In a little over two months, Shulamite Ministries is hosting a conference in Atlanta called “Love Reigns.” And before any of our conferences, there is a plowing that takes place, a spiritual preparation of sorts. As I say good-bye to 2013 and hello to 2014, the plowing has already begun – a New Year to love. My ideas and beliefs concerning love are being completely upended.
The past year has been more ditch than mountain top for me, and oddly enough, I’m very grateful. It’s a gift to my relationship with God to have had such a regular and deep experience of HIM in the muddy trenches of my failure. I see now, more than ever, that there’s no mantra to chant or behavioral tricks to employ to avoid bottoming out. It’s God’s mercy that presses and prunes and chisels and sands me until only the truth is left: I can’t do what God asks me to do, and I can’t be what He requires me to be.
Now, this truth is only ugly to my pride. The biggest and hardest lesson for me in 2013 was that this truth is beautiful to my Father. He loves when I come to the end of my strength – my endurance, my knowledge, my humor, my temperament, my self-discipline, and all the rest – because then He’s free to move. Christ’s life is unhampered by my hideous striving. He can do what the Father asks, and BE what the Father requires. And my life becomes a miracle. I’ve learned that coming to the end of myself puts me in my Father’s realm. Literally. It’s not simply a nice thought, or some doctrinal truth, or Biblical theory. It has become my reality. That’s the gift of living in ditches.
And as the Lord begins demolishing – in earnest! – my so-called “knowledge” of what it means to love in preparation for the Spirit’s message, He is also giving me a glimpse of just how simple loving Him can be. I am forever wrestling with details, and making lists and then getting bogged down in the intricacies of this life. I’ve got a kind of spiritual checklist that I’ve used to track my progress. As humiliating as it is to write that, it’s even worse to live with it. Some days, I feel as if my relationship with God is an extreme juggling act (Surrender! Find His will! Obey His will! Be a child! Repent! Hear God’s voice! Read the Bible! Wake up early! Love others! Love GOD!), and I’m forever dropping the balls.
Well, the Holy Spirit just simplified everything for me, and I have cried over how clear it is that He knows me and loves me. He told me to ask Him one thing, and one thing only, every day: How can I love YOU today, Lord?
One thing – LOVE! What does it look like to love God today? How would You like me to love you today? It’s all about love, because God is LOVE. Every ditch brings me face to face with LOVE. Every mountain top fills me with the bliss of LOVE. And every day is a chance to learn something new about LOVE by walking with Him.
Look, I am about to do something new;
even now it is coming. Do you not see it?
Isaiah 43:19a HCSB