Love is the most important value that exists. God’s essence is love, and all the wonder we experience in our relationships with God flows out of love. Learning how to love more day by day is vital. As we do, we’ll wake up to wonder in profound ways.
Welcome to a new blog series on the “fruit of the Spirit” that the Bible mentions in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Wake Up to Wonder explores each of those qualities that the Holy Spirit helps us develop and includes research into how pursuing each of them help us experience wonder and feel awe. Ironically, developing these aspects of spiritual maturity often leads us to a childlike sense of wonder. I describe in the book’s introduction how children can help us learn what’s most important spiritually. Jesus encourages us all in Matthew 18:33 to “change and become like little children”. We adults can learn a lot from the curious minds and open hearts that help children experience wonder. Children, who are souls fresh from heaven, naturally pursue awe because they feel the craving for wonder God has placed in all of us. They haven’t yet been desensitized to wonder by numbing themselves, as many adults do to cope with stress and pain. In this blog series, I’ll share stories from my childhood that the Holy Spirit has reminded me of as I keep developing more “fruit of the Spirit” attitudes. I hope you’ll reflect on your own childhood as you read, and that will inspire you to keep growing closer to God – the source of all wonder.
During elementary school, I stood outside with my classmates as our teachers released a large group of weather balloons into the sky. Each balloon was filled with handwritten notes from our classes. We didn’t know who would eventually receive those messages, since we couldn’t predict where the balloons would land. But that was part of the fun. We had included postcards and stamps for those who found the balloons to contact our school and tell us about themselves. As I watched the balloons lift aloft and drift in various directions, I felt a rush of excitement and imagined that whoever found them would be encouraged by our school’s experiment. Even though I didn’t know who would receive the balloons, the act of sending them off with goodwill inspired me to think of them with love.
Love is an action. It’s much more than just a feeling that passively washes over us. We can choose to love – even when we don’t know other people. As I shared in Wake Up to Wonder, I was once challenged at a prayer retreat to say “I love you” to a stranger and discovered that choosing that action helped me feel love for her. All of us are valuable souls who are beloved by God, and simply because of that, all of us are worthy of love.
That said, loving others is often challenging in our fallen world. It may actually be easier to love people we don’t know than to love those we do know, with the knowledge of all their faults. Just think of a difficult person in your life, and you’ll know what I mean! Knowing our own faults well can also make it hard to love ourselves. However, the more time we spend communicating with God, the more we can transcend challenging circumstances with challenging people. Encountering God’s wonder enlarges our perspective, so we can see that God’s love includes everyone. God's love covers the faults that annoy us about others (and our own faults, too). The more we experience awe, the more we can choose love, because we're opening ourselves up for God's love to flow through us.
Here are some ideas for how to work with God to become more loving, and discover wonder in the process:
Seek to fall in love with Jesus by devoting yourself wholeheartedly to him. Ask the Holy Spirit to transform every aspect of your life to draw you closer to Jesus.
Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable you to love all the people you encounter – not just the ones you naturally like. Try to see everyone as a soul God loves and has made in his image.
Think of specific ways you can serve people you know, such as by helping someone with errands or writing someone an encouraging note. Schedule a time soon to act on each of your ideas.
Consider the mercy and grace God has extended to you when you’ve made mistakes, confessed them and asked for his forgiveness. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you forgive people who have hurt you and to ask people you have hurt for forgiveness, so you can love as God intends. The Spirit will empower you to do so.
Notice the powerful effect your words can have on people, and strive to use your words to bless people rather than to hurt them. Try to speak and write all of your messages to others with a loving attitude.
Seek out the best for others in every situation, working to achieve results that will benefit all concerned instead of just your own benefit.
Allow the Holy Spirit to break your heart and instill a greater sense of compassion within you when you encounter people’s needs. Continually ask God how he would like you to respond to needs you encounter. But be sure that God is calling you to invest in an effort before you undertake it. There are many good pursuits, but only some of them are best for you to pursue.
How will you try to put love into action today?