Years ago I was at a men’s retreat, in the woods, spending time with Jesus. I remember saying that I wanted to help people but was frustrated because I was not able to figure out how to do that. God’s response was this, “Yes, Matthew. This is what I have made you to do. But before I can trust you with my people, you must learn to love.” It was like a punch in the chest. I felt the weight and truth of these words because even though I already had a lot of wisdom and passion, I had a long way to go in learning to love.
Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash
This began a decade of learning, struggling, training, failing and succeeding at love. In this decade God gave me what I call the Love Mantras. A mantra is a simple, repeatable phrase that we can see and say over and over in our everyday lives that can continually re-focus us on the direction of our transformation. God often teaches me through a long, sustained pursuit of the next step. The Love Mantras are just this kind of help.
I think of what is called “terrain association” in wilderness survival. You look at your map and then look at the terrain shapes presented around you to find your location and direction. You often have to get to a higher elevation to get out of the thick vegetation that blocks your view. From a higher perch you get a much greater view of where you have been, where you are headed and how these things show up on your map. This is the way God often directs us. If we are aware of it, we can begin to see the map that God gives and relate it to different things in our lives. We have to be intentional about moments where we get out of the granular things that face us and look at the bigger picture. It can be so hopeful to feel like there is purpose and direction to all of this.
Photo by N. on Unsplash
Whether the topic is love or something else, when we funnel a big idea down into a small phrase it means a lot to us without getting bogged down with details. Just glancing at the phrase can be enough to jolt us back onto the new path. Much more than learning information, we practicing new mind-sets and heart-sets. It changes not just “what” we are learning but “how” we are learning. This can be truly life-changing.
For the next few weeks I will be talking about the three Love Mantras that have helped me along the way:
- Learning to love well
- Love people the way they need to be loved
- Sometimes you can’t be right and love at the same time… which one will you choose?
What is a significant theme God has been showing you in the last weeks, months, or even years?
What simple phrase can sum it up?
How can you remind yourself of this phrase? (post-it note, top of to-do list, memorize it, etc.)