“Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.”
Proverbs 4:23, NASB
“The call of God to minister the gospel is a high honor and a noble challenge. It carries with it unique opportunities as well as special burdens and dangers for members of the clergy as well as their families. These burdens can be fruitfully born and the dangers triumphantly overcome. But that will not happen unless the minister’s “inner person” (2 Cor. 4:16) is constantly renewed by accessing the riches of God and His kingdom in the inner person.” - From: Dallas Willard, The Pastors Guide to Effective Ministry, Beacon Hill Press, 2002
The Proverb above tells us “watching” over our hearts requires diligence. Diligence won’t happen on accident. It requires intentional and purposeful effort. Many of us live as if we hope soul care is something that will happen to us through osmosis. We often sprinkle some Jesus on the things we do and have our obligatory quiet times so we can check it off our list of things to do. But how many of us actually intentionally set aside time to simply be with Jesus in a way the increases our ability to love. Love is what draws people into the kingdom and you cannot transmit something you don’t have.
When we spend time with the Savior the fruit should be an increase in our capacity for love. My Spiritual Director (Father Terry) often tells me that if the spiritual habits I practice don’t lead to an increased ability to love then it is a fruitless and worthless endeavor. He talks about the five loves of the Christian life; God, others, self, creation, and our enemies. He reminds me regularly that when my cup is full then I don’t need anything from others and am freed up to simply love them like Jesus. But, when my cup is depleted or empty then I become a consumer of those I was created and called to love.
Years ago Father Terry (or Padre as I tend to call him) provided me with reflection questions regarding the five loves and encourages me to start my days off contemplating them and asking Jesus to guide to throughout the day to come and to end my nights by reflecting on my (Spirit enabled) ability to love throughout the day past. One quick reminder before you look at the list, Padre is quick to tell me I will fail in this mission, but that grace is there to meet me when I do. We practice progress not perfection.
The Five Loves:
- Love of God
How can I grow in my knowledge of who God is today?
How can I increase my desire to align my will with His will today?
How might I demonstrate my love to God today?
- Love of others
Is there a particular person on my heart to show special love to today?
Is there forgiveness that needs granted or asked for today?
How can I participate in the redemption of my immediate community today?
How has the Spirit gifted me to serve others today?
- Love of self
What can I do to take care of my physical body today?
What choices do I face today that are live-giving vs. life-robbing today?
What can I do to ensure I have work, play, rest balance today?
How can I reveal more of my true self today while interacting with others?
- Love of creation
How can I show love for all living creatures today?
How can I better steward the natural resources I will consume today?
How will I make time to enjoy God’s beautiful creation today?
- Love of enemies
Who do I need to grant forgiveness to today?
How might I demonstrate God’s love for this person today?
How will I make time to pray for someone I resent today?
What will I pray for that individual today?
Do your spiritual habits position you before Jesus in a way that increases your ability to love or are you just engaging in spiritual busywork?
What would happen if we asked ourselves and each other these questions regularly? How would it impact out families, ministries, and communities?
Coordinator of The Shelter at Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2014