Cultivating Love in Your Life
Recently, I have been very encouraged with the folks that I have been asked to coach by their pursuit, understanding, and listening to the whispers of God in this area of spiritual gardening. God is clear in Matthew 22:37-39, Galatians 5:22,23, and John 15:1-10 that we are to allow Him to grow the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
In my previous post, I talked about how God has given each person nine relational gardens, and that our job is to cultivate crops of love in each of the gardens. The amount of joy we experience in life is based on the fruit that we have worked with God to grow in these gardens. In case you missed it, you can click here to read it so you can have some context about what we are talking about. If you recall, the nine relational gardens are:
I was talking with a man the other day who recognized in his time with his own mother that God was asking him to grow love in a part of his family garden that he had ignored for years. God put him and his mom together and he heard the whispers of God to love her. When he did, that part of his garden sprang to life with all kinds of blessings, interest, affection, and joy. He told me that instead of being upset that he was stuck with his mom for four hours, he realized that God was giving him a chance to grow his garden. He just went with what God was prompting and it was a delightful time. Now he might have been more interested in watching the games on the TV, or spending time on some project at work, or hanging out with friends, or being with his immediate family, but he recognized that God had placed him with his mother and she was a part of the family garden where he needed to grow love. This was a new orientation for him and he found joy and blessing because of it.
I ask people I am coaching to make an affirmation for each of the fruits of the Spirit. The first affirmation is Love. Each of the various relational gardens needs the aspect of love, so let's talk about what cultivating love in each of your relational gardens looks like and how to go about it. It will look a little different in your marital/romantic garden than it does in your family garden. It will look different at work than it does when you are spending time with God.
What Does Cultivating Love Look Like?
There are three underlying ideas that are a piece of the definition of growing love in the various gardens. To love means to meet needs, to pursue the soul, and to please. In other words, I meet the needs, pursue the soul, and please the key people in my life. Doing this affirmation of love often shows you where God wants to do this in your life, or where you are not doing this. God will prompt you to push into these elements of love in one or more of your gardens.
What does it mean to meet the needs of another person? This means that the people who are important to you in your relational gardens have needs, and it is your job to meet those needs. Sometimes they have a fairly obvious need, such as time with you, listening, hugs, food, attention... Sometimes a person needs something less obvious, like honesty, help, time alone, hope, correction, faith... God will prompt you to meet the needs of the other person even if it is difficult or requires sacrifice. When God wants you to love the other person, He is sometimes asking you to look at the long-term good of the other person. I have talked to parents and spouses who are dealing with addictions in their children or their wife or husband. What their loved one needs is tough love, a wake-up-kind-of-love that says, "I will not help you hurt yourself anymore."
What does it mean to pursue the soul of the other person? This means that the other person has a mind, will, and emotions. They need to have someone care enough to hear what they are thinking at that moment even if what they are saying makes no sense or is aimed in the complete wrong direction. When we are loved by someone else, we need to sense that they understand where we are coming from. They need to listen, ask questions, grapple with our perspective, and treat our ideas, emotions, and choices as serious. Sometimes when God is prompting you to love another person, it is this pursuit of their soul that is the kind of love He is after. Even if they need to change their mind about something, it starts from understanding where they are in the present moment. I can listen to you when I understand that you have truly understood what I think and feel.
What does it mean to please another person? It means to bring unexpected delight and joy to the other person. It doesn't mean to be immoral or go against our conscience or our sense of self, but it means that we understood the other person enough to do or say something that is truly a delight for the other person. It may be a foot massage or a date at a Thai restaurant. It may be wearing a color they like or learning about a subject that the other person finds fascinating. The other person does not need this, but it is delightful to them. God sometimes will prompt you to delight the other person so that your relational garden can grow to its maximum. If all you do is meet their needs, then the spark of delight and joy may not be there. Delight them with something.
I never have to worry about God directing someone to love the others in their life. He does this with promptings and whispers. I do have to worry that we will be too self-absorbed to listen or to want to do something, like love another. It is not always easy. It comes with sacrifice. It does not always pay off to love others. But do it anyway. It will enrich you personally. Jesus really does call us to a supernatural life in which we let Him pour His love through us to others. It is quite a ride.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)
I look forward to interacting with you during your spiritual journey. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know how God is working in and through your life. Your greatest life is just ahead.
In His service,
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