Most of us will have changed up through the work and energy gears now that the New Year of 2014 is well into its stride.
In reflecting on a conversation, I asked myself the question, “Are my actions flowing out of who I really am, or are they bolstering my confidence about who I think I am, and who others think I am?”
A new year with its wide horizon of possibilities and opportunities beckons us to make a difference, move into action and push life’s accelerator pedal. Looked at from one perspective, amen, so we should.
For me, this year offers a unique opportunity to take a slightly different view. I am still excited about life’s possibilities and opportunities, but without the challenge of significant responsibility and seemingly endless demand for the time, talent and treasure from myself and those I served.
What do I see in looking from this new place? First; that some things are even more important, that some are much less important, and that some are a waste of time; as Ecclesiastes 1:18 says”…a chasing after the wind…”. If this is true, I need to discern the difference and invest appropriately.
Next, also in Ecclesiastes 1, Solomon says, “…the eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing…” (1:8). They are restless, unsatisfied, wanting more, and different, and more; by way of contrast I have found myself praying an old prayer most days;
“Teach me, O Lord, to see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, and to follow thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.”
My third reflection is, what does love and loving really look like? Most of us won’t need much convincing that it is nothing to do with the self-serving, lust filled narratives of our popular culture. We do however need to guard against that culture encroaching on our lives and loves. Dorothy, my wife, has had significant pain from a trapped sciatic nerve during the last 4 months and has sometimes found it difficult when I have looked after her needs because she is so used to taking care of my needs. But, really, and I don’t want to sound pious or good, it has been easy, for the actions of loving are because I love her. I have often read and thought about the words of Bernard of Clairvaux in Loving God, where he describes four degrees of love:
- Loving ourselves for our own sake.
- Loving God for His gifts and blessings.
- Loving God for Himself alone.
- Loving ourselves for the sake of God.
Where do I find myself on the Richter scale of love? I leave you to determine what stage best reflects your present position.
Finally, I know this; when I give myself enough time to see Him more clearly, it becomes much easier to love Him more dearly and the outworking actions, called loving, will help me follow Him more nearly. I can rest in His love knowing “I am in the beloved”. All my loving actions, including loving myself, will flow out of who I am in Him.
So, onward with the actions of your day, but please keep stopping for long enough to see Him, and discover more of who you are in Him. It will make everything else so much easier…