It wasn’t until I was 22 that I encountered the love of God. Up until that point I knew of God, believed the Scriptures were my source of truth, but had not truly encountered Him. Once I did, it changed everything. In my youthful zeal I wanted nothing more than to give up everything and serve Him every way I knew how. For the first time in my life, I knew I was called to greatness and actually believed I would do great things. In my imagination, that looked like trekking to the farthest parts of the earth and living in the most dire conditions– all to reach the lost and give them the good news I had received. After all, that’s what Jesus’ disciples did, and I wanted to be a disciple.
That was in my heart– that was what love looked like. Perhaps for some, loving God truly does look like that. And perhaps someday, the Lord will call me to that lifestyle. Yet just a decade later, I’ve found myself in the mid-west, living in a city I have never heard of, serving at a house of prayer, married, and about to welcome our first child into the world. Ten years ago serving the Lord would have never looked quite like this…but here I am. The desire to give up everything and serve Him in every way still rings true today; the knowledge I am made for great things still resounds in my core.
Sitting in silence one morning, I found a question rising up in my heart that maybe you have found in your own:
“Am I fulfilling God’s highest purpose for my life? Surely I should be doing more…”
If I were to answer that question by looking at what I thought my life would look like ten years ago, I’d have to say no, I am not fulfilling God’s highest purpose in my life, because certainly what I envisioned in my youthful zeal contained God’s best.
As this question rattled around in my mind and heart, I noticed the Lord responding to my question with one of His own:
“Will you love Me here?”
His question brought forth more questions… to bring an answer to my question. (How does He do that!?)
“Will you love Me here?” provoked me to ask:
“What is the Lord actually wanting from my life? At the end of it all, what is the Lord’s highest desire, highest calling for me to fulfill? Is it to sacrifice the most, to move in the greatest displays of power because of great faith, to bring the most number of people into the kingdom through ardent evangelism? Is it to be a martyr and go into the most dangerous places on earth so that I can say I have no fear?”
Because on some level, in my youthful zeal, if I really loved God, that is what I would do in order to reveal I truly loved God. Yet as Jesus asked me “Will you love Me here,” I realized that while doing some of these great exploits are for us as children of God, they can come at the expense of loving God in the way He is calling us to in the situation we currently find ourselves in. The question, “Will you love Me here,” reinforced that the highest calling and desire of God’s heart for my life is to learn how to love Him and love those around me in the current season.
“Loving Him here” looks like fulfilling my obligations when I don’t feel like it or think it makes a difference, it looks like learning to humble myself and repent when in the wrong, it looks like showing kindness to those who offend me or annoy me, it looks like surrendering my ideas of what loving Him looks like and trusting Him with my life…even those burning desires. Doing this on a day to day basis is fulfilling God’s highest purpose, because it is through these small sacrifices the heart is transformed into the image of Jesus who fully relied upon and trusted the Father in every season of life. It’s in these small “deaths” of forsaking our own will for the Lord’s, a thousand times a day, that we are walking out His highest for our life and manifesting our love for Him. And yes, for some that looks like going into the darkest parts of the earth, putting themselves and even family members at risk. But we cannot have our idea of what our life in God “should” look like overtake our ability to learn to love Him and others where God has us serving in the current season. If we do, we will constantly live in a place of turmoil, feeling we have “missed” God’s highest for our life, all the while not taking advantage of the opportunities He has in front of us to love Him where we are at.
At the end of all of our lives, we will come face to face with the Shepherd of our souls, who in His perfect leadership is leading us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Psalm 23:3). Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily look like doing the most intense, giving the most money, or venturing to the farthest parts of the earth. It does look like complete surrender of our life into His hands, wherever He is leading us. No matter where we are at and what our life looks like in this current season, the question He asks of us all is, “Will you love Me here?” Once we resolve in our heart that yes, we will love Him where we are at, we have to let Him show us what that looks like for the time being. It might be He’s telling you to trust Him with the timing of those dreams and desires that still burn in your heart but have no way of knowing how to make them happen. It may look like rising up in greater boldness to go and pray for someone. It may look like learning to be more disciplined so that you spend more time with Him in prayer. It may even look like not filling your schedule because your body has to prepare for birth…(yes that’s me right now).
To the outsider, your life may look ordinary and plain, but to the Lord who knows you perfectly, He will see the surrender you are making on a day to day basis, learning to trust, learning to love Him, right where you are, and that is God’s highest purpose for your life. I didn’t always see it that way, but I do now. And to be honest, I still believe He has some of those other things for me in the future…but if I’m not loving Him here in the ways He is calling me to, would I really be prepared to love Him elsewhere doing other things? I don’t think so. That’s why I’m thankful He’s teaching me to be content to love Him where I am, because when He calls me elsewhere or to do other things, I’ll take with me a heart that has first been formed to love rather than to do.
“JuliAnn, will you love Me here?”
“Yes Lord, my heart is saying yes. Help me love You here, because that is my highest calling in this life.”