The past several days that I have been off from school, on summer vacation, it has been very difficult to settle in and rekindle the writing spirit for God. My heart is willing, but my…well, just about everything else, is weak. My time is crowded (Can you believe THAT? Crowded time on summer vacation?!), my discipline, my inspiration…just about everything is getting in the way of what I previously thought was a call to use my writing to encourage others and me to grow closer to God. I eagerly anticipate these moments of quiet reflection, study, prayer, and response writing, but when I begin…nothing…
My habit has gotten knocked out of whack. I know exactly why. In the past 3 months my energy, thoughts and time have been absorbed with surviving a very challenging school year and selling my mom’s house. Also, I was deeply involved in preparation for a series of lessons I was to lead at an April ladies’ retreat. All good and necessary things.
But even the good and necessary can throw us off track of what might be more important. And what might be more important feeds us and equips us for continuing the good and necessary without allowing us to lose sight the reason we live this way. For Whom we live this way.
In Revelation 2:1ff, Jesus speaks to His body of believers in Ephesus, commending them for living lives that reflect Christian faith. They are busy. They patiently endure Life and waiting for Him. They are committed to divine Truth and listen to godly teaching with discernment, ready to rout out falsehood. They bear up against the consequences of following Christ, for His sake, and keep their energy and commitment alive. (This sounds like the perfect church family to join, doesn’t it?)
It’s difficult for humans to view a turning back as being productive. We’re more about looking forward and plowing ahead with momentum, whether it’s in projects or personal growth. But Jesus calls His church to go backward, to pick up what they have lost.
He calls what they did an abandonment of their first love. So, what exactly were those wonderful brethren of ours doing at first? They were respectfully teaching and correcting others as well as helping fellow disciples make connections in the church. The believers in Ephesus were open to further their understanding of truth, and took action when they heard it. They shared a spirit of protection and emotional connection with each other. Their faith in Jesus and love toward all the saints was noticed and commended by Paul.
Somehow, in all the ‘right living’, they lost the love.
What does this teach me?
It teaches me that 1 Corinthians 13 is not a trite, poetic encouragement to read only at weddings. Living life with a heart full of love for Christ, His church, and all of mankind is the bedrock of Christianity. It is the heart of Christ, and is what compels our Father to never abandon us, but to walk alongside us in an epic journey that draws us back to Him. If I lose that, I lose everything. I miss the whole point and all my actions are of little value.
And what else?
Going backward is sometimes the best way to move forward.
Christ reminds us to return to the beginning. Our challenge, then, is to fall in love with Him and the hope He offers all over again. Remind ourselves of the joy in digging into His word and discovering how much we need Him and the salvation He offers. Bring that love into everything we do. Whether we teach Bible classes, practice hospitality, shepherd the flock, preach, make meals, hammer nails to open a church camp, help others move…you fill in the blank…let us do so with the love of Christ compeling us.
This practice of looking back and remembering, with the purpose of reforming our present with Christ’s love, pleases Him.
So, where else in our lives can we please Him?
In our marriages, no matter how challenging, let’s remind ourselves of what caused our spouse to become precious in our eyes. Look for it again. Rekindle it. Remind ourselves of how we were that drew our spouses toward us. Uncover it, dust it off if it has been lost, and slip it on again (The ‘shapes’ of our lives have changed, so it may keep slipping off. Hold onto the edges and draw it back up over our shoulders.) Love that spouse for all he or she is worth in God’s eyes. Love them like the imperfect, but precious soul they are.
In our parenting, return to the wonder of the new life we carried, to the giggles and joy of watching our little ones grow. Remind ourselves of how we promised God, with a heart of gratitude, that we would not take the privilege of raising these children lightly, but would shepherd their hearts to Heaven. They are the same sweet selves, just bigger, with layers of human imperfection, just like us. They need us to love them and shepherd them forever and they are forever precious in the sight of Christ.
In our work, remind ourselves that our primary purposes are not for earning, but for reflecting Christ’s love to our coworkers and contacts. We are foremost, His ambassadors.
In the church, remind ourselves why we come together. It is not for programs, or routines that meet our human needs. It is to worship our almighty God and to stand together for Him. It is to encourage faith to grow and hold each other’s faces toward Christ so that all of us may know the height and depth and breadth of Christ’s love.
Acts 18:24ff, 19:1ff, 20:17ff