How Can We Love Thee – Spiritually?
When I think about how we love those who we are most deeply committed to, I think about loving in four perspectives: Physically, Intellectually, Emotionally and Spiritually. With that in mind, I have embarked on a four-part series, concentrating on one perspective per blog. For each perspective I follow this process:
- I will describe the perspective as it applied in my "real world" as I raised my sons, Mitchell and Braden.
- Then, I will look at the way Jesus applied the perspective to his "real world" when he was on earth.
- Finally, I will talk about ways we can apply the principle in our "real world now."
If you missed last's week's blog, you can read it here.
The Spiritual Perspective: The spiritual perspective is about how we love through our spirit…with the depths of our souls. It is represented by how we love devoutly, religiously and piously.
My Past World with my Sons: Beginning with their baptisms, our sons were raised in faith. It was in that baptismal moment that the depths of our love for our sons met the depths of our love for our Lord. It was in that moment our spiritual journey began with them.
Every day there were prayers at meals and night; they heard their parents pray, and it wasn’t a steady prayer diet of "God is Good, God is great, or Now I lay me down to sleep," but instead they heard real heart-felt prayers. They grew up to feel at home in church. In church they were loved and embraced in a community of faith. People at church were interested in them and their well-being, and they still are today. Growing up in the church helped them to learn that faith is not something just done in silence and privately, but includes being part of a community of faith that seeks to serve.
About the time they entered senior high, they learned it was time for them to make their own commitment of faith, which included their commitment to do their part to serve others. The Youth Group provided them with many opportunities to serve communities both in and out of the metroplex and to learn that with faith comes responsibility and accountability. If they wanted to go on a trip, they had to help earn the funds to go and regularly attend Youth Group. If they wanted to enjoy fun activities, they had to follow rules at church. And if they wanted to continue to live in our house, they had to follow the "house rules" which meant they must attend Sunday School and Church, and go to Youth Group.
Tim and I knew that if we wanted the message to "stick" with them, it meant we had to walk the talk. Without that consistent message from our hearts and mouths along with our actions, they would not have believed us, and they probably would have gotten the message that when you're an adult you can skip church, prayer, service, and possibly faith. Even going back to visit family in Illinois meant going to church with family there, too. And so, church became part of their faith tradition...a given.
I remember that when the boys were in high school they always said, "When I get out and I’m on my own, I am not going to church." We didn’t argue, but instead said, "okay, you can do that when you're not living with us and you're supporting yourself. But that’s not the case right now… you are in our house and you are going to Sunday School and Church."
So how did it turn out for them?
When Braden wrote his faith statement for his confirmation and membership into NorthPark, he talked about how mission was part of his faith. It was in the tangible actions of helping others that he learned what true faith is about. It was also in that service that he found the joy that comes from helping others and in doing it within a fellowship of faith with the other youth and committed adult sponsors. Braden is still in college, and we don’t know how his faith will "play out" in the real world when he is making his own living, but we are optimistic.
We do know how it has worked out for Mitchell so far. Imagine our surprise when Tim and I went to visit Mitchell (about two months after he graduated from Texas Tech and was supporting himself) in his Houston apartment and saw a Bible and cross on his night stand. I asked why the Bible was out versus on a shelf in his closet, and he said he was going to church every Sunday and reading the Bible. I asked if he would like us to go with him on Sunday and he said it would be great! I so enjoyed church that Sunday! His girlfriend (now his wife) went every Sunday with her family and he began by going with them, and then he found his faith was something important to him…a priority that needed to be nurtured. He wasn’t just going to church with Erin’s family; he was feeding his soul; he was reading the Bible and praying. And now that he’s married, I’ve learned that he and Erin, his wife, pray together each night. Our job was to provide the foundation, but now each son is on his unique spiritual journey.
