I find myself starting my prayers in a distinct way lately. It goes something like this.
*sigh* God, you know I love you…
From there I carry on with whatever I’m intent on praying about in that moment. It could be a myriad of things and really is beside the point. So what is the point? Glad you asked…
After a week or so of catching myself in this pattern I began to think. Then I began to question myself. After that was over I began to question God. And after deliberating for some time about whether God really knows that I love Him I decided to set out to find the answer.
Saying, “I love you,” too often can start to feel redundant to me. Like it just starts to sound like lip service.
For example, if I’m constantly harping on my kids for things they’re not doing and should be (guilty) or ranting at them because I’m tired (guilty) or becoming easily frustrated by their endless questions about their homework (guilty) and then just throw out the token I love you’s as they hop out of the truck for school or when they pitter patter off to bed, they’ll see through it right quick.
I can’t disrespect my husband in front his coworkers and tell him to get his own dinner and leave to hang out with friends the second he gets home and simply yell out an, “I love you” in passing without him questioning if this is really the truth.
We all know it because we’ve likely all been there. Had someone squeeze us and say, “I love you” while in the back of our minds we’re muttering, “yeah sure’s,” and reminiscing about everything they’ve ever done to hurt us.
It turns out that The Beatles were wrong. We need so much more than love. Or at least so much more than just the word love.
If I love my kids but never show them through action or deed, do I really love them?
If I love my husband but deny him any sort of physical intimacy, do I really love him?
If I love my parents but fail to keep in touch now and then, do I really love them?
If I love my dog but don’t feed him when he drops his bowl at my feet, do I love him? (I don’t love him and so I make the kids do it. They love him.)
If I love God but neglect to do any of the things that he commands of me in scripture, do I love Him?
My prayers were beginning to sound like Simon Peter when Jesus asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” His answer, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!” This went on for 3 rounds, each time ending with a TKO (technical knock out) from Jesus. 3 times he asked Simon if he loved him and Simon blathered his response the same each time about Jesus knowing that he loved Him.
The interesting thing here is that Jesus didn’t just take him at his word. He didn’t just shrug his shoulders and grin and bashfully say, “Aw, shucks, Simon.” No, he gave him 3 intricately distinct answers each time Simon said that he loved Jesus.
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs,” the first time, followed by, “Tend my sheep,” and finished off with, “Feed my sheep.”
Jesus knew something that Simon Peter didn’t. He knew that saying that you love something or someone isn’t enough. He knew that there were actions that should accompany your words. He knew that loving isn’t just lip service but involves sacrifice. He knew that it wasn’t enough for his disciple to just say that he loves Him but he needed to show it. Prove it. Do something about it.
Because true love pushes us to action. It makes us weepy when we hold our newborn babe for the first time. It makes us chase after our squealing toddlers and squish them until they grunt (and want to eat their delicious rolls!) It makes us call our parents or have our spouse’s favourite dinner ready after they’ve had a long day at work. It makes us send our friends texts that only they will think are hilarious and forces us to throw that gross slobbered on dog toy time after time just to make their little tail wag.
Why? Because we’re willing to give up a bit of ourselves, our desires, our selfishness, for the sake of the ones we love. They’re that worth it to us.
So what are we giving up for the one that we say we love the most? The one who sacrificed all in the name of love. Are we just saying the words and ignoring the rest? Are we assuming that He knows we love Him without any action to prove it? Are we even telling him just as much, “Lord, you know that I love you,” and yet we carry on with our life without much more than a thought of Him?
Abraham climbed Mount Moriah with his son carrying wood on his back to prove his love. Joseph stayed betrothed to Mary and knew her not to prove his love. Noah looked downright crazy as he built an arc with no water in sight. Esther approached the king even though it almost certainly meant death. 5 male missionaries were speared to death taking the word of God to the Waodani tribe. Corrie ten Boom hid refugees in a secret room to keep them safe. A beautiful christian woman fought to end foot binding in China. Barb makes banana bread to build an orphanage and lawyers work tirelessly to free women from bondage.
We can so easily look at these and know without any doubt that they love. Do you?
If you can look and see it – celebrate it, dear friends! If you’re not sure, ask God to help you see. And if you just don’t see it, pick up your bible and read and learn about what is required of you. But don’t stop there, take what you’ve learned and begin to put it into action one baby step at a time. I promise it’s not hard and it doesn’t have to be glamourous or happen on the other side of the world. Love in action can happen right where you are today. Wherever you are today. In your home or work place or community. With your children or neighbours or strangers you just met.
Wherever you are God will use you to love on those around you. There is no one way and no manual for how to start. But start it today, friends. You won’t ever regret it.