My pride almost got in the way while trying to choose a word for this year. I mean, love, really? Boring. A thousand people probably choose the word love every year. It sounds so generic and easy. What will people think when I tell them I need to work on “love?”
This word came up in my mind almost immediately, along with a short list of a few other words. Then, God confirmed it with a bible study my small group is doing in the book of Deuteronomy, a devotional I read, and Mike's sermon on January 27th.
When I think of the person I want to become, I envision one who responds to others kindly, who is compassionate, caring, patient, unselfish. I know that I can get very annoyed with people. Often. I know that if things don't go my way, and/or someone is IN my way, I'm not too nice about it. I know from studying the Hebrew words for love, that love is not only a choice, but a feeling, being bound to another, or having loyalty to another. And from the New Testament, I know that God equates loving Him with obedience (even more difficult), that we ought to love Him first and foremost, and then love our neighbors as ourselves. People will know we are Jesus' disciples because we love each other. Love covers a multitude of sins, it never fails.
I also know that if I can't understand (or at least increase my understanding) or accept God's love for me, that I will have a hard time truly loving others. So, this word is very complex and multifaceted for me. Love means that I rest in God's love for me and extend that love to others. It means that I respond with others' well-being in mind and not just my own. Jesus treated people like they were important. He made time for them. I need to treat people like Jesus did. There are so many areas in which I can grow in this journey toward Christ-likeness. I felt a need to go back to the basics, as it were, to start over with what Jesus said were the most important things.
In Matthew 22, Jesus says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Then in John 13 He says, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” And finally, John the Beloved, disciple of Jesus, writes in I John 4: “Dear friends, if God loved us that much we also should love each other. No one has ever seen God, but if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is made perfect in us.”
I look forward to seeing what God will do with me and this word. Part of me is scared that I'll fail miserably and be in a constant state of stress and anger, or just apathy. I'm not sure I really know what love looks like in my life right now. I just know I'm not loving God or others the way I should. It's not a regret-based word (Mike talks about this in his book), but it is one that looks forward to changing the heart and the behavior that springs from it.