“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
When president of Columbia International University I received a letter signed “Miss Sarah.” I didn’t know Miss Sarah but in the letter she said she prayed for us every day. Then she added, “many times a day.” I knew immediately I needed to see this lady to thank her in person. Her return address was a local nursing facility and soon I found myself in the lobby of the nursing home.
“Could I see Miss Sarah?”
“You can try, but she may be in bed.”
“At five in the afternoon?”
“Well, yes, she goes to bed early.”
“Why so early?”
“She gets up very early.”
I made my way down a hall where there were occasional unpleasant odors and one persistent cry of someone in distress, hopefully imagined distress. Finally I reached her room and sure enough she was in bed—a tiny angel perched against the pillow in her frilly nightgown.
“Oh, Mr. McQuilkin,” she sings out, “Isn’t God good?”
“Indeed he is. How has he been good to you?”
“My room,” she said. I glanced around the tiny cubicle that had space for a bed, a table, and a dresser—and not much more. “So what’s special about your room?” I asked.
“Why, the window. Look at my window.” I looked and all I could see out her window was the cement block wall of the next building, twelve feet away. “Tell me about your window, “ I said.
“Can’t you see? It’s facing east. Every morning I look out that window and say, ‘Maybe my Jesus will come today!’”
For seventeen years alone and infirm, a retired missionary, spending her days in prayer for God’s people and God’s work around the world, filled with hope and joy. Why? Preparing for the coming of her Lover!
For people like Miss Sarah it’s not what I enjoy most, how may I best build my kingdom, what sort of security is there in it, can I maintain my standard of living? Not: “what?” “where?” “how?” but:
So how can I unmix my motives? How can I measure love? Let’s see. . This past week, 35% of choices were from self-love, 50% because of love for others, 25% love for God,. You say, that doesn’t add up. No, it never will, so don’t try. All motives are legitimate and you can’t analyze your inner self like a chemical analysis. But you can measure love. Love is measured not by the intensity of feeling but by the sacrifice it stands ready to make. You can tell when the loves are in conflict. Which love wins out?
It might be a small thing like, who gets up at 3 A.M. with the crying baby. Who gets sacrificed? That might depend on whom I love the more. A little thing. Or it might be a major thing, like where I’m willing to serve God. Or like a cross.
Think of the battle of the loves in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46) “Please, Father, let me off… “ he cried in an agony. But in that battle of the loves Jesus’ love for the Father won out. “Nevertheless,” he concluded, “not my will but yours…”
Perhaps you’re in a personal Gethsemane today. What battle of the loves faces you — a call to sacrifice self-interest for love of another or for all the others to whom God has sent you? A conflict with whether God’s desires through you will be sacrificed for your own? Would it help to name the conflict of motives you experience today?