Some people are excellent at being grateful and content. Then, there’s the rest of us. The people who aren’t quite satisfied. The people who want more.
There’s a fine line we must walk as people who want to be faithful and successful at the same time. On the one hand, we have been richly blessed, and we should acknowledge our blessing and be happy with what we have. On the other hand, we are meant to excel in this life so we need to go after what we want and constantly be pushing boundaries. I believe we can do and be both.
Real problems develop when our desire for success, power, wealth, fame and accolades surpass our contentment and gratitude. We walk around always wanting more from this person or that and from God. And when we don’t get what we want, we are bitter. The other day I found myself trying to count my blessings, but then thinking that just one thing was really missing from my life – my published book- and I found myself saying to God, “God, you have helped me through so much. But it has been awhile since something truly great happened in my life. I think it’s time.”
And then, the Janet Jackson song “What have you done for me lately?” popped into my head.
In the song, Janet’s boyfriend used to do nice things for her like take her out to dinner and dancing, but then, he stops doing nice things for her. She feels taken for granted and unappreciated. Janet’s friend says to her, “I know he used to do nice stuff for you. But what has he done for you lately?”
The reality is, God and people are always doing nice things for us if we have the eyes to see and the heart to appreciate. In today’s scripture reading, we hear that “God is love.” And that “We love because God first loved us.” We know what love is because of God. That feeling we have that makes us look at children with adoration. That feeling we have that makes us want to give to others. That feeling we have that makes our hearts swoon and our stomachs turn. They are all feelings of love that come from God.
So the next time we are feeling like we deserve more and that God hasn’t blessed us enough, let us think of love. It is always surrounding us, whether we feel it from someone else or we feel it for someone else, it is from God. What has God done for you lately? God has loved you.
There are three simple ideas I have about love that can keep our hearts forever in check:
1. Love is a gift. It comes from seemingly nowhere, (although we know where its from- God). It doesn’t matter if you do or say the right things. It doesn’t matter if you are perfect or flawed. The people who love you love you for who you are, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. Let’s say it right now, turn to someone near you and say to them: You are loved, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
2. The more you feel love, the more you want to give. When your cup runs over and love is pouring out of your heart, you can’t help but share it. A warning to the wise, this will get you hurt because not everyone you want to share love with is ready to receive it or is experiencing the same overflow of love, but wisdom tells us it’s the way to live. Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Or better to have loved and it not be reciprocated than never to have loved at all. At the end of the worship service, we will sing “Pass It On.” The refrain goes: that’s how it is with God’s love, once you experience it, you spread God’s love to everyone, you want to pass it on.
3. Keep some love for yourself. We are so quick to give away that which we have. We want to share it! It’s such a glorious feeling to give and share with another, but each of us is a tender and vulnerable being that needs to hold some love in to nourish ourselves. Just make sure that as God loves you and your heart is filled with love, you give some of it to yourself. You need it and you deserve it!
“God,” we might ask, “What have you done for me lately?”
The answer we hear is soft but clear. “I love you, my child. I love you when you wake up and go to bed. I love you when your bad and when your good. I love you when you are near and when you are far.”
My friends, etch it on your hearts. God is love, and we love because God first loved us.