Love! You could simplify the most important aspect of faith, relationships, and pretty much anything we do to love. Even the Beatles will tell you, “All you need is love.” I myself am known by many as a queen of hyperboles, and I use the word love to describe most things I do and see in life. “I love being outside,” “I love ice cream,” “I love playing soccer,” etc., but it was this simple and far too over-used word that blew up my world and made me begin to see God in a completely different way.
I am a very free-spirited kind of person, and for so long I looked at the Church as being a set of restrictions, preventing me from living as I pleased. Although I have always been attracted to spirituality, I was frequently turned off by having to live within boundaries.
The funny thing is, the people I looked up to the most in life were the saints, Mother Theresa, and my music minister: Adam Bitter. I looked up to their joy, zest for life, and love for others. It seemed like the results of their holiness were all those wonderful things, and for me, I felt restricted and guilty. I wanted to be holy, but I had no idea where to begin, and in the meantime, all I could feel was shame for having made bad decisions.
Then one day, by the grace of God, I stumbled upon a verse in the Bible that I had read probably 20 times before, but for some reason this time it clicked.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:36-37.
I had been so consumed by what I could and could not do to live a holy life that I had forgotten about the most important thing of all and that is love. 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” It is through loving God with all our being that we are able to be filled up to better love others and strengthened to carry on down the right path. My focus was no longer on what I was doing right or wrong but on loving God.
The more you hang out with a certain group of friends, the more you are going to act like them and have similar desires and interests. It is the same way in our relationship with God. The more time we spend in prayer and service to God, the more our desires are going to be like God’s. I realized that if I really desired to live a holy life of joy, it was not going to happen overnight, nor would I ever reach an end point, but rather I had to begin spending time with God to allow Him to naturally change the desires of my heart.
Prayer became a part of my everyday life. Just walking to class I would pray, “God help me to love others today.” It was these frequent but simple prayers to God that began to naturally transform my life. Faith was no longer a guilt trip of what I was doing wrong, but rather a friendship with God: a friendship with God that resulted in lots of joy, life, and love for others. Being a Christian is not having one big conversion and then all is well. It is a daily conversion. As it says in the above commandment, God says to first focus on loving Him daily so that He then can empower you to love one another more fully.