into a struggle to love someone without God’s help. God is love. You can’t have deep, abiding, true love without God in it.

Satan’s lie number three is that True Love is unconditional…

I'm going out on a limb here, I do not think it is possible for a human being to be able to unconditionally love another person.

· Parents have great love for their children, but that love is birthed at birth, flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. That is a condition.

· Husbands and wives love each other through various and wonderful interactions. The love continues through a commitment to each other and through the grace of God -- especially when tempers flare. But, it is a condition.

· Brothers and sisters love each other through thick and thin, through good times and bad times, but they, again are flesh of each other and bone of each other. Families love each other in spite of the cantankerous differences. That is a condition.

· Friends love each other because of commonalities. We are drawn to certain people because their lifestyle or their beliefs or their likes and dislikes match pretty closely with our own so we become friends, sometimes lifelong friends. That is conditional.

Try loving someone completely unconditionally. It is wonderful and not so hard when they love you back. When they care about your feelings... when they put you first before thinking about themselves. But what about when they do not like you anymore. What about when they kick you... betray you... spit on you... do things to harm you...

Loving those people is not easy... not even when God loves them through you. What about when they turn from God? Can you love them still? Is there a point you reach when you have to say, "Loving you hurts too much for me to continue to love you unconditionally."

The pivotal point here is that God does not expect us to be God. There shall we be happy and very, very thankful!

He expects us to act like Him to the best of our abilities, and for us to measure ourselves using Jesus as our plumb line, but each one of us has unique needs and common needs. We are all very needy in Christ. God knows that and plans for that. He nurtures us and pours out blessings over us and through us as we grow in Him. We become so close to Him we begin to look like Him. But when we take and take and never give, God quits pouring out the blessings, and we must dance to the tune of Schools Days. Instead of readin’ and writin’ and ‘rithmetic, we study trials and behavioral science.

God has expectations, and He has conditions. God loves unconditionally, but His blessings have conditions.

Jesus loved us unconditionally. He loved so much that He gave His life willingly so that we might live eternally with Him. He loved us when we were unlovable. He loved through the rejection, through the pain, through the shame of the cross. He knew the future. He knew that not all would accept the gift. He gave it anyway. He gave it for all but only a few accept. He gave salvation, but it is conditional. We must first believe that God exists. We must then believe what God said; believe in Jesus and believe that He died for us and rose from the dead. If you don't believe that, then you won’t go to heaven. That is conditional.

The parable of the prodigal son highlights this truth beautifully. The father watched continuously for his prodigal son and ran to meet him when he finally saw him coming up the road. That was conditional upon the son returning home.
The father never quit loving his prodigal son. The blessings were conditional, not the father's love. The son would never have received those blessings of a coat, a ring and a feast if he had not returned to his father. The son knew how precious those blessings were because he had experienced great poverty of blessings.

That gives "Return to Me" a deeper meaning.

Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the LORD; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7

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Biography Information:
Gina Burgess has taught Sunday School and Discipleship Training for almost three decades. (Don't tell her that makes her old.) She earned her Master's in Communication in 2013.

She is the author of several books including: When Christians Hurt Christians, The Crowns of the Believers and others available in online bookstores. She authors several columns, using her God-given talent to shine a light in a dark world. You can browse her blog at Refreshment In Refuge.

If you'd like to take a look at some Christian fiction and Christian non-fiction book reviews before the books hit the book store shelves, check out Gina's book reviews at Upon Reflection

Gina is a partner and COO of Common Sense Marketing Strategies, LLC that owns Authors Community and
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