When my daughter, Lauren, was in first grade, the elementary school gave students the assignment to write, illustrate, and “publish” an original book. Because she wanted her book to be unique, writing about animals, flowers, vacations or poetry was out of the question. She was going to pull from her six years of sisterly knowledge and experience, and the result was a how-to book entitled, How to Be a Great Sister. Here is just some of her wisdom:
How to Be a Great Sister
• Watch Stanley with your brother when no one
else will sit with him.
• Help tie a shoe even if the laces are soggy.
• Let someone else have the last cookie in the
• Put dirty, smelly socks in the hamper even if
someone else’s toe-jam is on it.
• Say “I’m sorry” even though you know they
• Don’t scream, “That isn’t fair!” when they win
the card game.
• Always say “I love you”.
• Always wave goodbye and say, “I’ll miss you!”
• Always kiss them good night.
Lauren’s book carries good advice for sisters and families. Good advice, really, for everyone. What I appreciate is that Lauren is the kind of sister described. She is a great sister…most of the time. In fact, when she completed her book, I said, “Lauren, this is terrific. You do these things most of the time, but how come you don’t act this way all of the time?”
She looked up, shook her 6 year-old head, and said, “Mom, some days I just don’t have it in me!”
She was always honest and profound. I agree. When it comes to loving others thoroughly, constantly, and unconditionally – don’t you have days when you just don’t have it in you?
I have more days like that than I’d like to admit. But, according to scripture, this puts us in somewhat of a dilemma. Listen to this verse.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Who is our neighbor? Everyone. The verse makes it clear that loving our neighbor is more than a suggestion. It is a command. To be more precise, it is the second great commandment.
Now, let’s be honest, here. Is this command realistic? Love everyone – all the time?
How can we fulfill such a lofty ideal? – especially when we, like Lauren, have days when we don’t have it in us?
Love: Receive First
On days when you’re on edge and, emotionally, you feel you have little to give – you can consider those warning signs. On occasions when your bucket is coming up empty – that’s your spirit telling you that you are lacking something. You need to fill yourself up. The first cardinal rule of Love is not extending it first to others, but extending it towards your Heavenly Father and Savior.
The secret to loving is receiving.
You can only give love by first receiving it. Maybe that’s why loving our neighbor is the second great commandment. The first? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).
There is reason why love toward our Heavenly Father comes first. He is the One who fills us. John H. Groberg said something to the effect of, We can only love our neighbor to the extent in which we receive God’s love.
We ourselves cannot create love. Love is a gift of the Spirit and emanates from God. If we’ve seldom or never received love, how can we truly love others? We can’t give what we don’t have. This is why many relationships are overdrawn. They have insufficient love. In order to love broadly and deeply – or love others as we are commanded – we need help from a legitimate source. To be filled with love we must go to the Source of Love.
…Love is of God.
1 John 4:7
We love…because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19
God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
1 John 4:15
If we are going to love like the Savior commands then we start by receiving. Filling ourselves. But how do we do that? Listen to Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians.
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father… That Christ may dwell in your heart by faith; that ye [be] rooted and grounded in love.
Ephesians 3:14, 17
As a tree draws water and nutrients from the soil, we draw nourishment from the Savior. But, what happens if the tree is separated from the soil?
Author Max Lucado made a great Christmas tree analogy to which I had the same experience, so I’ll share it. When I was young, our Christmas tradition was heading into the Santa Cruz mountains to chop down a fresh tree for our home. Then when Christmas came and went, and it was time to take down the tree, we would remove the ornaments, pack up the lights, carry out the tree, and then sweep up the millions of pine needles that had dropped all over the floor. They would be everywhere.
The tree, at this point, was no longer fresh and pliable. It would be falling apart. Why? Because it had been removed from its source of growth. For two to three weeks this tree was cut off from the soil and was planted in nothing more than a metal bowl. What kind of nourishment comes from a metal tree holder?
Some people have the same problem. They are pleasant to look at, nicely decorated, but they fall apart when you give them a bump or two. Think about yourself for a moment.
Does running into certain people leave you a little brittle and breakable?
Do you easily fall apart? If so, your love may be grounded in the wrong soil.
It may be rooted in their love (which is undependable),
or in an “ideal” (which is unrealistic),
or in your resolve to love (which is unsteady).
Grounded in the Savior’s Love
We receive Love by being grounded in the Savior’s Love.
John H. Groberg:
“God’s love fills the immensity of space; therefore, there is no shortage of love in the universe, only in our willingness to do what is needed to feel it.”
So, what do we do to feel that Love? We come to Him when we need to be filled. When we’re thirsty for answers;
Thirsty for forgiveness
Thirsty for comfort
Thirsty for peace
Thirsty for love
Then with an open heart, don’t just taste or sip – take time and drink in the Spirit. Once filled with the Savior’s Love, you’ll find your heart rejuvenated and expanded to the point that you can do and see and feel and understand things that you could not otherwise.
John H. Groberg also said:
“Filled with His love we can endure pain, quell fear, forgive freely, avoid contention, renew strength and bless and help others in ways surprising even to us.”
He alone is the Power Source. Many people try to tell us how to love. Only our Heavenly Father and Savior give us the power to do so.
Are there days when you feel you just don’t have it in you? Consider it a warning sign.
In the presence of certain people do you fall apart? Drought alert.
On occasion when the bucket’s coming up empty – that’s your spirit telling you: Something is lacking.
Do yourself a favor. Root yourself in the rich soil of the Savior’s Love. For the ground of His Love is both life-changing and life-giving – for yourself and for the people in your world.
He [or she] that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
1 John 4:8-11
Have a Love-filled Valentine’s Day!
Source: Groberg, The Power of God’s Love, Ensign, October 2004
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