Motivation is a funny thing. We all have areas in our life that need improvement, whether it is a skill or personal growth. As a parent, I think of ways to motivate my son to stay on task when it comes to homework. Discipline is appropriate at times when learning right from wrong, but is it always necessary for maturity? I can try to motivate him with consequences, and always remind him of why he should do something.
However, the best motivation is love.
I can motivate my son much easier when I tell him all the time how much I love him and am proud of him. When he makes a mistake – and knows it – I have learned to walk up to him, hug him in that difficult moment, and tell him that I love him and am proud of him. No need to rehash what has happened. He is an amazing person and, at his young age, is motivated to do what is right because he loves my love. I love him the same, even when he isn’t perfect, but my love instead of reproach in those times is a far better motivator to continue doing good.
Why don’t we believe that God deals with us in the same way?
I’m not the most loving person by nature. It’s been a long process of learning what love means, and I still have a long way to go. However, this week I received a lesson – a revelation – that opened the door to me incredible understanding.
Not long ago I was begging God to take me, as life was so overwhelming. I couldn’t see a way out. Every day I was taking hit after hit. After years of this, I had become so focused on the situation and the pain, that it was the only thing I could see. I was becoming angry and bitter and hopeless. I hated the situation. I despised those involved. I saw no end in sight.
My hopelessness was so severe that for about four months, all I could do to keep my sanity was to whisper and pray in my head, over and over, “Jesus help me. Jesus help me. Jesus help me.” No kidding. Behind my smiles and daily interactions, I was screaming, “Jesus help me!”.
Over time, He has pulled me up and out by taking my face in His hands, like a tender Father, and simply speaking, “keep looking at Me!” He could have chided me for having a bad attitude, for despising people I was supposed to love. God could have rebuked me for being unforgiving, but instead, He just loved me.
- In His love, I saw how wrong I was to wish I could end my life as He still has a purpose for me here. My life is precious to Him, but He didn’t have to get mad at me and tell me I was wrong, I saw it in His love for me.
- In loving me, I saw how He loved others, even if I had a hard time enjoying them. So I asked Him to teach me to love them the way He loves them.
- In loving me, I saw how I could be happy in any situation as long as I “seek first His Kingdom.”
- In loving me, I realized it didn’t matter what other people said or did because, in loving Him, I was living for an audience of One.
- His love didn’t remove difficult situations or people. However, what has changed is the view.
- In loving me, He is teaching me to love others. (Love as I have loved you. Jn 13:34)
Softening a heart and loving difficult people in difficult situations takes a daily dose of Him (“give us today our daily bread”). It has been a very long process, but I have seen more permanent progress during the last year-and-a-half than I have experienced in my entire life!
Like the “wax on, wax off” lesson of the Karate Kid, I had no idea the extent of what God was teaching me until recently when I faced, again, my opponent from nearly two years ago, despair and discouragement. A well-meaning “word of knowledge” was given that opened the door for my old foe to stand boldly before me.
The word given to me wasn’t necessarily wrong – it was just not the right time (and it taught me a lesson about speaking into other’s lives – that’s another post). That “word” did not motivate me to want to continue in my lesson of love. Instead, it felt like I had done a mountain of progress, only to have someone come by and say, “you missed a spot.”
I confess I started to wonder if all the work of deliberately changing my focus from circumstances to Jesus over the last 18 months was worth it. If the progress I had already made still wasn’t good enough, then what was the point?
As Peter did, I took my gaze off of the Father and looked at my situation, and I sank in hopelessness – disheartened and bruised.
However, my precious Father, my Papa, reminded me to look at Him again. I would have preferred to have received a “word” about how proud God is of my progress in this particular area, like a Fatherly pat-on-the-back, but today I am declaring, in faith, that I know, that I know, that I know >>>
God is proud of my progress. He is holding my face in His hands. God the Father sees me. He recognizes the difficult circumstances, and He has taught me how to love, live, and thrive in the midst of pain. Also, that in loving Me, I can love back.
When I see God’s love for me, I am more motivated than ever to continue forward.
Do I have a long way to go? You bet. However, my gaze is on my prize: my Papa.
Note: Whenever God is doing a work in you, there will always be an attack or accusation. For most of us, we prepare for something major to de-rail us, but in reality, it is almost always the insignificant and unsuspecting words, actions, circumstances that catch us off-guard. Don’t stay down. Don’t blame others. Remember, it is the enemy, Satan, and his demons, who are the accusers. Stand up, declare the truth, be OK with being misunderstood, realize that no one else probably sees the situation as you do, and move forward. My situation that I referred to was completely harmless on the outside. The person speaking to me was not wrong, it was spoken with grace and love, I have no ill-will. However, the enemy knows about battles that others do not, and he is an opportunist. Satan took full advantage of a seemingly minor incident, knowing it would result in a significant hit. I was sucker-punched. But what Satan meant to harm and discourage me, God has used to teach me many lessons that will propel me to a greater understanding of love! Amen.