Jesus’ World: It is through Jesus that we learn the spiritual foundation…one that is love, a love that is expressed in the way we live and the way we serve. Jesus led a life of service, living humbly…meaning not proud, arrogant or boastful. He taught his disciples they are not above a teacher, and a slave is not above his master. As part of our faith foundation, He taught us that hoarding and hiding just doesn’t work, but instead we should be sowing God’s seeds…we should be acting in ways that increase love, joy, faith and understanding.
Jesus demonstrated that being spiritual means healing, feeding, forgiving, giving, practicing humility, praying, respecting, lifting up one another…in a nutshell – LOVING. And Jesus showed us the ultimate act of love is through his brutal sacrifice on the cross.
Throughout Jesus’ teaching, preaching, and through His actions, we are shown that God will go through all measures to be with us, even sacrificing His Son. We learned that God knows the deepest depths of human suffering and never forsakes us. And while we make mistakes, even separating ourselves from God, we know that God is never separated from us. Through the actions of Jesus, we learn that even when God knows we are not going to be faithful, God will still wash our feet, and sacrifice all by breaking His body, and shedding His blood. God will die so we can live…the ultimate expression of love.
Our World Now: Our world is perplexing. Truly this is a time when, in so many ways, we see the world separating itself from God. So many questions…so many problems…so many differences that shake us to our core and may leave us wondering "Is Armageddon around the corner?" or thinking "You said you were coming back Lord, maybe you ought to consider coming now."
At times it feels like we are trapped in a tomb with Jesus as he was let down by the crowds in the world around him. There were not enough of his followers to change the abhorrent actions of the world then. And sometimes I wonder if there are enough followers to change the many horrendous actions of the world now.
But through Jesus, we know we can be confident that no matter what is happening, God never separates His love from us. We know that the light of one candle can illuminate the darkness and dissipate fears. We know that God’s light shatters the darkness, so we can be fearless to be the light of God in every way we can. In the God’s light, we cannot hide. In Matthew 12:30 we learn “He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.” We are in God’s light and we are God’s light. We are not only empowered, but called to be the light in the world.
From Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but puts it on the lampstand and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.”
And from John 8:12 “I am the Light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life.” And so it is more important now than ever that we be the light. The world needs Jesus…the world needs us!
How Can We Love Thee – Spiritually?
So, you may be a bit perplexed about how the stories of my sons fit into how we love Jesus spiritually…
Spirituality is a process of personal transformation…a growth of spirit. When I think about how we learn and grow, it has to involve something meaningful. And if it’s to be meaningful, then it has to be consistent and reinforced over time. A one-time declaration of faith or “being saved" would not have been ever-lasting for our sons. Rather, for them to truly understand spiritually, it meant that with the commitment of faith we made at their baptism we needed to consistently provide them many opportunities to learn in all the ways that worked best for them…seeing, hearing, reading, singing, praying, having fun, doing art work, making friends, touching, serving…experiencing! It had to be a total immersion over a lifetime to become part of who they are…their souls.
The term spirit means "animating or vital principle in man and animals." It is derived from the Old French spirit which comes from the Latin words soul, courage, vigor, breath and is related to spirare, "to breathe." If we want to love spiritually, it means a total immersion for us and a continuation of learning in the ways we learn best. It has to be action (animation), courage, vigor, and breath. It involves questioning, reasoning, feeling, expression, joy, fun seeing, hearing, fellowship, serving…experiencing!
It cannot be a one-time declaration of faith, but it must be a life-time of faith and faithful actions. Spiritually is not one moment in time when we declare that "we are saved," but rather it is all our moments in time living in the knowledge that we were saved over 2,000 years ago. It is our response to Jesus’ words, actions, love and ultimate sacrifice demonstrated in "how we bear Spiritual fruit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."
It is in the way that we light up the world shattering the darkness that threatens us and beckons us to hide. If God is with us, and God is, then none can be against us. It is time to act in courage, finding our voices to declare that Jesus is Lord, and demonstrating in all our ways that the ultimate commandment is to love.
Stay tuned for the wrap-up to the series, next week's summary.
May God’s grace, peace and joy be yours all the days of your life!