I don’t love my wife with all of my heart.
And she’s happy that I don’t.
Let me explain. I’ll need to describe to you not only where I’ve been, but where I think many ministers, missionaries, and Christians in general find themselves.
The weight of ministry is bearing down. We’re operating out of our own power. And as a result, many of us experience fatigue and burnout. Others of us lose focus on what’s truly important and allow sin to enter our lives. I would argue, though, that all of us are eventually rendered useless in our ministry to others. It all starts with some messed up priorities: we want to love and help people more than anything.
When asked the greatest command, Jesus echoes Deuteronomy 6, that we should love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. The second command is to love our neighbor. I’m sad to say that for the majority of my Christian life, I had the two switched. My chief objective was to serve others and help them into a mature relationship with Jesus Christ. I was full of good intentions, but had it all backwards — and I’m afraid many of us do. Only when God is our first (and only) love are we fit to minister to others. We talk a lot about how we should have hearts for the lost and be passionate about people. And we unconsciously make the second command our first.
My love is so imperfect, so finite, and so conditional. Yet God wants it — all of it. And the most amazing thing happens; when I give God ALL of my love — not holding back any for ministry or the lost or even for my own wife and family — he takes my pathetic, sick, and sometimes twisted attempts at loving him as much as I can… And he transforms them.
God opens me up to receive the unconditional, limitless, and perfect love he’s always had for me. And he gives me so much of it in my life that it overflows into the lives of those around me. He takes the imperfect love I once offered others, and exchanges it for his own perfect love.
My wife and daughter benefit, receiving God’s love through me, rather than what I myself had to offer. Those to whom I minister also benefit, my love no longer limited in quality or quantity. Where I once sliced up my love pie — 40% to wife and family, 40% to God, 10% to other Christians, 10% to the lost — I now have a greater source of love. By loving God with my ALL, and trusting that he’ll solve the problem of what I offer my wife, church, and others, everyone benefits. Most importantly, God receives all the glory.
There’s a reason the first command is the first command. I wish I’d realized all this a long time ago…