This year, instead of setting traditional goals, I am practicing a fruit of the spirit each month to move closer to the person I hope to be. I explain more here!
Friends, thanks for all of your kind thoughts and excitement over this project! I’m excited to walk through it with you all, and see where it takes us. I know you’ll have so many insightful things to share! Hopefully I’ll have a few, too :)
And where else to start but love? It’s the bedrock of who we want to be and what we want to have, and it’s the bedrock of what God is about, too. The greatest of these is love! Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind! Love your neighbor as yourself!
But where to begin with such an expansive topic? My mind naturally goes to my husband, but while I can always use improvement, loving him well is already at the forefront of my mind. Same with loving God. Loving my neighbor, though – that’s a different story.
For a long time, I didn’t dwell too much on the second part of the greatest commandment, because it didn’t seem like something I could really do anything about – I supposed I would just wait till I eventually become a better person, and then naturally I would love my neighbor more. And then I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and he rocked my world with this particular quote:
Side note: This was just one of the many lines from this book that significantly altered my thinking and behavior as a Christian. Whether you consider yourself one or not, I CANNOT recommend reading this book strongly enough!
Lightning bolt moment! Like most of Lewis’ wisdom, it was so simple and so clear, and so powerful. It’s not about trying to force yourself to feel something – 9 times out of 10 that will probably not work. (And on the reverse side, just try to hate someone while sincerely doing something nice for him!)
I don’t find myself hating many people, but there are a LOT of people I treat rather indifferently – certainly not as I would if I loved them. So this month, I’m trying two practices. First, I’ve been imagining my family and friends in the people around me. To give you just one example: at church, John and I tend to chat with each other before the service starts. This month, though, I’ve been taking the initiative to chat with the people around us, as if they were my mom and dad and I was delighted to see them. (One of my prayers is that our church community would be a warm and close-knit one, and this has been a good reminder that that starts with me!) It might sound small, but for this introvert, it really feels like stepping out.
Second, I’ve been following Adam Hamilton’s advice and making the famous 1 Corinthians scripture personal. In a sermon, he suggested that we substitute our own name for “love.” So, for example…
Emily is patient and kind; Emily does not envy or boast; Emily is not arrogant or rude. She does not insist on her own way; she is not irritable or resentful; she does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Well that’s challenging, isn’t it?? Emily is certainly not all of those things, all the time. Repeating those phrases every morning, however, has become something of a mantra I can aspire to. Try it! I love how energizing this little exercise is for a beloved but sometimes tired-sounding verse. It helps me remember this: If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
So, friends, I would love to hear: how do you live a loving life? Do you have any suggestions for the rest of us?
P.S. I love y’all!