Love the Lord your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (NIV Matthew 22:37,38, 39, 40)
Love: I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. What is it really? How does it manifest itself in me? After all, love isn’t visible or tangible. We can’t touch it, taste it or even see it. Love is both an emotion and an action that is displayed in our interactions with others. Love is both a verb and noun.
When I say I love sitting on my deck listening to the birds, it is a purely self-motivated emotional reaction that occurs in my deepest senses. I hear the birds singing, see the greenness of the trees, the deepness of the forest, and look beyond the trees to the shimmering lake. Whatever negative things that are happening in my life, this scenery calms me. I feel like everything is ok in the world. But, it benefits no one except myself. Some could argue that because I am calmer, I’m better able to deal with stressors and people in my life. So in that sense, it does benefit my relationships with others. But am I loving others by taking care of myself? A debatable point.
I love my husband. I love my kids. How do I know that? Seeing them stirs something inside my soul. I look for the expression on their faces and their body language so that I can tune in to what has happening in their day. I yearn to do something special for them. Whether I’m cooking a meal or doing laundry, they are always there in the back of my mind. When they hurt, I hurt along with them. I always hope for the best for them, and am happy when things turn out well for them.
When it comes to people in the community, I don’t feel that same sense of yearning. Often when I see a need, it’s too easy to turn away and think that someone else will help that person deal with that. It’s not my business. Staying out of other people’s business sometimes means people’s needs don’t get met. From personal experience, I can honestly say that people can feel ignored and unloved when everyone around them is subscribing to this worldly admonition to “mind your own business.” Yes, people need to ask for help, but sometimes people don’t know who they can ask or who will be willing to help. Think of the good Samaritan. If he too had crossed over on the other side of the road and ignored the man bruised and bleeding, the story would have ended very differently. We have to be careful not to be too callous. Sensitivity to others needs is important. I believe this is showing love for our neighbor.
What does it mean to love the Lord with all your heart, your mind, and your soul? Other than reading the word and worshiping God at church, how can we show God that we love him?
Notice that the bible differentiates between the heart, the mind and the soul. These are three different entities that all need to come together to worship God in unity. We can love God by going to church, but if our mind is elsewhere, our soul won’t benefit from it. Also, if we pollute our minds with the wrong things, it will affect how our heart responds to others, and our soul can be damaged accordingly.
I have a garden that is surrounded by concrete walls. The entrance to the garden is a tall white arbor that you must pass through before you can see the fullness of the garden. Once inside, I have a wooden bench where I can sit and gaze at my flowers and green plants, or take a break from pulling weeds. Depending on the mood that I am in, sometimes I only see the flowers blooming there, other days I only see the weeds. On the days I only see weeds, I resent getting in the garden and cleaning it up. I might sit on my bench and complain about the weeds, and then get up and leave because I can’t enjoy the beauty that is glistening right in front of me. On the days I only see the flowers, I might spot a weed, pull it out, then sit back and enjoy the extra spot of beauty that I just created. On those, I can sit for hours and be mesmerized by God’s beautiful creation that I am privileged to tend. However, if I continually ignore the weeds, more will grow. Eventually, I would have more weeds than flowers.
Our heart is a garden that needs tending. If we feed it love, it will grow more love. If we feed it anger, jealousy, impatience, it will grow that as well. Our mind is the entry point to that garden, the gateway through which all soul food enters. If we feed on negative thoughts, immoral attitudes, resentments, those things fertilize our garden with weeds that are very difficult to pull out. If we watch questionable television shows and movies, that don’t agree with our moral beliefs, we are slowly training our mind to accept what we see on TV and movies as normal. The weeds of society slowly but gradually take over our minds, and suddenly things that didn’t seem right before, are just fine with us.
Pick out any movie from the 1950’s and compare it to the films of today. Look at the differences in moral standards, attitudes and actions displayed. What is ok today would have been considered obscene back then. Yet we shrug our shoulders and ignore the obvious. There are weeds that have infiltrated society, but no one wants to pull them out. Are we loving God, ourselves or our neighbor by allowing these lowered moral standards to infect our society?
What would happen if we really began to invest our thoughts, actions, heart and soul to the pursuit of the love of God? If that were to become our primary reason for everything we did? Would it be possible to pull out the weeds that have infected our lives so that we could see the flowers again? More importantly, would others notice the God in us? Isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing anyway – attracting others to the God in us? If we pulled out the weeds in ourselves, could we change the world?
Today’s prayer: Dear God: I have not been using my talents, intellect, or emotions to the best of my ability to glorify you. I suffer from the weeds of procrastination, laziness, and fear: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of humiliation. I have difficulty being humble, graceful, and am easily offended. I have difficulty loving others and showing your love to others. Often, I have difficulty in standing up for what is right. All of this interferes with my relationships with others. For this, I am sorry. I want to do better, be more productive, be more loving, and overall a better servant. Please help me to move beyond my fears, to confront my fears, to become the person that you intended me to be. Above all, Lord, I want to love others for who they are and not what they are. I want others to see that you live in me, and I want them to desire you as well. Please help me to pull out my weeds and make my heart an attractive garden.