Years ago, in a General Conference talk, President Monson shared the poem, “Which Loved Best?” It was timely for me, in the middle of raising my family. In those days I collected classic poems and helped my children memorize them as part of their home school curriculum. I remember listening to Elder Monson recite this poem, taking particular note of the message, and determining that it would be next up on the “poetry to teach” list.
Which Loved Best?
“I love you, mother,” said little John;
Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on,
And he was off to the garden swing,
Leaving his mother the wood to bring.
“I love you, mother,” said rosy Nell;
“I love you better than tongue can tell”;
Then she teased and pouted full half the day,
Till her mother rejoiced when she went to play.
“I love you, mother,” said little Fan;
“Today I’ll help you all I can.
How glad I am that school doesn’t keep!”
So she rocked the baby till it fell asleep.
Then, stepping softly, she took the broom,
And swept the floor, and dusted the room;
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and cheerful as child could be.
“I love you, mother,” again they said—
Three little children going to bed;
How do you think that mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?”
(Joy Allison, Highdays and Holidays, 133)
If you have children or if you’ve ever been a child I’m sure you can imagine my motivation in teaching this poem to my five, at home all day, mostly obedient, nearly constant companions. The big manipulation, I mean the big message, in my mind was, “Kids, if you really love me then be kind, be helpful, and be obedient all day long! If you really love me, show me!!!”
I’m not sure the poem proved to be successful manipulation or proper motivation. Later I ran across and studied a verse of scripture that helped me understand why. In D&C 42:29 the Lord said, “If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all of my commandments.”
I decided to look up the little word “shalt.” According the dictionary the word “shalt” is “used to express what seems inevitable or likely.” The verse might read, “If you love me [it is very likely or inevitable that you will] keep my commandments.” This thought came to my mind: “Nannette, God is not manipulating us here like a whiney mother saying: ‘If you really love me you would do the dishes; you would get up for church, etc.’ No! God is expressing the truth that the natural result of love for Him is obedience.”
Out of lack of patience and understanding am I guilty of putting the cart before the horse? Have I not understood the relationship between love and obedience in my relationship to my children or to the Lord? In both cases I have often focused on the look of love instead of the real thing.
Could it be that serving God and keeping His commandments will flow naturally out of my love for Him? Keeping or not keeping commandments is in fact an outward sign of my feelings for Him. So often I put all my focus and energy toward working on a particular commandment that is difficult for me. Maybe I would make more progress in obedience if I worked on my feelings for the Lord.
The next question is, “What can I do to help my love for God grow?” 1 John 4:19 says, “We love Him, because he first loved us,” John is saying that we love Jesus to the extent that we recognize His love for us. Conscious contact with His love for us yields love for Him, and love for Him yields obedience.
Lesson Learned: As I watch and pray to see the hand of the Lord in my life (evidence of His love for me) I receive the blessing of knowing that God loves me. I in turn feel love for God. The natural result of my love for God is my desire to serve Him and keep His commandments. My motivation becomes more pure. My actions become the expression of authentic love. “I Love You Jesus,” said little Nan…
By Nannette W.
Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Copyright 2008 by Nannette W. All right reserved.
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