How?

This past Sunday I listened to a sermon covering one of the most well-known passages in Scripture. The greatest commandment is this: Love God with everything you have, heart, mind, soul and strength.

I read an article by a friend this week that talked about how much easier it seems to love other people than to love God. He was wrestling between learning to love God while loving others, and doing the work of learning to love God as a practice of its own.

I just finished teaching a series on the minor prophets. A very common theme was the idea that the people of God so often disregarded worship as a tiresome burden, often going through the motions with hearts that were “far from Him.” We finished in the book of Malachi, a heartbreaking and intimate picture of the thoroughly degenerate worship being offered God by His people. They were bringing sick, lame, blind, and even stolen animals to sacrifice to Him, which reflected several sicknesses of heart. First, these wouldn’t even have been acceptable tribute to human rulers or pagan gods; to expect them to be acceptable to their covenant God showed gross disrespect. More than this, though, is the apparent disconnect in the minds of the people between the act of offering sacrifices and the larger meaning of the ritual.

Sacrifices were offered with a number of meanings. They could be offerings of thanksgiving to God, offerings to reflect peace between the worshiper and God, offerings to atone for the sins of the person. If I bring a lame or sick or stolen animal to offer for any of these reasons, I reveal a deep disregard for that larger significance. Am I really grateful? Do I honestly value peace with God? Am I actually repentant of my sin? Do I believe God cares about any of this, or does He just expect me to go through these meaningless motions?

In 2007 and 2008 I experienced a season of heartbreak and disillusionment that rocked me to my core. For a few years after I was treading water, just trying to stumble my way through a thick darkness that left me confused, disoriented, and cold. I had to redefine myself, spirituality, church, friendships, how I handled romantic relationships, even God. In the past God had shaken everything in my life down to the foundation; this time it seemed even the foundation was reduced to chunks of busted concrete that were sharp and uneven. Everything was dangerous, everything hurt.

The past several years have felt more like a fog than darkness. Particularly in spiritual matters I have adopted the mentality that I do what I know I’m supposed to as disciplines, regardless of whether or not my heart is in it. It’s obedience, I say, so I study, teach a Bible study, pray with people when they ask. But when I consider personal spirituality, prayer and devotion and worship and meditation, I feel a weird mix of fear, tiredness, longing, and indifference. It seems I know how to obey, externally. I can go through the motions. But when does discipline become an excuse to cover my unwillingness to deal with whatever blocks me from putting my whole self into my relationship with God?

How do I love God with my whole heart when my heart feels distant? How do I love Him with my whole mind when my mind is a jumble of questions and lies? How do I love Him with all my strength when I feel weary to my bones? How do I love Him with my soul when my soul seems a stranger to me?

I don’t often ask for feedback here, but I’m going to ask the questions this time. How do you love God with all of you? What does the journey look like? What practices or truths keep you engaged?

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1 Comment

  1. Vicky said,

    November 9, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Great post. I too struggle with loving God with all of me. I am so easily scattered and fractured in my thinking and loving. I do know that an important part of trying to resolve the scattered-ness is time away. Away from responsibilities, away from central Illinois. This is frustrating to me because it is so often unattainable. Leaving behind my responsibilities to connect to God seems wrong. I guess I try to live in that tension and until I can get away I try to honor God by reminding myself that I do LONG for Him.


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