Loving in the Crucible
About the Guest
We learn things in the crucible of life that we won't learn anywhere else. Author Paul Miller returns to the Book of Ruth to teach us a lesson about love. Naomi lost all of her family except her daughters-in-law. She went back to Israel bitter of heart, even though Ruth has made this amazing pledge to her. It's an entirely one-way love. Ruth goes the distance to care for Naomi, and that's what we must do if we are to love like Christ does.
Paul MillerPaul E. Miller (MDiv, Biblical Seminary) is executive director of seeJesus, a global discipling mission, and best-selling author of books and interactive Bible studies including A Praying Life and J-Curve. He and his wife, Jill, live in the Philadelphia area and have six children and a growing number of grandchildren. Follow @_PaulEMiller on Twitter, listen to the Seeing Jesus with Paul Miller podcast, or learn more at seeJesus.net.
Paul Miller teaches about love from the Book of Ruth. Ruth goes the distance to care for Naomi, and that’s what we must do if we are to love like Christ does.
Loving in the Crucible
Bob: Whether we like it or not, learning to love is going to involve suffering. Here’s author, Paul Miller.
Paul: Down there, in the crucible, is where you get to know God. If you don’t give into bitterness / if you receive what the Father has given you in this hard thing—whether it’s a difficult spouse, or a disabled child, or a difficult boss—if you receive that, as from the Father, then you meet and get to know God in ways that you’ve never imagined.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 15th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how we learn to love, even if we get no love in return. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We have added a chair in the studio for this part of our program.
Dennis: It’s a true radio professional. Kim Miller has already been on FamilyLife Today a number of years ago. We welcome you to the broadcast, Kim.
Paul: Kim, what do you want to say?
Bob: There we go! Now, we should explain that that was not Kim’s voice we heard; right?
Paul: That’s correct.
Bob: Kim’s dad, Paul Miller, joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Paul is an author and a speaker. He and his wife Jill have six children and 9.3 grandchildren. Kim is one of the six children—
Dennis: —who has taught you how to love.
Dennis: And you’ve written a book called The Loving Life.
Paul: That’s right.
Bob: Kim! [Laughter] Explain to us whose voice that is we’re hearing, Paul.
Paul: Well, that’s the voice of a speech computer that has 128 keys on it that has all of these icon combinations that Kim puts together to get the speech computer to say what she wants.
Bob: The synthesizer.
Bob: And Kim is—she’s in her early 30s—is that what you said?
Paul: Yes, she’s 32.
Bob: There we go. Thank you. Explain to everybody: “What is her physical condition?”
Paul: Well, Kim struggles a little bit with autism; right?
Paul: Just development delay—fine motor skills are hard for us / speaking is hard—right, Kim?
Dennis: You’ve written a book, Paul. We wanted to bring Kim in because you’ve learned how to love in the midst of doing life. Your book is from the book of Ruth in the Old Testament.
Paul: That’s right.
Dennis: And you’re talking about how we ultimately learn how to love by embracing the crucible.
Dennis: Embracing the suffering—Kim’s nodding her head right now—
Paul: Yes; yes.
Dennis: —that God brings into our life.
Paul: That’s right. It is embracing Christ in the suffering. That’s when Christ comes alive. Instead of pushing it away and saying, “God, this is what You’ve brought into my life.” It’s actually kind of a fellowship of sharing in Christ’s suffering—not kind of—but it really is. What it does is—to make present the gospel in your life.
Dennis: Okay, so take us to the time when you and Jill found out that Kim was going to have some special needs. Let’s talk about how you embraced that when you found that out.
Paul: You know, that took years to absorb that. I mean, for Jill—I would love to have Jill say it in her own words—but she remembers a day when she began to close her eyes—probably when Kim was about one year old. Every day, she would close her eyes, and walk up to the foot of Calvary, and lay Kim down, and turn and walk away—just that ongoing surrender. You know—a lot of these crucibles—what makes them a crucible is that they don’t go away. They are suffering. You know, life doesn’t turn out as planned. It ends up not being the Disney story that we thought it was going to be.
Bob: And a lot of people will hear you describe that process—that Jill went through and how the two of you processed all of this—and they’ll say, “So what you’re telling me is you just need to kind of turn it over to God and put the best face on it and move on.”
Paul: No, that’s what people often are tempted to do; but that’s actually Greek stoicism, where you just kind of buck-up. What it is—there are so many sides to this kind of love—but, partly, it’s just being honest about how difficult something like this is.
What you see in Naomi and what you see in all people who really become—I like to use the word “lovers,” even though it gets abused—what you see in people, who really develop enormous capacities for love, is they hang in there for long periods of time. Obviously, you cannot do it in your own strength.
