August Adventure Challenge: Loving Others
I have a bit of a confession to make. I am not always a very loving person, even to those closest to me. This may come as a shock to you, especially if you follow me on Instagram seeing the highlight reel of our family life (mostly) with snuggly kids and my wife and I smiling in each other’s arms. But really, when I look at the real definition of love, from Thomas Oord in his book The Science of Love, I fall short all over the place. Here’s how he defines it: “acting intentionally, in sympathetic response to others (including God) to promote overall well-being.” Do I always act with intention towards my wife, my kids, my neighbors, myself… God? Most assuredly not. Many days I’m just swept up into the pace of the day, the to-do list, and the news feed. Dallas Willard, in his book Life Without Lack goes further with this definition to distinguish three essential characteristics of love:
- Love arises in people whose lives are already marked by certain qualities of the whole self, chief of which are faith in our all-sufficient God and joyful embracing of death to self.
- Love involves an orientation of the whole self toward what is good and right.
- Love has amazing, supernatural power for good as it indwells the individual.
Did you catch the part about the “joyful embracing of death to self?” As they say in my childhood home of Minnesota… uff-dah. That one hits me where I live, and it’s not a pretty picture most days. Most days, I’m just trying to find ways for myself to feel comfortable in the midst of everything going on in life, and it comes at the expense of my love for others. Just this morning, as we’re re-entering life after vacation, I ended up not being intentional with my schedule and communicating it with my wife, which resulted in me having meetings scheduled for most of the day when she could really use my help getting the rental car returned, the house cleaned, etc. Now, death to self, as Willard expounds upon masterfully in his book, isn’t about losing our identity, or not doing anything for ourselves that brings genuine joy and restoration. What it is about is the death of our false self, our desires for protecting and promoting ourselves. This is the path towards becoming the men that God meant when He meant us, becoming our fullest selves, and dying to everything that isn’t that. This doesn’t necessarily have to be anything super profound, PhD level in theology stuff. It could be as simple as playing a board game with your daughter because she loves it, even though you really, really don’t like to play it.
Now, let’s get to our challenge for the month, which is along this theme and also comes from Dallas Willard’s book, Life Without Lack. If we are to become more loving people, and even get to the point of loving our enemies (yikes!), we must practice it in practical, everyday ways. So let’s get down to business. Dallas points out that we need to get away from the idea of loving everyone, which produces a kind of wishy washy impossible ideal, towards loving somebody in particular. The more we love particular somebodies well, the more we can love each somebody that we encounter and become more loving people. This month, pick someone in particular that you already have a good relationship with and practice loving that person. This could be your spouse, a co-worker, a sibling, someone at church, anyone! Next, pick a time frame to focus on them. For one week, every day, focus on that person and decide to love them. You’ll need help with this, because you won’t be able to do it on your own. Reach out for help in prayer, talk to your friends about it, and receive the support you’ll need for this.
Out of this attitude of gratitude, you’ll naturally want to do something about it. As the old DC Talk song goes “love is a verb” (yes, I’m dating myself a bit here…)! This doesn’t necessarily mean grand gestures, spending tons of money, whisking someone off to Hawaii or anything like that. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are (to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt). Now, while you are going to be prompted to action, you may need to be a bit sneaky about it (shrewd as snakes, as Jesus tells us!). Don’t go parading around how much more loving you’re being to this person, or offering your entire toolshed when someone asked to borrow your leafblower. As Dallas Willard says, the “aim is to be a loving person, not to just be seen as a loving person.” There is so much more in his great book on this, so if you want to dive into it, you can find it here. As you dive into this month’s challenge, you may want to revisit this over time, and in time you will become a more loving person, and venture into being capable of loving those “hard to loves” in your life. I’m looking forward to what this does in your life, so please share your stories with our team! Join our monthly campfire (link below) to get on a call with us where we share an amazingly life giving conversation about what these challenges meant to us, what we learned, what we could have done better, and how we can incorporate all of that into our daily lives. You’ll love it!