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RUNNING ON EMPTY
When I was a teenager and got my first car, a 1964 VW Beetle mint green, I would occasionally run it on empty just to see how many miles per gallon I could get. Then I would get out, hitchhike to the nearest gas station and walk back to fill up the small gas tank. This would have been fine if it only involved me. But it frustrated the heck out of my girlfriend! Soon the novelty of this “great adventure” began to wear thin on her. And in order to maintain a budding relationship, I soon accepted the fact that the mileage wasn’t going to improve and discarded this whole “great adventure” thing.
As life took its course, my girlfriend became my wife and we soon entertained “grown up” ideals, children, jobs, responsibilities, etc… Through all of this there was an emotional theme following us as we shared life together. Sometimes, I was “up” emotionally, sometimes I was down. It seemed, if I was up, my wife was up, if I was down, she was down. That’s not what I wanted or needed. If I was down, I wanted her to be up so she could bring me up. And the other way around. It seemed I had put her on a pedestal, looking to her to meet my emotional and other needs, as she mostly did before we were married.
When she wasn’t meeting my needs, I had frustration, anger, pity parties and the like. I didn’t understand my problem. I thought it was her problem. I thought she wasn’t being loving enough. Or maybe she was “falling out of love” with me. I was like my VW gas tank that was running on empty and she wasn’t giving any “gas”! Maybe our time was over? Maybe our love was over?
That’s when I realized that God made each of us with a “love tank”. We each need to get our daily fill ups. In sharing this idea with a friend, he used the example of a bank account. Each of us has a “love” bank account. There are deposits and withdrawals. But the problem seems to be that people are making more withdrawals on me than are making deposits into me! I seem to be in the negative often! I don’t have anything in the account to give and yet there are still demands on me that I can’t seem to meet. And therefore, my soul is not doing well. I am running on “fumes” so to speak.
My friend went on to share with me that people say that love is a mystery. “You never know when love will strike. You never know when you’ll fall in love. Or out of love for that matter.” He says, “That’s garbage.” If we stay with the bank account analogy, those who are regularly making deposits, you have love for. Those who are making constant withdrawals without making compensating deposits, we don’t “feel” love for.
It’s been said that love is not a feeling, it’s a decision. I think a decision to make regular deposits into someone’s love bank account is the essence of love. I am choosing the welfare and interest of another on purpose and taking corresponding action.
I realized when I had my girlfriend up on that pedestal, I was demanding of her that she make deposits into my love bank account all the time. I was putting a demand on her that she couldn’t fulfill. I had set her up to fail because of my unrealistic demands. I had created a problem that only God could solve. A God kind of problem.
A God problem? What does God have to say about this?
“The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you.” Isaiah 31:3
God not only has the ability but also the desire to continually make deposits into my love bank account.
Call me hard-headed but it just dawned on me that He has always wanted to have this intimate love relationship with me where there is a continual flow of deposits. I’ve been looking to people to fill this love tank instead of God. I’ve been putting unrealistic demands on human beings and/or circumstances or events to fill this love tank/bank account. I’ve been trying to squeeze toothpaste out of an empty tube. To quote a famous lyric, “I was looking for love in all the wrong places.”
I’m confident this is why people have so many failed relationships. We are wanting something that they can’t deliver.
We’ve been trying to be the manager of our love tank when God wants to be the manager. His love is what we are lacking. His love is what we are designed to “run on”. And He can cause His love to flow through people, places, things, events, animals, a thousand different avenues.
And herein lies the problem, how do we have God be the manager of my love tank? What are the practical steps to make this heart to heart connection? How do I build a “pipeline” from my heart to His, so there might be a continual, non-stop flow of love?
I believe step one is our realization that He has been waiting for us to come to Him. He has designed this love story before the earth was formed. He has wanted each of us to walk hand in hand with Him through this life and into eternity all along. He has wanted this intimate relationship before we were even aware of it. “If you seek Me with all of your heart, I will let you find Me…” Jeremiah 29:13
He’s been waiting for us to find Him! But it takes an effort with all of our hearts, where we truly desire Him above all else. Then, we’ll break through into finding Him. It starts with Desire.
Perhaps step two is realizing the cost of relationship. I believe the ultimate cost is time. I need to make a Decision to pay the price. It takes time to develop relationship. If I’m not willing to invest time into a relationship, my desire isn’t strong enough. We make time for what is really important to us.
If the desire is strong enough and I’m willing to invest the time it takes, then I need to go through the Discipline of building relationships. How do I do that? Here we go back to the idea of making deposits in someone’s bank account, in this case, God’s. Perhaps the discipline of demonstrating my love and gratitude to Him through praise and worship. Spending time with Him in reflection and meditation. Spending time in the love letter He wrote me called the Bible. Obeying Him as He gives me His heart and thoughts. Serving others as though it was Him. Being in communion with others that are passionate about Him. Being faithful in looking to Him only as my Source for everything. Loving our neighbors as ourselves.
This is a good start for actions steps in developing a relationship with God. As we practice these steps, with time and patience, we will break into a place of Delight where we are walking through life with Him and my loving actions have become automatic!
Now I begin to experience the flow from heaven. Now I feel the love from His heart into mine. Now I see Him “taking out my stony heart and giving me His heart of flesh.” See Ezekiel 11:19 Now my love tank is getting filled up on a daily basis. Now my bank account has significant daily deposits. And now, I found love in all the right places.
And just as important, I now am not putting improper expectations on those I truly love. Now whatever acts of love come from them is the cherry on top of the ice cream.
Isaiah 54:10 For the mountains shall depart and the hill be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord who has mercy on you.
Isaiah 40:31 But those who wait (in hopeful expectancy) on the LORD shall renew(cause to spring up) their strength; They shall mount up(shoot forth) with wings like eagles, They shall run (speedily) and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. (NKJV)
1John 3:1 Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called children of God?
"What is the Identity Project"
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