Words by Scott Axtmann
Love is a strange thing. For as long as I can remember, it has been a part of the vocabulary around me. Growing up in the 70’s, there were so many songs that talked about love like, “All You Need Is Love” by the Beatles. As a youngster in a religious school, I heard a little about the love of Jesus, but the scary, mean treatment of the teachers toward the students was confusing. I do remember feeling an intense crush for this cute girl named Noelle and thinking—maybe this is love? The adults in my life constantly pressed me to be nice, to share and to love. Love was important, but what was it, exactly? Everybody seemed to want this thing called love, but no one seemed to know exactly what it was or how to get it.
Love was important, but what was it, exactly?
The strongest taste of genuine love I experienced, I think, came from my great-grandmother, who we called “Grandma with the Cane”. She was a quiet, gentle soul, very old and frail. She lived in a small trailer kept very neat and though it was small and simple it felt like heaven. When I arrived her face would light up with a glistening glow. She would pull me close and when she embraced me I felt all my badness drain out of me. Just being around her made me soft. I almost couldn’t help reflecting the love I saw in her eyes. She would talk with me with such interest and affection. She didn’t say much but the way she listened to me made me feel rich and important and, well, deeply loved. I always walked away a better kid and her love became the seed for a greater love I would know later in life.
God designed us to give and receive love.
I wonder sometimes what people who aren’t Christians imagine the Christian life to be like. From a distance it can appear like a burden of rules to follow and rituals to practice. It can even look ornery and ugly when Christians say insensitive things on social media. Some Christians talk about love but don’t seem to live love. All this can be confusing to an “outsider” looking in. I admit that as a Christian I’ve added to the confusion by failing to love well.
Someone once said, “we are born for love”. God designed us to give and receive love. The Christianity that Jesus intended for us is not merely rules and rituals but is a little like the experience I had with my great-grandma as a child. His desire is to pull us out of the black hole of animosity and bring us close to himself. He wants to bring us into the warmth of His love. He wants to bring us home. He longs for us to come near, not so he can scold us, but so that he can speak tenderly to us. He wants to embrace us with his love and squeeze out all the poison of sinfulness that rots our souls. The essence of the Christian faith is that we come out of darkness and into the light of a beautiful intimate life-giving relationship with the Creator! It’s so good!
The essence of the Christian faith is that we come out of darkness and into the light of a beautiful intimate life-giving relationship with the Creator!
It makes my heart sad that so many people around me, who I really care for, have pushed away the invitation of Jesus, because they think Christianity is something negative. I wish they could experience just one small taste of God’s love. For me that first taste happened when I was a young adult. I had exhausted myself with drug use, chasing pleasure and broken relationships. Though I was an angry young man, and one who even mocked Christians, the love of God came crashing into me like a giant wave upon a small row boat. I don’t think I ever cried so hard in my life as God’s love flooded into the deepest part of my being.
When the wave passed I found myself secure in the arms of a loving Father and with a brand new heart. This was almost 30 years ago and I’m still swimming in this beautiful, mysterious, overwhelming love of the Eternal Father.
[T]his love of God is open to all people.
The way I found this Love is not how all people find it. I’ve known some who discover the love of Christ more gradual. And others who are raised in it. But one thing I am convinced of is that this love of God is open to all people. If you find your heart craving to know the love of the One who made you, open your heart and begin to ask God to reveal himself. He will.
Scott grew up in Western Massachusetts and came to the faith at the age of 21. As the outcome of his transformed life, he founded and now Pastors Renaissance Church and CityLove.