From one angle, my friend made a lot of good points. I had to agree with him that Christianity did not seem to frequently enough produce the type of authentic, exciting, and vibrant life that you would expect it to. On the other hand, I was pretty sure that didn’t match up with how God wanted it to work. So that made me wonder if what we had actually experienced was a failure of Christianity, or if it was more of a failure on our part to accurately interact with and apply the essence of Christianity to our lives.
This was a significant spiritual crossroads for me, and led me into a new and deepening walk with God. I grew a lot over those next few years, and my context was among a group of Christians that shared a very similar perspective on growth and maturity. The image of the ‘Great Commandment’ was often evoked to describe Christian maturity in our context. Here is how Jesus describes the Great Commandment in Matthew 22:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Though this was a creedal text, my experience was that the front half of this Commandment was the really important part. Christian maturity and growth was often thought of in terms of loving God “with all your heart and all your soul and with all your mind.” There was a significant emphasis on learning the right doctrines and right beliefs that led to loving God with all of your heart, soul, and mind. This logically led to a strong emphasis on disciplines that would grow a person in these doctrines and beliefs, with the hope that this truth and knowledge would then naturally (or even supernaturally) lead to an outgrowth of personal morality and personal righteousness.
For the record, I agree with all of that. I believe loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind should be my preoccupation as a human being and child of God. I believe that how you think about God and what your doctrines are significantly shape the direction of your life. But that is not the point of this post.
What I am exploring in these 3 posts is the idea that something’s missing. Even for many of those who are trying to love God with all of their heart, soul, and mind. What I discovered time and time again was that many young people (that was my context at the time) felt like something was missing, even when trying their hardest to live out a spiritually mature life. There was a dreariness to their spiritual reality instead of the vibrancy they longed for. There was a dullness that marked their day-to-day faith instead of a sense of intrigue and anticipation for how God might move that day. There was a mundaneness that was too regular in their spiritual lives, when what they really longed for was excitement and imagination.
Many of these people loved God dearly, and wanted to be more fully alive. They just didn’t know how. They didn’t know what it was that was missing. They just knew something was.
I’ve got some theories as to what was missing, and eventually I will get around to sharing those. But I would really love to hear from many of you before moving forward. Though I would welcome comments from those at all different points of the journey, I would like to hear particularly from those that I described in this entry. If you would self-identify as a Christian, and have been spiritually formed in a context that emphasizes the front half of the Great Commandment (love God with all your heart, soul, and mind), please share your thoughts!
Have you had this sense that despite your earnestness to grow spiritually, that something still feels like it is missing? If so, what do you think it is? Please share!