Life is short. Life is fragile. Relationships in our lives will not always be what they are right now, will they? First day of kindergarten, driver’s licenses, graduations, the process of loosening and then cutting parental apron strings… there are so many seasons and transitions in life. The Bible uses word pictures including mist, vapor, shadow, wind, and flowers to describe our lives on this earth… such descriptions remind us that life as we know it is fleeting, temporary, and not guaranteed.
When we recently had to say goodbye to our youngest child as she headed overseas for a year of mission work, I reflected on our relationships with our loved ones. My parents are both now eighty-eight years old. Things change. Things are not the same as they used to be. Aging affects us all. Old age creeps in, and death is a reality.
One of the first thoughts that came to mind as I drove away from my daughter with an aching heart and a lump in my throat was, “Who am I taking for granted in my life? Who do I love, and do I need to re-affirm my love for them?”
How would you define the phrase “taking for granted”? The dictionary describes it in the following ways: “failure to properly appreciate something, especially as a result of overfamiliarity”; “assuming you will never lose something”; and “valuing someone or something too lightly.” Simply put, you think that he, she, or it will always be there. But life teaches us, and Scripture confirms, that things indeed change.
Are any relationships in your life being taken for granted? We know in our heads that our loved ones will not always be there, but in our hearts we are sometimes too proud to be soft and kind toward them.
To rekindle the appreciation and affection that we have for our loved ones, there is one very simple thing that our wayward hearts need: to first recognize and receive God’s love for ourselves, which was demonstrated to us through the sacrificial gift of God’s son, Jesus Christ. In short, all my other relationships hinge on how I am doing in my relationship with Christ.
At SB2W, you will see a large wooden cross with a pair of tennis shoes draped around it, which may strike you as somewhat odd. But at camp we begin every term on opening night with a visual reminder that the vertical piece of the cross represents our relationship with God, the horizontal piece of the cross represents our relationships with other people, and the shoes represent our daily walk with Him. I like this. I need to keep it simple, and this helps me to remember what is most important. This illustration tells me to focus first on my relationship with Christ, because it is only His love that enables me to love others well. In Romans 5:5 we read, “…for we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love” (NLT). And I John 4:7 reminds us where love originates: “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God…”
There’s no better place to go to be filled with love for others than to the foot of the cross, where, with a humble and repentant heart, we see love and mercy personified; it’s a love that is sacrificial, forgiving, and unconditional. When we start with knowing this love by surrendering to Christ as Lord of our lives, then we can move “horizontally” to more effectively loving those around us, especially those whom we tend to take for granted.
I Corinthians 13 provides an extravagant portrait of love: it is patient and kind, it is not easily irritated or touchy, it is quick to overlook an offense, it does not seek its own way but always gives, it isn’t proud or arrogant; indeed, love never gives up on others and it never fails! But this kind of love is only possible through the Holy Spirit and in first cultivating our “vertical” relationship with the Lord, Jesus Christ.
So today, let’s appreciate those whom God has put in our lives—whether in our home, church, school, workplace, neighborhood, team—and by His grace not take these important relationships for granted. Let’s love then, with His love, knowing that this life is so very short:
“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” –Psalm 90:12 (NLT)