Dennis: A lot of folks don’t know who Naomi is—they don’t know the story of Ruth.
Dennis: Can you just really quickly tell that story?
Paul: Well, Naomi has lost her husband and her two sons in a foreign land. She has concluded that God is against her.
Yet, even though she has concluded that God is against her and is really overwhelmed with bitterness, she does the right thing. She puts one foot in front of her and returns to the Promised Land, which is her city of Bethlehem, even though every part of her is screaming, “There’s no point to life anymore.”
Then, of course, in the book itself, God sends Ruth, who binds herself to Naomi in hesed love. Then Ruth ends up meeting Boaz, and they get married. The whole book is a true death/resurrection story.
Dennis: And hesed love, in its essence, is a commitment.
Paul: It’s a commitment.
Dennis: It says, “I’m hanging in there, and I’m pressing into both the challenges and the person of Jesus Christ.”
Paul: That’s right; that’s right.
Bob: Kim, I have a question for you. Would you say that your life has been easy or hard?
Bob: It’s been hard.
How have you learned to find joy and to find love in the middle of a hard life?
Kim: I love to see movies.
Bob: You love to see movies? In those stories in the movies, you find joy?
Bob: Yes. There is something about seeing stories—about seeing how other people go through—Paul, what you call “the J-curve,” which is that curve of going from happiness to sadness to happiness again. We see that lived out in the lives of others and that can point us in the right direction.
Paul: Right, that’s correct. And if Kim and I can tell a story together on just how the J-curve operates.
Paul: This goes back a couple of years, but it was Mother’s Day. I thought, “I’ll give Jill a break, and I’ll take Kim with me on a speaking trip to Florida.
Kim: Mother’s Day.
Paul: That’s right. And what were we going to do in Florida, Kim? What was our plan—to go to what park?
Paul: That’s right. So, I packed my bag. I guess Mom helped you pack your bag. I had to bring a box down—that we wrote the name of our organization on—it’s seeJesus™.
Paul: And we got to long-term parking in the Philadelphia airport. The first thing you did was—you did what, as soon as we got out of the car, Kim, what did you do? I saw you rumbling—you looked through your bag—
Paul: You looked for your book. And did you find your book?
Paul: So what did you start to do, right there, in the parking lot?
Kim: Complained. [Laughter]
Paul: You complained. [Laughter] So, poor Dad—at least, that was what I was thinking. I had two suitcases; and I was carrying this big box that says, “seeJesus”; and you’re complaining / I am kind of towing you along.
We make our way over to the bus stall, and there are about 15 people there. You’re complaining in front of all these 15 people. Then the bus came—all of the people got on the bus. I thought, “How am I going to not be separated from Kim and the luggage?” So, I put Kim on the bus first and then pulled the luggage up, a piece at a time. Then, what did the bus driver do while I was trying to get the luggage on the bus, Kim?
Kim: Bus driver shut the door.
Paul: He shut the door on me. So, Kim has been complaining all this time. What did you do, at that point?
Kim: Laugh. [Laughter]
Bob: She thought it was funny!
Paul: Yes, she thought it was funny. So, the complaining stopped because I am close to death, with all of these boxes coming, crushing down on me. You think that’s pretty funny—
Paul: —because it reminds you, probably,—
Bob: She’s still laughing.
Dennis: She’s still laughing, yes.
Paul: She’s still laughing today.
Dennis: She’s got a big grin on her face. [Laughter]
Paul: Yes. So, we got to Terminal C—US Airways—and we go in. What did we see in the terminal, Kim?
Kim: Many people.
Paul: Many people, yes. I thought, “Oh, no! I have to do all of this as a carry on.” We went upstairs to security. As soon as we got upstairs to security, what did they do, Kim?
Paul: Do you remember what they did, Kim?
Paul: Yes, they closed one of the two lines. All of a sudden, our line became twice as long. You were doing what now?
Paul: Yes, because you hate waiting. I mean—it’s just really hard for you. So you were complaining pretty loudly. Then we get to the place—the conveyor belt. The man said to put your speech computer on. You said what?
Kim: It is my voice.
Paul: Yes, “It is my voice.”
Dennis: “You can’t have that—put that in the machine.”
Paul: Yes, [Laughter] so she starts arguing with this transportation security official. Not wanting to get arrested, I ripped the speech computer out of Kim’s hand / put it on the conveyor belt. We got through. Then this guard decided to really make a close inspection of my box.
Paul: I’m as nervous as Don Knots, at this point, about missing our flight; right Kim?
Paul: We’ve got a seminar to go to, and all kinds of stuff is going on. Then, I discovered that we were in the wrong terminal.
