Devotion #184

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22:37-40 ESV

As if loving our God with all of our emotions, with all of our passions and desires, and with all of our intellectual abilities isn’t not challenging enough, the second commandment pushes us even further. Love your neighbor as yourself.

So, exactly what does this mean? I love myself by taking care of my needs and thinking about myself all the time—from what I want to eat for breakfast and how I will exercise my body, to how I will comfort myself and what make me feel secure. I plan my schedule around what I need and want to do today, I think about my feelings, and make choices that please me or validate me. I take into consideration all my experiences when making decisions—from my past hurts to my challenging day, and I choose what feels best to me. Even when I’m thinking or worrying about others, the fear or the anxiety is rooted in how the situation will ultimately affect my life. I spend a great deal of time thinking about me.

So, when Jesus calls us to love others as we love ourselves, that’s a pretty challenging command. I don’t think about anyone as much as I think about myself. My heart is inherently selfish. It’s asking me to love my husband as much as I love myself, to think about him as much I think about myself. It’s asking me to think about his needs and desires, to think about his comfort and security, to consider his past experiences and challenges, to think about what brings him joy and peace as often as I think about myself. While I might be able to think up several kind things to do for my husband, this commandment is not simply referring to a sweet gesture here and there. It’s challenging us to do that thing for others that rubs right up against what we want to do. It’s not just handing over the remote and letting them choose the channel tonight, it’s remaining humble and understanding their difficult day when they come home from work snapping at us. On my own, it’s utterly impossible to consistently put his needs before my own. The majority of the time, I don’t even understand his needs without discussion, much less can I figure out how to prioritize them over mine.

There is no mistake that God’s first commandment is to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. When we place Him first, and we focus all of our energy on loving Him with our heart, soul, and mind, He transforms our selfish heart into a tender and sacrificial heart capable of loving others. When we place Him first, we no longer need to seek validation from others, we no longer need others to be kind or loving toward us in order for us to love them. He is enough for us. He fills us up with His love. And when we are filled with His love, our hearts feel complete, making it possible to pour out His selfless love to others. We know the joy and the peace we search for in this broken world, and we are able to share it with our spouses in a way that is simply impossible without Him.

Press on ~ you are loved 💗

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