I watched this video a few years ago, but someone was talking about it at church today and I had to go back and watch it again. I do NOT want to live a safe life... Remind me of that when I forget! Taking risks isn't easy, but it is where we develop closeness with God and a right perspective of life.
This morning I woke up with the topic of true love on my mind. Seriously... I woke up thinking about it.
The world has wonky ways of thinking about true love, and most of them center on how love makes us feel. Terms like "soul mate" are tossed around by people who spend little-to-no time nurturing their own souls, and yet somehow expect to know when they've found someone whose soul meshes with theirs (neglected and unknown as it may be). Many times it seems that what people are searching and longing for is not so much love as it is the byproduct of love. We want the benefits, the perks: We don't want to be alone. We want someone to witness our lives and accomplishments. We want to know the experience of a family of our own. We want to be known and accepted. We want physical intimacy. We want to explore a side of life that we can only explore with someone who loves us.
It seems to me, as I process all of this, that none of that is love at all. None of it. The things we seek and long for are not the core of what love is. Sadly, we can fabricate the byproduct of love without much effort, we can even build a relationship around the byproduct of love without real love having any part of it (for awhile anyway).
Love = Whole-Hearted Commitment
The Bible tells us that God LOVES the world; He loves His children. Christianity involves accepting that love and seeking to build a relationship where we learn to love God by reflecting the ways that He has first loved us. When God first loved us, we didn't even know Him, let alone love Him back. He loved us sacrificially (to say the least).
Sadly, I have found myself settling for the benefits and perks of a love relationship with God without actually pursuing love itself. I get heady over the byproducts of being His child, and skim over the depths of the committed relationship itself. This is an easy thing to do. This is why whenever someone is struggling or dissatisfied in their "relationship with God" one of the first questions we should ask is, "How much time are you spending in prayer?" With the close second being, "When was the last time you read your Bible with intentionality?" Followed by the third, "Are you consistently involved in a local church?" Then rounding things out with the fourth, "Are you reaching out to others to meet their needs and invite them into a relationship with your Father?" Those four acts - prayer, reading scripture, engaging with other believers, and reaching out to others - show commitment. They are the building blocks of a love relationship with God. What makes those four acts meaningful is the attitude of our hearts when we engage in them.
True love is knowing what translates as commitment to the person you are trying to love and doing those things, over and over again, over a long period of time (with the right attitude to boot). Over the years and through the ups and downs, this leads to a sweet spot that is far better than anything you could conjure up on your own. This is true with a spouse and it is true with our relationship with the God of the Universe.
Check these out for more to chew on:
I John 4:16 - 5:2
I Corinthians 13:4-7
This is a picture of a painting by Domenico Feti, titled "Ecce Homo" (Behold the Man). I am not an art enthusiast by any stretch of the imagination. I can appreciate the talent, time and craftsmanship that go into creating a beautiful work of art, but I am not trained or wired in such a way to pick up on the subtle nuances that differentiate good art from great art. I just know what I like. I know what moves me.
In the early 1700's a man by the name of Nicholas Zinzendorf visited an art museum in Dusseldorf, Germany and first laid eyes on Domenico Feti's painting of Jesus Christ. Underneath the painting were the words, "All this I did for thee, what hast thou done for Me?" The depiction of the face of Christ in this painting stayed with Zinzendorf, and Christ's love and sacrifice became the compelling force of his life. He went on to pastor a single church that sent out more missionaries than the whole Protestant church had done in the previous 200 years! His church had three members on the mission field for every one sitting in the congregation on a Sunday morning. Zinzendorf also expressed his appreciation and devotion to Christ through a life of prayer, spending countless hours in prayer and seeking to lead others to commit to prayer as well. His example led his church to begin a prayer movement called "hourly intercession" where they prayed in shifts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the work of Christ around the world. This went on uninterrupted for over 100 years!
When I read about this story (in Henry Blackaby's, Called and Accountable), what struck me far more than the exciting things that happened in Nicholas Zinzendorf's church, was the faithfulness of Domenico Feti to create a work of art and put it out there for the world to react to. If Feti hadn't pursued his calling as a gifted artist, Zinzendorf's heart would not have been captured that day at the museum. Today, I am thankful for artists of every variety - painters, writers, sculptors, inventors, movie-makers, actors, musicians, illustrators, glass blowers, dancers, singers, song writers, designers, architects, and all the rest. Your work does not have to be perfect! If you will put it in His hands and let Him decide how to use it, you never know what impact it may have on the world. Be true to your calling, whatever it may be and do all things with excellence, but don't let your own insecurities or perfectionism keep you from putting on display that which God has given you to give to the world.
Matthew 25:19-21, "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master's happiness!'"