Paul: We had to get to Terminal B / we were in C. I threw myself in front of one of these little guys with the carts and begged. Kim thinks it’s hilarious. [Laughter] She knows what’s coming next. Then the guy rescued us—he let us on. Then, we take off. As soon as we head into the top of B terminal, what do we get behind, Kim?
Paul: A man doing what?
Paul: A man talking on his cell phone.
He couldn’t hear us—we were beeping behind him. Now, Dad’s getting irritated.
Paul: And you started laughing because you thought it was funny that Dad was irritated.
Paul: All down this long ramp, the man is going, “La de da de da de da.” [Laughter]
We finally get to the gate—we just make it in time. Then we get on the plane, and you’re all electronized with your book.
Paul: The stewardess comes by and says, “You’ve got to turn off your devices.” What did you tell the stewardess, Kim?
Paul: You started arguing with the stewardess. [Laughter] She’s not going to turn off any of her devices. [Laughter] Then the pilot said there were 12 planes ahead of us.
Paul: When you heard that, with all of your electronic devices shut off, you had a meltdown. Do you remember that, Kim?—you got really upset. I said to myself, “I will never do this again.” I tried to say, “We’re not going to do Disney”; but that was the whole point; right?
Paul: I said, “I will never do this again.” There were just so many things, as I reflected on that day. I thought: “You know what? It is actually what love is like.” The very structure of love is—you take the weight of someone else’s life onto you. We recoil from the structure of love, but that’s exactly what love is. I mean, Jesus takes the weight of our sin on Himself.
Paul: Just giving Jill a Mother’s Day off—the weight of her life came on me. I was recoiling from the work of love, but that was exactly what it was—it was just love.
One of the things that God does for us, at the bottom of the J-Curve that we were talking about—this pattern of Jesus’ life—of His life, death, and resurrection—is that’s where He runs our ego through a shredder. I thought, “The next day, I’m going to be speaking to a lot of people, who are going to be listening to my every word.” I was actually ashamed of myself, as I was in front of those other crowds, worried about how I looked—
—that God was giving me the gift of humility to balance out even the ego—and not necessarily bad ego—but the inflated self that can come. It was actually a gift to me.
Bob: Paul, I have to imagine that a lot of the lessons you’ve learned about love—we’ve talked about learning them in the context of marriage, but I have to think that God has used Kim—
Paul: Oh, yes.
Bob: —as maybe the greatest instrument in your life to teach you what a loving life looks like.
Bob: And the reason is that it’s been hard.
Bob: It’s kind of like pressure makes a diamond. When we’re in this crucible of “hard,” God’s at work; isn’t He?
Paul: Down there, in the crucible, is where you get to know God if you don’t give into bitterness / if you receive what the Father has given you in this hard thing—whether it’s a difficult spouse, or a disabled child, or a difficult boss—if you receive that, as from the Father, then you meet and get to know God in ways that you’ve never imagined. You begin to pick up the cadence of Jesus. He becomes almost physically tangible to you.
Here’s just a quick story—just from the work side / on the ministry side. I was at a conference, speaking. It had about 500 people at it, and we had roving mics. There was one person in the seminar—when I would ask questions, who kept saying a lot of stuff. It really didn’t connect too much with what I was asking about.
Paul: The pastor came up to me at the end of Friday night and said, “Paul, I’ve talked to that person, and you won’t have that problem again.” I thanked him for it because that was a helpful thing to do.
But I said, “It’s not the worst thing in the world; in fact, it’s a good thing for 499 people to see me being patient with a slightly troubled person,” because, by my seminar being mildly ruined, I get to display Christ—it’s an entirely different way of looking at life. What we tend to do is look for the perfection of the seminar; but what Christ wants to find is the perfection of the image of His Son in me so that, then, God becomes present, as we begin to see the beauty of Christ emerge in the church.
Bob: How do you think you and Jill would be different people today if God had not put Kimmy in your life?
Paul: I can’t even imagine it—she’s God’s best gift to us.
Dennis: In what way? Give me a tangible way you’re a different man today because of her.
Bob: Because when you say that, you know that people think that’s the right Christian answer to say—is that she’s God’s gift. But you say it with sincerity; don’t you?
Paul: Oh, yes. One of the stories I remember was when I was working at the Independence National Park—the national park downtown. A homeless man—he was drunk—came up to me and this other coworker. He barely got his words out—I just kind of dismissed him. My friend, whom I’m not even sure was a believer, listened to the guy—found out what he wanted. Afterwards, turned to me and said, “Why did you treat him that way?” I mean, I was doing the opposite of Jesus, looking in compassion. That’s what I mean by that.
Dennis: Your eyesight is better—you’re saying.
Paul: We see much better; yes.
Dennis: You see people for who they are—image-bearers.
