Where True Heart Connection With Others Begins (as Told by a Recovering Love-Earner)

It wasn’t wrong. A hard thing happened to someone I cared for, and I jumped at the opportunity to help ease the burden. My actions were pure, rooted in offering the hands and feet of Jesus. But invisible to even me, revealed years later, sat a quiet longing.

I’d carried a deeply held hope for an unconditional, door-always-open-heart connection—a place where I’d feel at home. And to find that place, I thought I had to be perfect.

Ever since I prayed Jesus into my heart at age five, I’d been living out three commandments:

  1. Be perfect.
  2. Earn Jesus.
  3. Earn others.

And so, as one does in extended periods of self-reliance, I hit a wall. The collision came when I discovered that sometimes, no matter how much you strived for perfection you offer, that kind of love won’t be earned.

Earning a place by being perfect is a lie.

Limping across that finish line of striving brought with it an invitation to re-evaluate the three commandments I’d been living. As I pulled at that loose string of lies, I heard whispers of truth waiting in the unraveling. I love you. I choose you. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to earn Me.

As Jesus stitched these truths onto my soul, He invited me to discover the genuine heart connection I longed for. After I’d made it so hard for so long, the simplicity of this invitation surprised me.

Come, then go.

One of my favorite missionaries and authors, Beth Guckenberger, Co-Executive Director of Back2Back Ministries (and fellow Family Christian contributor), says the entire Bible can be summed up in two words: come and go.

Come to Jesus.

Go love others.

For years, I missed that these aren’t two separate directives. They’re sequential. In my quest to earn love, I didn’t understand that the answer to that longing isn’t found in the going, but in the coming.

Loving others builds on first coming to Him: Come, then go.

When we look at scripture, we see that God moves within this come-then-go rhythm:

  • Moses spent time with God before he led the people through the Red Sea (Exodus 14).
  • Gideon prayed and sought the Lord before he went to battle (Judges 7).
  • Nehemiah wept and grieved for 40 days before God sent him to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4).
  • Esther fasted and prayed before she risked her life to save her people (Esther 4:14-17).
  • Jesus sought God alone before He walked on the water (Matthew 15:22-33).
  • The disciples sat at Jesus’ feet before they went out to preach and heal (Luke 10).

The “come” part prepares us so that we can love others – loving others is made possible by first loving Jesus and being loved by Jesus. John Mark Comer summed it up this way: “We let God love us into people of love. We become more loving by experiencing love,” (Practicing the Way, page 48).

Jesus even gave us instructions for how to love God when He shared these commandments:

And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31, NLT).

If God is Love (1 John 4:16), that means we love Love. We soak Love into our hearts, our souls, our minds. Then we carry forth Love Himself.

But sometimes “going” jumps the line.

It’s a struggle, isn’t it? We’re not unlike the disciples who began arguing about who was the greatest, just as Jesus was explaining He was about to die (Luke 22). They are literally with Jesus, and right there, in front of Him, they begin striving.

We do that, too, don’t we?

I can come to Jesus with my coffee in the morning, throw in the laundry, hop on a Zoom, and walk with a friend. By lunch, I’ve forgotten what He just spoke to me about. Or I head out to the places I go with Jesus, and in one instant of forgetting I’m the daughter of the King, I set Him aside, grasping at scraps of counterfeit belonging.

Why do we separate the coming to Jesus from the going to others? I think it’s because we are still learning to love God deeply.

Love God deeper.

Loving Him with not just our hearts but also with our souls, our minds and our strength is a choice.

I mean, I know He loves me. I know He knows I love Him. And I’ve stood on that as my satisfactory fulfillment of the first commandment. Haven’t I loved Him since I was five?

However, a genuine heart connection with Jesus means showing up and offering Him who we are under the skin—letting Him into the places He already sees. The places He already is. When we offer Him our wounds and warts and, yes, even our warped wanting, He fills it all with His love.

In her introduction to the Interior Castle, Mirabai Starr writes that “the human soul is so glorious that God Himself chooses it as His dwelling place. All we have to do [to meet Him] is be still and go within” (Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila, p. 22, bracketed words mine).

Be still. Go within. Love God deeper.

Breaking free from the pattern of earning a place requires habitual intentionality, and meeting Him in the deepest places is the “how.” Learning to love Him with my mind, my heart, my soul, and my strength means offering Him all of these “rooms” inside me so that He can conform me to Him. It’s a process – and goodness, I miss it a lot.

But when we fully love Him with all we are, He does the rest:

  • He meets those who seek Him (Proverbs 8:17).
  • He transforms our minds (Romans 12:2).
  • He gives us new hearts (Ezekiel 36:26).
  • He meets our souls (Psalm 103).
  • He is our strength (Isaiah 12:2).
  • He speaks to us and tells us which way to go (Isaiah 30:21).

When we are in Christ, He will make us new (2 Cor 5:17) if we allow Him to. His transformation comes when we surrender it all. And that’s when we love others from a different starting place.

Love others better.

If we skip the loving God part, things go sideways fast. (Ask me how I know.) When people become our saviors, otherworldly snares seep in. Comparison. Competition. Scarcity. Jealousy. In places we feel overlooked, lonely, misunderstood, silenced, and invisible, He is the rock on which we stand. Earning and striving are sinking sand.

I’ve learned that if I’m looking for belonging and acceptance from the going, it’s a tell-tale sign that I’ve neglected the coming.

But when He transforms us, we “go” differently. When we grow down into His love and live in and from His love first, we can love others with undivided hearts. Peaceful hearts. Hearts that aren’t scraping and striving. Hearts that are filled with and by Him.

Because when His love lives in us, His love flows from us.

When we come and then we go, we find a true heart connection.

When we love God deeper, we love others better.

Genuine heart connection with others always begins with a deeper connection with Jesus. His heart is where we find home.

“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources, he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong” (Ephesians 3:16-17).

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