You Are What You Love
As I write this, I’m in the midst of doctoral classes at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. One of our assigned readings for this term is a book by James K.A. Smith called, You Are What You Love. Perhaps you’ve read this book, or at least heard of it. Smith is a philosophy professor at Calvin College in Michigan. He has authored a series of books about Christians in culture, but this particular book is about the power of habit in shaping what we love. A basic premise of Smith’s book is that our rituals – our habits – both shape, and reflect, what is most important to us. Smith’s simple assertion is that if we examine what we aim for in life, and how we spend our time, we might realize that we don’t actually love what we think we love.
Smith’s book got me to thinking about what I’ll call “essential relationships.” By that I mean the relationships you or I might identify as most important in our lives. If I were to ask you what are your most important relationships, what would you say? You might say it is with your parents or your children, or with your spouse or your siblings. If you’re a person of Christian faith, you’d probably say that your relationship with God is your most important relationship. If pressed a little further, you might even say that your relationship with a favorite household pet (or horse!) is among your most important.
Nobody is going to argue with you about the primacy of these relationships in your life. But a question to ask is, “Do my habits – the way I spend my time and my thoughts – actually reflect what I believe are my most important relationships?” How would you answer that question? If I say that I love my spouse, do my time and thoughts actually bear that out? If I say that my relationships with my children are among my most important, is that actually reflected in what I think about and in how I spend my time? If I claim to love God above all, how do I actually make time and space for that relationship?
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s often tough to correlate the use of our time and our mental energy with the things and the people we claim to love the most. The practical aspects of living place demands on our time and our thoughts. We work in order to support those we love; or, so that those we love won’t have to support us! We give of our time and energy to those outside our immediate circles of concern because this is what Christ calls us to do. We do as much as we think we can to strengthen our relationship with God, but we often feel that it’s not enough. Sometimes just getting to Sunday worship feels like an accomplishment!
Smith says in his book that when we worship in meaningful ways, it restores our loves. Isn’t that a beautiful way to think about worship? Worship should reorient us to our essential relationships; our relationship with God in Christ, and all our other relationships that flow from that primary relationship with our Creator, through our Savior. When we make our relationship with God our top priority – with time and thought devoted to the reading of Scripture, and to prayer and worship – God helps order our habits so we can truly love what and whom we say we love. When Jesus said in Matthew's gospel, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be, also;” he was talking about more than money. He was talking about the way we are to order our lives, so that we can build our “treasure” where it really matters.
With prayers for your journey,