You know how sometimes God puts together cute little lessons for us that all revolve around a central theme? (He could be a party planner that way. He could be on Pinterest.) Well, the lessons of the month for me are all about learning to love better.
God is showing me I’ve previously approached relationships with a pretty self-centered perspective.
Sometimes I blatantly, yet subconsciously, use relationships to meet my needs. In other words, I maintain relationships because they benefit me in someway.
Other times I am more covert. I focus on meeting other people’s needs in relationships because it makes me feel good to know other people benefit from being friends with me. It’s a little more pleasing to the eye, but it’s still rooted in selfishness.
If a relationship doesn’t meet my needs or make me feel good by allowing me to meet others’ needs, I usually don’t put any effort into that relationship. If there’s nothing in it for me, what’s the point?
Sounds pretty godly, right?
Negative, which is why God has been creating all kinds of “opportunities” for me to grow up. And, dare I say, I’m finally starting to make some headway.
I’ll just go ahead and tell you my recent growth hasn’t happened because some well-meaning Christian quoted 1 Corinthians 13 to me and told me I ought to love like that. It’s true, I should love like that, but sometimes when I read verses 4 through 8, all I hear is a list of standards I can’t keep. I get discouraged. To love as perfectly as Paul describes feels like spinning plates, trying to make sure they all stay atop their poles before the whole show comes crashing to a halt.
No, that intimidating passage was not the catalyst for my recent improvement. Actually, the difference-maker for me was a friend taking time to share his view of what it means to love others well. And because he has a great track record of loving me well, I listened to him. He said when he interacts with someone, he asks himself, “What is in the other person’s best interest?”
I’d never thought of that.
Probably because, at first glance, it has nothing to do with my best interest.
As I pondered my friend’s perspective, it reminded me of servant love. It reminded me of Jesus washing gross feet because the disciples needed to be clean before they ate (John 13:3-12). It reminded me of Paul enduring beatings because it was in the Gentiles best interest to hear the Gospel (Acts 16:23-33). And, of course, it reminded me of Jesus dying on the cross because we needed rescuing in the worst kind of way (Luke 9:22).
All that to say, I decided my friend might be onto something. So the past couple of weeks, I’ve been asking the Lord to help me intentionally ask myself, “What is in my friend’s best interest right now, and how can I help promote that interest?”
I’m asking this question before I give well-meaning advice, while I’m having conversations with people, when I’m leading women in Bible study, when my husband gets home from work, when my kids are being challenging. And I’m finding it to be quite clarifying.
Too often I discover what I was considering doing or saying would have made me feel good, but it would not have been what the other person really needed most at the moment. Then I have a choice.
Do I say/do what I want anyway, or do I stop in my tracks, exercise self-discipline, and choose to love the person how they need to be loved?
It’s hard. Dying to self is always hard. But it’s also gratifying. Knowing I am loving people better than I used to motivates me to keep going in this direction.
And, just so you know, I fail a lot. Sometimes I revert to self-centered “loving”. Conviction sets in, and I have to repent to the Lord. But I’m always met with grace. He sees my heart. He knows I am trying. He knows growing is a process. And He delights over me because I am His.
He feels the same way about you.
Anyway, give this technique a whirl, and let me know if it helps you.