“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “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 neighbour as yourself.” Matt 22:36-39
I’ve known that loving God and loving my neighbours was the greatest commandment since I asked Jesus to live in my heart at the age of four. But as I’ve reflected on this past year, God’s given me a perspective on love that I hadn’t thought of before.
I was recently commissioned to write down all the reasons why I came to intern here at Barnabas this year, by a dear friend of Barnabas, Dave Collins, who came up to do a workshop with us a week ago.
I wrote along the lines of, I wanted to be challenged, foster friendships, grow in my faith, discover more about God…
Dave then asked us to take a few moments and ask God why He put us here this year. My first thought was, is it worth asking? I thought I was already in tune with God, and that my reasons were God’s reasons. They seemed good and sufficient enough. But I still asked.
God immediately laid this on my heart: Sharaya, I put you here so you would learn what it means to love people well.
I wasn’t exactly expecting that answer.
Dave then started speaking again, and I was pulled out of the little whirlwind inside my head. He suggested that if we heard something from God that doesn’t really make sense to us, or if we’re interested to know if He has more to say, ask Him.
This time I went on a walk, and did just that.
Almost instantly, my head started spinning as I remembered how I used to seek approval from people daily, before the internship. I remember it was so intense, that at one point in my life I measured how good a day was based on if I felt loved by people or not. I simply spent so much of my time nervously wondering if people thought well of me, and feeling frantic and dreading the day when someone would be upset or disappointed with me. Now, before I continue, understand this is not because of how I grew up. My family has never made me feel unloved or unvalued. Ever. The only conclusion I can think of is this: I’m a broken human living in a fallen world that mainly looks at the outer before the inward.
Soon after, the pieces in my head connected, and it dawned on me.
A person cannot be a people pleaser AND love well at the same time. Both cannot coexist.
I thought about it some more.
If I’m so consumed with desiring people to accept ME, is that loving THEM? I think not.
Of course, everyone has their inward yearning to be accepted, and that is 100% okay. It’s part of being human. But I think it only really becomes wrong when your life’s purpose is to receive gratification from people in order to feel like you’re enough. Why is it an issue? Because the Creator of YOU says you’re enough. He says YOU are made in His image, and share in His holiness. He says YOU are worth dying for. And that’s exactly what He did…because He loves you immeasurably.
Once we truly accept these truths He says about us, He will faithfully give us everything we need to share this truth and love with others. It could become a chain reaction!
The Biblical Counseling Foundation defines “love in Scripture” as a “purposeful commitment to sacrificial action for another.”
My new desire is to think about myself less and others more. To invite Jesus into my relationships, and depend on Him for the ability to selflessly love like He loves with my actions and words.
Last Tuesday was a turning point for me. As I reflect back over the course of this year serving a Christian ministry on a little island on the Sunshine Coast, I recognize areas where God was working on my heart. He showed me how to resolve conflict and misunderstandings, guided by His voice. He gave me patience to be a listening ear for hours on end for people who just needed someone to talk to. He gave me the energy to do mounds of dishes and make hundreds of beds. He met me in the times when I was confused, hurt and upset, and the times when I was thriving. He built bridges between me and the married couples I lived and worked closely with so we could relate and be friends, despite the age gap and our different phases in life. He proved Himself to be steadfast and faithful in the times I chose to cling to Him when I needed an anchor. He was ever-present with me during the times when I was lonely and feeling empty. I’ve learned that He wants to be my best friend.
This past year wasn’t about me. And it turns out, my life isn’t supposed to be. I now see that the internship was a stepping stone to developing in me the desire to live a selfless life to bring glory to my Maker, just as He demonstrated that for us when He lived on earth.
I’m praying for you, friends. That you’ll experience the overwhelming magnitude of God’s love for you. That it will become important to you to love more than please. Remember that God is so willing to take your hand and walk alongside you in your journey, if you want Him to. Accept the truths He says about you, and you will thrive.