Love God, Love People– For the Love
This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love Blog Tour, which I’m completely delighted about because it makes me feel like I’m that much closer to her calling me up and asking me to be her LWT (Little Writer in Training). #doesnotexist To learn more about the Blog Tour, check it out here! And if you haven’t purchased her book yet, oh good grief, do it (For the Love)! Need something more visually appealing to convince you? Lucky for you, here’s a handy dandy book trailer.
I am the farthest thing from a painter, but I found our family mantra, the phrase we will impress upon each other and model to our children daily, while reading For The Love, and I will paint these words on our wall one day:
“Love God, love people.
Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly.
Treat people as you want to be treated.
If you want to be great, be a servant.” (172)
These words could produce waves with their power, but they are also simple. These are not complicated philosophies. These ideas are also proof we are never through learning, and it is, in fact, a daily initiative. We expect children to think before they speak, but in order for us to treat people as we hope to be treated, perhaps we need to make sure we are modeling this behavior first. We hope and pray our children will love people, but how do we talk to people? How do we talk about people when they’re not around to hear? There is a desire in each of us to be great, and this is such an awesome thing. Without that desire, there probably never would have been the invention of the Internet or coffee, two things I offer many thanks to daily. But what does being great look like? How do we become great? If we look to what the majority of the world says, we focus on ourselves, building ourselves up and putting our needs first so we can succeed. So we can be happy. So we can feel purpose. So we can be great in the world. If we look at Jesus though, we serve. To serve is to be great. By serving, we put others first. By serving, we love. By serving, we leave a holy mark on this world. Quoting For the Love,
“Remember the theology: The love of God and people is the whole substance of life. Nothing is more important. This is sacred work and very much counts.” (119)
So what does this actually look like in a day of our lives? How do we follow the mantra as we go about our various routines? First, we look at our place. Are you in school right now? That’s absolutely your place. Your fellow students are your people. Are you in a new job? That’s your place. Are you a young mom? There is a place for you, I promise. Are you in a time of transition? This place is needed—not a day is wasted. We plant where we are, even if we don’t plan to be there for forever, and we invest.
Relationships are where it’s at. But these usually don’t just happen. When we picture friendships, I think a lot of us picture ourselves doing something we love with this other human beside us doing the same thing. We’re talking and laughing and sharing and comfortable in the silence. This is the idea of relationships we’ve conjured up, but because this is not instant, we’re usually pretty good at convincing ourselves we don’t need it and it’s too much work. When it comes to building new relationships, I am sometimes the worst. I usually have no problem giving a stellar first impression, but oh my gosh, shouldn’t it be more natural? I make it this thing where I try to squeeze every ounce of who I am and who and what I love into a smile and a handshake. And then my adrenaline is on fire from all this work so I then go into analyzing mode where I wonder:
Should I have hugged her instead of shaken her hand? Ugh, I so should have hugged her. Did I give that weird smile where it kind of looks like I’m concerned? What did I contribute to that conversation? Did I seem weird? Snobby? Aloof? Does she seem bored? She’s totally bored. Say something sweet. Say something funny. Just say something! FOR THE LOVE! I have nothing to say because I don’t even know this girl.
Catch that last thought from my slightly insane self? I don’t even know this person yet, and I’m wigging out about not being good enough for her. My gosh, we want so badly to be great. Here’s the thing:
“Self-criticism sometimes improves best practices, but it can also lie to you and probably has.” (FTL 60)
Self-criticism has its place. Its place can be found in perfecting a golf swing or working on patience with tiny humans called children—and even those places need grace. Our hearts are trying hard enough to balance our emotions, and we don’t need to add tweaking ourselves into being the perfect person upon each encounter with another human being to the scales.
This goes both ways. When we are the ones giving the first (or second or third) impression, we need to relax. We need to remember that our attitude, posture, and expression say far more than our actual words, so it’s okay if you only get to say five of them. We need to be confident in our identity as a worthy human being. We aren’t better than the person we’re conversing with, but we are also certainly not less.
And when someone is giving their first (or second or third) impression to us, we need to be grace-filled. When we’re on the listening side of the conversation, our eyes speak volumes. People see our thoughts and know without a shadow of a doubt if we’re already over this conversation or if we’re truly engaged. They see us critiquing their words or encouraging them to continue.
Here’s the thing: We are a people who worry. Even the cool kids worry. All those things that make us nervous or anxious are just the cousins of worry, and relatives count. We worry about big things and little things, things of the future and things of the present. We even worry about things of the past. Some circumstances make worry inescapable for a period of time. There are multiple passages in the Bible (Matt. 6:25-34, Prov. 3:5-6, Luke 12:24-34, John 14:27 are just a few) telling us not to worry and why, but it just doesn’t seem to get into our brains. If we boil all of those verses together and take out the meat, this is what we would get: When we worry, we are incapable of loving. When we choose to give our focus to worry, even if only for a moment, that moment is done. It is impossible to love when we worry. (This doesn’t mean we are not loved while we worry—we just can’t reciprocate it.) So when we are worried about relationships—making them, keeping them, making perfect little communities—we aren’t loving these people we are so desperately hoping to connect with. Without love, trust cannot be built, and without trust, relationships have nowhere to go. We have to start somewhere, and that place is simple: Love.
We listen without thinking of what we’ll say next. We speak with honesty in a way that restores dignity to the other’s heart as well as, it turns out, our own. If we want to build trust, we have to be transparent. If you just came from a crazy day, don’t come to the table pretending like you’ve been lounging with the Queen of England sipping rose petal tea. You can be there for the other person and still be yourself. Unless you’re a therapist, let the relationship be mutual.
There will always be ways to grow, more people to love, and ways for us to better serve our people and world—but it can really be so simple, too. When we keep our eyes off of our phones & on the lookout for people to engage with, this is the first step. We let someone know we see her. We listen, and we talk. We build trust over time so deeper conversations can find their way to the table. This world is so full of people. We need to let the ones in our path know they matter.
I don’t do it enough, but when I know a conversation with someone is nearing, I try to set aside a couple of minutes to pray—usually in the car. I just pray for my eyes, my words, and my heart to be aligned with God because if that can hold true, love for that other person will swell. It’s the start of the mantra: Love God, love people. If we are actively pursuing God, our pursuit of people will be magnificent. The rest will follow.