I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved carnivals. There is something strangely appealing about the gritty atmosphere. I love the way the lights shine more brightly and everything becomes more colorful after dark. What I especially love is reading about old sideshow acts. Sword swallowers, fire breathers, snake charmers. What fascinates me the most are contortionists? How those people ever bend their bodies into those precarious positions, I’ll never understand. I imagine some of it is natural prowess, but like all art forms, it must be perfected through years of practice and dedication. Look at ballerinas – I can’t help but be impressed when I see the range of motion their bodies have achieved.
I’ve read that the average person can do the splits in two weeks if they stretch a little more each day. I’ve never been able to do the splits. I work out regularly, but I still absolutely hate stretching. Why? Stretching is uncomfortable. It’s really uncomfortable if you haven’t stretched your muscles for a long period of time.
It’s interesting that Peter uses the illustration of stretching when referring to loving others. In 1 Peter 1:22 he writes, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart.” The word fervently comes from the Greek word ektenōs, which means to be stretched to an extremity. So why does loving someone sometimes feel like being subjected to the rack torture instead? Well, if you aren’t flexing that muscle enough, it’s going to be tight and tense. It’s not going to feel good.
Everyone has at least one person in their life that isn’t easy to love. Sometimes our best efforts at loving them leave us tied in a human knot. But we’ve all heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect.” If you have dedication to your craft and daily stretch your love to it’s limits, you’ll become more and more flexible over time. We shouldn’t just settle for perfecting the splits, though. Our goal should be to be contortionists of love. A love that leaves the world in awe, scratching their heads and wondering, ‘What’s different about them? That kind of love is supernatural.’ We’ve all seen these verses plastered on valentines day cards and wedding invitations, but the practical and honest application remains:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Do you feel like you’ve been slacking in the love department? The good news is as long as you’re living, you’ll never run out of chances to stretch yourself for others. Seize those opportunities!