A Lenten Question: Do You Love Me?

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!
John 21:15-19

Annie, do you love Me?
Yes, Lord! I do love You! I want to be like You! I want You to change my heart to look more like Your Son's. I want the old me to die away and to become the woman You created me to be! Only, I don't want the process to be too hard or too challenging. The less painful You can make it the better. Actually, there probably isn't that much work for You to do in my heart. I'm mostly kind, I forgive easily, I'd never cheat on my husband or abandon my family. I've followed You my entire life! Surely I'm pretty much set by now. I've led Bible studies and worked in ministry...oh no. Oh no, these words sound familiar. Where have I heard talk like this before? Lord, do I sound kind of like a Pharisee?

Annie, do you love Me?
Yes, Lord! I love You more than anything else! You are most important to me. I don't treasure anything above You. Of course, when I'm anxious, dissatisfied, bored, or lonely I scroll through Facebook and Instagram instead of coming to You. And I'm much more likely to listen to a Harry Potter book or let the TV play in the background than pray You will meet me in the intimidating silence of life. And I guess it's easier to browse Amazon for books about You than it is to actually engage with You, because (see previous paragraph) You may ask me to die to myself. I'm not bowing down to any golden calves...or am I? The Israelite's didn't have cell phones and I don't have a cow, but an idol is an idol in the end right?

Annie, do you love Me?
Yes, Lord! I do love You! Or at least I did love You. Somewhere, back there. Somewhere farther back in my timeline I loved You with all my heart. Everything I did was for You and through You. I didn't do anything with my day until I had talked to You. But Lord, now everything is so hectic. There's a baby to be fed and breakfast to be made and gosh I hope I can squeeze in a shower today. And I need to have a moment to just sit with my husband and look him in the eye! And will I ever see me when I look in the mirror again? I need to work out and plan our meals for the week and call that friend back and hang up our clean clothes and think about what to do with the yard when the weather changes and and and.....And I miss You. I miss long mornings on the couch where I opened my Bible and sat with You. I miss long walks, listening to Your creation and praising You with every step. I know this is just a season Lord, but I don't want to fall out of love with You. I need You more than ever. Yes, Lord, I do love You still, but I long to love You more.  Following You in this new and busy time of life is harder than ever, but I know that I must. Help me, for I cannot love or follow You on my own.

I told my mom the other day that I felt like hitting 'reset'. I didn't mean I wished I could start over, re-do college, marriage, family etc., just that, my life feels cluttered and sort of like I lost my compass. I'm weighed down because I'm carrying things that aren't necessary. I'm clinging to tightly to things that should be accessories at best, but definitely not lifelines. I have fallen in love with things and fallen out of love with Christ.  I don't think it was any coincidence that these feelings began stirring just in time for Lenten season. What a perfect time to let go of the things weighing me down. 

Letting go of lifelines is scary, obviously, because you think at the worst your life will end, or, at the best, some dastardly harm will come your way, so I let go slowly. Social Media was the first lifeline I pried my fingers from, but, as the season of Lent will often do, that initial letting go only brought to light my dependence on other things. Just a few days into the season, I loosened my grip on the TV as I was made aware that it too was a "golden calf" in my life. I wonder what will be next as the walk through Lent helps me hit 'reset'...

1 Corinthians 10:23 says it best, "All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up." Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TV, these aren't bad things until we turn them into idols and, y'all, we SO EASILY do so. (Or at least I do, I won't speak for everyone.) No, the Bible doesn't say, "Thou shalt not scroll through Instagram", but is it helpful? Does it build up? For me personally, no, it definitely does not build up. In fact, it was really tearing me down.

Here's the most important thing: Maybe all these lifelines, idols, distractions, whatever you want to call them, maybe don't tear you down, but are they building you up? Are they stirring your affections for Christ? Are they cultivating a deeper love for your Savior? Are they healthier than time spent in His Word?

For me, Lent isn't so much a season of saying 'no' to things in my life, but a season of saying 'yes' to the things that stir my affections for Christ. A season of abolishing the idols that have grown up in my heart and making room for Him. A season of choosing He who fills me up instead of things that drain me. A season of remembering my first love and cultivating that relationship because it is what sustains me. 

Do I love Him? I can say 'yes' all I want, but my life, the way I use my time, the condition of my heart, those will be the telling factors and I've got to be honest, lately, they have been much more in love with the things of this world. So I'm hitting 'reset' and falling back in love.