Bob: You’re a little more patient.
Bob: You listen better.
Dennis: Your assignment is to love them, in the moment, regardless of the circumstances.
Paul: Yes; yes.
Dennis: I want to read a passage of Scripture. Then, I want you to just help conclude our broadcast because this is what you’ve been talking about all this week.
It’s found in 1 Peter, Chapter 4, verse 12: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you as though”—and this is the part I always smile about—“as though something strange were happening to you.”
Paul: Yes, yes.
Dennis: In other words, we’re to expect trials—
Dennis: —not to be surprised by trials—
Paul: Yes, yes.
Dennis: —because trials come with an assignment; don’t they?
Dennis: It goes on to say, “But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” That’s what it’s about; isn’t it?
Paul: You begin to taste downpayments of that glory, even in the bottom of the crucible, as people begin to see the beauty of Christ emerge out of you.
Dennis: You’re saying you’ve tasted glory—
Dennis: —through a daughter, who’s 30-plus years old—
Dennis: —in loving her, being patient with her, humbling yourself to care for her—giving, giving, giving—and not quitting.
Paul: That’s exactly it.
Dennis: And to that person, who’s got an assignment, right now—that may not be packaged just like this was packaged for you and Jill—what would you say to him or her—who is finding circumstances unbearable?
Paul: Hang in there—resurrection is coming. You don’t know the timing or the shape of the resurrection; but you can begin to taste the resurrection, even as you begin to surrender to the path that God has put you on, because, immediately, a joy begins to well up in your heart as you stop fighting the world that God has put you in.
Dennis: Barbara and I have—and I don’t know why, Paul—but for some reason, in recent days, we’re talking a lot about the second coming—
Dennis: —that Jesus is coming back—
Dennis: —and the hope of that and how we ought to be living in light of that.
Dennis: And I’ll tell you—it’s been a while since we’ve had any length of time where we’ve talked about it as much as we have in the last month. It’s been refreshing because it reminds us that this is temporal—that this is not the ultimate. Oh, my goodness! If this was the ultimate, how sad would that be?
Dennis: But there is a place that He is preparing for us that we might see Him, as He is, without any hindrance. We would find ourselves stripped of ego, of flesh, of selfishness—
Dennis: —and be able to enter into the presence of true joy.
Bob: In the midst of the hard parts of life, we could either resist and kick against the goad—which is what Jesus said to Paul: “Why are you kicking against the goad? Why are you resisting my direction for you?”—or you can embrace it and, in the process, the diamond of love begins to be cultivated in your life.
Paul: Yes, amen.
Dennis: Paul, you’ve taken your journey / your life and you’ve done a great job of writing about it. I appreciate your gift, and also standing firm on the Scriptures, and staying true to the truth of God’s Word.
Dennis: Thanks for being on the broadcast.
Paul: It’s great to be with you guys.
Bob: And thanks for bringing Kim along with you today as well. We hope that a lot of our listeners will get a copy of your book, which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. It’s called A Loving Life. “How do you love with no love in return?” and “How do you love when no one notices or cares?” You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy of the book; or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” We can get Paul’s book sent to you.
I also want to draw attention to the resource that Barbara Rainey has created on the subject of love.
It’s a garland that can hang in your home—a chain garland that’s got little clothes pins on it and you attach to it some hearts. Each heart has a different characteristic of love. On the inside, there’s a devotional that explains what it means that love is patient or love is not arrogant or rude. These are the different aspects of love that you can use for family devotions—just hang the garland in your dining area or in one of the kids’ bedrooms—and pull down a heart and read a different devotion.
Find out more about the resource that Barbara calls “How Do I Love Thee?” It’s in the Ever Thine Home® collection. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” There’s information about Paul Miller’s book there and about the “How Do I Love Thee?” garland. You can order from us, online, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order.
You know, I kept thinking today about Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, It’s All about Love. Really, it is all about love. Jesus was asked, “What’s the greatest commandment?” He said, “It’s loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and the second is like unto it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Then, He said, “All of the Old Testament—all of the Law and the Prophets—can be summed up in these two commandments.
Here, at FamilyLife, we’re committed to love being at the center of every home. We want to effectively develop godly families who change the world, one home at a time. Our conviction is that, when our relationship with God is what it ought to be, that’s going to spill out and spill over into our relationships in our marriages and in our families. So, this daily radio program is coaching you, every day, on how you can grow in godliness in the relationships that matter most—your relationship with God and your relationships with the members of your family.
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In this house, we give thanks for you. Thank you for your support of this ministry.
And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to have a couple of guys join us—Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas. We’re going to talk about dating and relationships in our culture today and see if we can think a little more biblically about that subject. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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