The truth is that most of us live life half-hearted. Thoreau’s famous words are stark, but true:
Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.
We have dreams, but we don’t turn them into goals. Some of us stopped actively pursuing learning when we got out of school. Many of us are not comfortable with our emotions, and thus live with broken, incomplete self-awareness. For many of us, God is a part of our lives, but mostly as an abstract idea or a vague sense of security, rather than a vibrant relationship.
The result is that for many of us our options feel limited, and our impact in the world is reactive rather than creative. This is not what you were made for. The ache inside your heart for something more shows that even you know this deep inside.
Jesus’ Answer? Live Wholehearted.
The most beautiful expression of your purpose is found in Ephesians 2:10. You are God’s poem, a living piece of art, created to bring good and beautiful things into the world. (More on this idea here.) Suppose you accept this as true? How would you begin living that way?
Jesus gives us the path forward. In Luke’s Gospel we find these words:
Just then an expert in the law stood up to test Him, saying, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the law?” He asked him. “How do you read it?” He answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” “You’ve answered correctly,” He told him. “Do this and you will live.” Luke 10:25-28
Wholehearted: Growing in Five Areas
This kind of life is healthy, growing and intentional in five interconnected areas: Heart, Soul, Strength, Mind and Neighbor.
To love God with all your heart means to love God with your emotions. Do you feel love toward God? Actual affection? So many of us live cut off from our emotions. As a result miss a significant source of guidance, depth and connection with God. (The truth is nearly everything you’ve learned about emotions is wrong.)
To love God with all your soul is to connect out of your true inner self, the you that God created. This is not the self made of walls and self-justification and image, where you perform to be valued. This is who you were made to be. Becoming spiritually and emotionally healthy is a process of shedding the things that are not really you. When you live out this identity it pleases God, because you are being who God made you to be. Not only that, but it will be profoundly fulfilling because you are living out of your authentic purpose.
To love God with all your strength means to love and live with will, effort and intentionality. Your life is not an accident; your days shouldn’t be either. God has given you the incredible gift of life. Living intentionally, bringing your best to the situation you are in, these things honor God and lead to a life of focus and impact.
To love God with your mind is to pursue truth. This starts with the truth about God revealed in scripture, but it expands to include a commitment to learn and grow in wisdom. Learning keeps our minds alive and sharp, and keeps the door propped open for God’s guidance.
It could be easy to think that all of this means a life well lives is centered on bettering myself. But Jesus challenges that natural tendency. Growing in our relationship with God and understanding of ourselves is not a project in and of itself. It serves a greater cause. We are here to bring good and beautiful things into the world, so that others can be loved, served, blessed. To love our neighbor as ourselves keeps us grounded and it takes ideas that can easily stay abstract and forces them to become real.
This is the paradoxical laboratory of spiritual growth: The more we grow in our understanding of God and who we were made to be, the more we will focus on serving the people around us. / The more we serve the people around us, the more we will understand God and who we were made to be.
As we grow in understanding and intentionality in each of these areas, we will understand God more, understand ourselves more, and find that we are living a life that is more fulfilling for ourselves and at the same time, of more benefit to the world around us. That will be a wholehearted life.