We had a good discussion in my small group the other night about maintaining a conscious connection with God. I shared about what the Lord spoke to me that fall day on Genito road-how the beauty of the autumn leaves show that they are dying. Likewise, as we embrace the cross-dying to our own desires and goals and agenda- we begin to live to God, to truly live and to reveal the beauty of His character.
The heart can get readily confused and deceived about what it needs to really live. We lust for the affirmation, approval and adoration of others, mostly ignorant that such a path leads to frustration, loneliness and bitterness. St Francis grasped the contrasting truth in his famous prayer. Let me seek to love rather than to be loved. Let me serve rather than demanding the service of others. Because that’s where life is (I’m paraphrasing Francis here).
Every now and then you encounter someone who really seems to get this. I remember a girl in the high school class that graduated the year before Sheryl and I did. I’ll call her Diane (not her real name). Diane was about 20 pounds overweight, had fairly severe acne and her teeth weren’t the straightest. And I honestly thought she was one of the most captivating young women I’d ever met. I was already head over heels in love with Sheryl, but if I hadn’t been I think I would have been tempted to pursue Diane, even though she was a year older.
Why? Because Diane was a lover. Always cheerful, always kind, open and ready with a warm smile. Diane laughed- a lot. She was fascinated by all sorts of people and had many, many friends.
I don’t recall asking her if she was a Christ-follower, but her demeanor sure seemed consistent with someone who had prayed St. Francis’ prayer-and had it answered. It seems she’d died to her own life only to find it by loving others.
Why does this kind of lifestyle seem so magnetically attractive in others yet so elusive when we try to pursue it for ourselves? Could it be insecurity-the fear that our own needs won’t be met if we don’t keep them high priority pursuits? Or maybe it’s unbelief. Do we really believe what Jesus taught about how life works: that the way to lead is to serve, the way to overcome is to surrender, the way to gain is to give, the way to know the full joy of love is to love-generously, passionately, unconditionally,, sacrificially, holding back nothing?
I have no idea what happened to Diane. I hope life has been as kind to her as she was to others. I really want to be more like her. Maybe the filters of a 50+ year old memory have embellished her character in my eyes- I don’t know. But looking back, she sure seemed to look a lot like Jesus.