After 31 years of bachelorhood, marriage has had a steady stream of surprises for me. Some positive and some less so but all very important to work through to keep a relationship healthy. One of the more impacting things I've learned has been about motivation. It's surprising how greatly the position of my heart can affect the results of my actions.
My wife, like most wives, loves it when I do things around the house like make the bed, take out the garbage, or not leave clothes on the floor. I came to the realization that as her husband, I can either choose to do these things to avoid upsetting her or I can do them from a place of love to show her love. The actions would be the same but my heart would be in very different places.
This made me think about how this simple thing parallels my relationship with the Lord. As Christians, we have a lot of expectations that can be put on us to say the right words, do the right things and avoid doing the wrong ones. While adhering to some of these things can be beneficial, if we're doing them for any other reason than to show love to the Lord, then we're missing the point.
After discovering this parallel, I had to ask myself some questions: What sort of things am I doing because "it's what Christians do" and what am I doing because I actually love the Lord? What of my actions are motivated by a desire to avoid negative repercussions? Maybe the most interesting question to ask would be: Is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons still right? Obviously, I'm not talking about committing a crime or adultery. But if my motive was not to express love, would my artificial and self-centered activities still please Him or would He just wish that I really knew His heart? (I'll let you draw your own conclusions on that one. It's an interesting thing to think about.)
If everything I did for my wife I did to avoid upsetting her, would I really be doing them for her or for myself? And, if she were to ascertain my true motives, would that make her feel valued or dreadfully misunderstood? (Hint: it's not the first one.) I can't help but think that's how the Lord feels when our actions are based on what we think He wants of us rather than doing them to say, "I choose this to tell You I love You."
Ultimately, if I do anything that is not motivated at it's core by love, then I'm doing it for the wrong reason. Any healthy relationship must go beyond actions and engage the heart and so my relationship with the Lord must go deeper than avoiding sin for it to be growing.