Because it is the beginning of a new year and because I am trying to make sense of my chosen word, "EMBRACE" and because I'm starting on a new journey as a spiritual guide, I have been thinking about spiritual growth. Everything I read tells me to set measurable goals in order to know when I achieve my desired place in any growth process. If I want to lose weight I set a goal and I know, by the scale, when I achieve it. If I want a uncluttered attic, I set goals and when all the piles and boxes have been organized I can see that it is done. It is measurable. There is an end. But how do I measure something that is ongoing; it has no end and I want to keep growing? How do I know I am progressing, that I am better at it, all the while knowing that I will always want to improve?
I am passionate about my faith. I get up early each morning to spend time with Christ and to grow in my understanding, awareness and love for Him. How do I measure this? Maybe I could think like this: Am I growing more enthusiastic about Christ? Am I getting up earlier, spending a longer time with him? Am I learning the scriptures better? Do I hear his voice more often, more clearly? Am I more aware of His presence?
These are good questions but I recently read that LOVE is the supreme measure of spiritual progress. Oh. That.
My first thought is, Oh dear. Could I go back to my check list where I could x off the "to do" after it is "done." And a certain number of x's lets me know I have arrived or at least grown a bit?
But no. When Jesus was asked by a law expert which was greatest commandment, he said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind... And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37-39
I take this answer to be the answer to my "measurement problem." It means I look at my love response to the greatest Love ever and I let it encompass me and become my focus. When I note that God's love for me enables me to love Him back and my neighbor and myself, I see that indeed, love is the measure. It is actually based on His love, not mine."Fill me up so you can overflow. Let the love you offer me, naturally spill over to embrace those you're asking me to love." (This includes myself, I might add.)
David Benner writes, "Our primary assignment in this school(of spiritual growth) is not so much study and practice as letting ourselves be deeply loved by our Lord." No small task.
My checklist won't make this happen. His love for me provides everything I need for loving him, myself and others. Some days I'll do that well. Other days I'll get in the way of His loving through me. Should I measure this? Do I measure my love for my husband? Am I getting better at it? Looking back over the last 35 years my love for him has grown...in relationship, in everyday life, all day long.
Looking back I can see growth in my trust and love for God.
1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son...
This sounds rather unmeasurable. Perhaps I can quit wondering how well, how often or how much I am growing in my faith and spend more time loving and being loved in response to His unquantifiable love for me.