We Have a Limitless Capacity to Love

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Few people have shaped my life like my beloved Oma Toews, my maternal grandmother. She was a woman with extraordinary capacity and I was blessed to be a recipient of her huge and bountiful heart. Her capacity to love has instructed me all of my life. I will never forget the day of her funeral service when I learned one of the greatest lessons of my life from the way she loved.

I know it sounds rather arrogant to say, but I truly believed that I was my Oma’s favourite. I was well aware that she loved all my siblings and cousins, but secretly I was convinced she had a special place in her heart that was reserved for me alone—the favourite one. Following her funeral service, we gathered in the fellowship hall of the church and people were invited to share stories and their fondest memories of my Oma. How surprised I was to hear that person after person felt exactly the same way that I did—they all seemed to suspect that they were Oma’s favourite too!

Not only did her family feel that way, but virtually everyone in her life felt that somehow they shared an extra-special bond with her. Her capacity to make every single person a treasured somebody has been a constant source of encouragement and challenge in my life. She loved enormously and without reservation no matter how much hurt and disappointment she endured in life. I know that her decision to love so extensively wasn’t an easy choice at all. It was costly but obviously so very worth it. How I would so love to be known as a woman whose capacity to love was immense.

Our capacity to love will be the most significant thing that shapes our life and our future. Love is far more than a feeling based on our emotions and it is costly and rare. Love that doesn’t cost us is just a feeling. We enlarge and stretch our capacity by choosing love because our hearts are not finite. As children of God we are equipped and empowered to love without human measure because of Love that lives within us. Love is the greatest superpower that this world will ever know. It transcends the darkness and evil in this world that constantly seeks to annihilate it. Love is greater, more powerful and lasting and will never, ever fail.

“But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love.’” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (The Voice)

As our love grows we have less and less room for unforgiveness, judgement or fear.

Nothing will block your capacity to grow into all that God intends for you to be like choosing not to forgive. Life is guaranteed to give you many opportunities to be offended, hurt and disappointed. Forgiving someone is not so much about them as it is about investing into your own future. Your heart can’t handle the unbearable weight of unforgiveness, so the sooner you release it, the freer you will be to grow your heart and future.

Jesus taught us so clearly that when we judge someone, it is actually an indictment of our very own hearts. This truth has challenged me more times than I care to admit.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbour’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own.’ Matthew 7:1-3 (The Message)

What can I say but, “OUCH, Hallelujah!” I know that when I am tempted to judge people, I have chosen to limit my capacity to love people, so while I struggle almost daily to keep this in check, I will hopefully consistently choose the high road on this by the grace of God.

And when it comes to fear, remember: a heart that loves is a heart that has chosen to trust. Trust means that we are willing to open our hearts to others who could potentially hurt us. Every single relationship on earth has the ability to hurt us. Many have been hurt deeply and have decided that because of this they will close themselves off relationally as a way to protect themselves, but sadly the opposite happens. We end up building a cage around our heart and life that becomes impenetrable, isolating ourselves and living a lonely existence instead of a flourishing life, filled with amazing relationships. It is risky? Absolutely, but so very, very worth it too!

So, my gorgeous sisters, let’s all launch into this brand new year with a longing to grow in our capacity to love like Jesus loved. He held nothing back and His Spirit living in us enables us to grow a greater capacity to love without self-imposed limitations.

Ready? Let’s do this! xox

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Helen Burns

Helen Burns

Helen Burns and her husband, John, speak around the world on the topic of relationships. They host the popular TV show “Relate with John and Helen.”
Helen Burns
Helen Burns

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  • Shaley Hoogendoorn

    … a heart that loves is a heart that has chosen to trust.

    I love that so much. My hope is that I can choose this every single day. Thank you forsharing your stories of your Oma with us. She sounds like a GEM. She sounds like my Ampy Joe – I couldn’t make the”Gr” sound when I was a little so the name Ampy stuck❤. My cousins and I are still each convinced we were his absolute favourite! He spoke to everyone he passed on the streets and never did I hear an unkind word from him about others. I can imagine your granddaughters feel your love in the same way. xx

    • Helene Burns

      How blessed we are to have been loved by such magnificent grandparents. It is a gift that carries us for our entire lives. I can see through your life that it spills over into the lives of others around you. SO much love to you Shaley. xo

  • Bev Murrill

    I suspect that you are very much like your Oma, Helen… I think people feel special because of the way you speak to them… I know I do.

    • Helene Burns

      Bev… your words are such an encouragement to me. Thank you.

      My Oma’s love seemed to know no limits – I know I still have a long way to go but she still continues to inspire me often. xo

  • What a treasure your Oma must have been! I’m so thankful for the people in this world who embody Isaiah 58 kind of love: well-watered gardens with gurgling springs that never run dry!

    And, Helen, thank you for taking that turn into the topic of forgiveness as well, for it puts love on display even in hard times.

    • Helene Burns

      Happy New Year Michele…your words are always such an encouragement – you are truly a well-watered garden that bubbles up to bring encouragement and hope.

      It’s true that we truly don’t know how unconditional our love really is until there are some difficult conditions to overcome.

      Much love to you today. xo

  • sandyhay

    ” Many have been hurt deeply and have decided that because of this they will close themselves off relationally as a way to protect themselves,…” this entire paragraph describes my father’s life. Yet by God’s grace I learned love from my grandmother, his mother. Thank you Helen for opening your heart and sharing it with all of us.

    • Helene Burns

      Thank God for godly grandmothers who have often lead the way by their love for God and us. Your words are a blessing Sandy. xo

  • Beautiful! I had some Christian elder s ask me when I was still a new Christian what I thought was “next” for Christianity. I said “radical love” ..I was shocked by the numb look on their faces. Your prophetic words ring true the heart of the gospel so many miss and misrepresent. Gorgeous writing!

    • Helene Burns

      I couldn’t agree more – radical love will always be the superpower of this world. Jesus demonstrated it to us perfectly and it is our privilege to carry this love into the world we are called to serve. Thanks for your encouragement Kathy xo

  • What a beautiful example in your Oma as to the sort of person we should wish to be. Thank you for sharing!

    • Helene Burns

      I agree… she set a beautiful example for me to aspire to. xo

  • Helen, I love this! I’ve just been writing an article on transparency and the power of true love to unlock our ability to be transparent with one another. Gosh, so difficult to do on days but you are spot on about forgiveness being the key. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Helene Burns

      Thanks Jen… xo