Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Love God

A large portion of main stream Christian discussion seems to be revolving around action.  If we say we are Christ-following, Bible-believing, God-fearing Christians, then the way we live should be unmistakably linked to the commandments of Jesus and undeniably evident to our desperate world.  In general, growing up I believed that my behavior was acceptable to Jesus as long as I did not smoke, drink, or chew or go with girls (in my case, guys) that do.  The latest Christian message that is on the move in books, sermons, studies, etc. is that keeping the "rules" is really not the bottom line when it comes to obeying Christ; instead, Jesus has instructed us that "Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us" - {James 1:27 NLT}.  Jesus said, "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples" - {John 13:35 NLT}.  Loving others is so important that Jesus basically equated it with loving God when He said, "`You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.'   This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: `Love your neighbor as yourself.'  All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments" - {Matthew 22:37-40 NLT}. 

I have often wrestled with the question: How do I love God?  Loving God seems abstract and unemotional and it is difficult for me to understand my love for God in a concrete, grounded way.  The honest truth is sometimes I do not feel like I love God; and that confuses me.  A perspective that I have mulled over for a good many years is the idea that when I display love towards another person, I am, in fact, loving God. Matthew 25:40 says, "And the King will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'"  At times, I find this comforting, especially during the times I do not feel connected to God.  It is also another message from Scripture that assures me that we are to be in action, in motion, doing the will of God.

However, I cannot ignore the question, "Who is my neighbor?".  So many Christian agendas seem to communicate that we must do something significant and blatantly meaningful for it to count as pleasing obedience to the call of Christ.  Do I have to travel across ten oceans to love my neighbor?  Or can I love my neighbor right where I am?  I am not saying that we should ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit to leave this comfortable life and embrace a life of hardship for the sake of taking the Good News of Jesus to unreached people and loving the poor in a life of selfless generosity.  What I do find myself bothered by is a call to action and action alone.  I am under the impression that we are acting for the mere purpose of just doing something good, but we have no other motivation.   I personally do not want to obey God motivated by manufactured human pressure and guilt. However, I do want my prayer to resonate with the prayer Mother Teresa sincerely penned in her diary, "...Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard".   So, I must beg the question: Does our love for God grow deeper when we extend love to others or does loving others erupt out of our love for God?

Recently, a personal realization has shed light on the subject of loving God and loving people.  During a passing time of self-doubt and discouragement, my husband asked me what was wrong.  I sheepishly answered, "I just wish I wanted to do what I am supposed to do."   I further explained, "I am not a finisher; I just don't finish strong, I have a strong start and then I loose the energy and fade out."  My husband responded by saying, "So it sounds like you are saying that you want to be content and you struggle with being discontent.  Right?"  "Well..." I stammered, "yeah...that's....that's right!"  How he made that insightful deduction, I have not clue, but God used him and wah-lah, a light bulb went off in my head!  I never had seen myself so clearly.  My entire five and half years of motherhood had been spent yearning to find contentment in mothering my kids, because I thought I was supposed to be loving them and I thought that I should be happy doing it.  I recall finding myself in the middle of the routine daydreaming about what I wish I was doing instead of refereeing fussy kids or playing Barbies or cleaning up cheerios in every nook and cranny of my dirty house.  Then I would turn right around, beat myself up for wasting even a minute on longing to escape this precious time of life.  I wish I would just be with my young little ones who will not be little forever.  Why can I not just embrace the place God has put me and let go, let God, and love these babies who are really so easy to love?  WHY?!

You see, I had it all wrong.  I wanted to be content in my circumstances, in motherhood, in the place God put me, but I was missing the boat.  Paul wrote, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength. -{Philippians 4:13 NIV}."  My children, my husband, my motherhood will not make me content; only Jesus will satisfy my thirsty soul.  Like Eve in the Garden of Eden susceptible to Satan's enticing lies of fleeting bliss, I run to the next temporary fix and find that my heart is still hungry for happiness.  Like Eve, I am a lost child made to love God, my Creator, but instead I substitute every hobby, every dream, everyone for God.  I attempt to love the place and the people around me, when all I need to do is love the One who first loved me.

Before I can ever love anyone, I must love God first.  And of course, "We love because He first loved us" {1 John 4:19 NIV}.  Right now, amidst the flashy messages and the analytical chaos, I resign to the simple truth: Love God.  "How?" you ask.  Good question...which brings us full circle to where we began...

3 Spout:

I was just reading in the book "The Me I Want to Be," about loving God. When we are focusing and dwelling on good things, we are loving God. When we notice a beautiful rainbow, we are loving God. When we take joy in holding our child's hand, we are loving God. When we listen to music we like, read a book we enjoy, or taste delicious food, we are loving God. Whenever we delight in His goodness and the life He's given us and are grateful for all these blessings, we are loving Him. So easy, huh?

I am so glad you shared this thought Karen! I'd be interested in understanding how the author marries this idea with Scripture. I wish I did not over analyze everything; your comment suggests simplicity and it definitely intrigues me! Thanks for sharing!

I can see why you feel this way. I have the book downloaded on my eReader, so I tried to locate the page that discussed this and it was a slow process, but I think the verse was: "Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of all lights who satisfies the desires of those who fear him." He wrote: "It is a good thing to eat food you love to eat, wear clothes you love to wear, listen to music that makes you feel glad, and then to thank God that He gave you your body so you can see and hear and touch and laugh and dance. As you open yourself to the flow of the Spirit in your physical desires, you begin to love God more and more, not because you should or because it's commanded, but because when you get to know Him, you just can't help it. What else could you do?" That doesn't mean living in the flesh and doing whatever makes us "feel" good, but living Godly lives, of course, and being mindful the Holy Spirit is part of the things we enjoy. I think the author basically means when we are mindful of the beauty around us, of God's gifts and thankful for them, this is a way we show God our love and gratitude, like keeping a blessings journal might be. Make better sense now?

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