We often condemn ourselves to solitary confinement in a prison built by our own hands.
It’s what happens when we believe the worse lie of all: That we are at the center of the universe.
Self-centeredness is our daily burden and we can either choose to be freed from its rusted shackles, or surrender to its deadly addiction.
Here, in this dreary ocean of me and I, we’re in one of a billion rowboats, leering at each other as we beat the water with greedy oars. We’re grabbing what we can. Taking what we want. Our piece of the pie. Our just deserves.
We think we’re climbing the ladder, getting to the top of the mountain and reaching for the stars. But on this course, we’re ultimately destined to plummet downward as the wax drips from our wings.
All the while, we’ve been distracted from much greater pursuits, ones which yield a richness of life full of purpose and eternal impact.
It’s the sweet life prescribed by Jesus when he affirmed this commandment as the second most important of all:
Love your neighbor as yourself.
Not if we take it to mean merely waving at our neighbor when we pull into the garage, giving a smile and a hearty handshake as we arrive at church, or buying Girl Scout cookies from the young lady down the street.
That’s not loving our neighbor as ourselves, that’s running for office.
No, the task of truly loving your neighbor as you love yourself requires complete transformation. We have to reformat the hard drive.
It means if we are thirsty, we get them something to drink. If we’re tired, we allow them to rest. When we feel unappreciated, we share encouragement. When we’re hungry, we feed them. If the oxygen mask falls, we make sure they can breathe first.
Yet the beauty in impossibility is we can only succeed through divine assistance.
Which brings us to the most important commandment of all: To love the Lord our God with our heart, soul, strength and mind.
Through Him all things are possible. Including loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Which is incredibly freeing. Because it is by serving others we find the key to unlocking our lonely box.
We serve them not in the expectation they will return love, admiration and gratitude. But we serve them just to please God. Unconditionally. Unconventionally.
And not just our kids, our cousins and our neighbors, but everyone God places in our life.
Henry Blackaby once shared, “You will never lock eyes with someone God doesn’t love.” This means all of those people we now see merely as passerbys, extras, or supporting cast in the movie of our personal saga must become significant to us in profound way.
The people in line at the grocery store, those holding arm bars on the subway, passing us in the fast lane of the freeway, dragging us down in the slow lane. The man with the cardboard sign, the woman with the blown out headlight, the boy throwing rocks in the lake, the old woman walking her dog in the park.
Each and every one of them are so incredibly important to God. And each are desperate to experience fully how to love Him back. As we begin to see all people through the eyes of Jesus, we realize the life we’ve been missing all along. One joyfully outside of the box.
So pay attention to them. Share precious time with them. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Pray for them. Offer them grace. Forgive them. Encourage them. Challenge them. Love them.
Even if they don’t deserve it. Especially if they don’t deserve it.
Get out of the box. Dance on the bubble wrap. It’s lovely outside.
Craving more spiritual food? Check out How to Untie the Knot in Your Stomach
Learn more about the author Michael K. Reynolds