Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
The writer of Deuteronomy was definitely onto something. In the Shema we are commanded to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might.’ Here is rich food which is meant to be meditated on, chewed over and wrestled with. ‘What does it mean to love God with our heart, soul and might? What does it mean to apply every energy to the end of loving God? There is something deeply and profoundly intentional about this.
It’s like a sailor steering to a set compass course – concentrating, focusing ahead and attending to the surrounding conditions. Too often, perhaps, we leave it to the autopilot and sack off to attend to something else. Should we be surprised when tricky tides, cross currents and rogue waves knock us off course? Deliberate intentionality is at the heart of the wisdom of Deuteronomy. Loving God doesn’t happen by accident. Problem is, we easily slip into passive, going-through-the-motions religious behaviour, and we become forgetful. This forgetfulness is lethal, deadly, and deeply dangerous. When we stop actively seeking to love God, our capacity to love shrinks. Stunted and withered, we grow in on ourselves, and what might have been a great tree is a stumpy runt.
The writer tells us to have this command to love God on our hearts. It is to be kept conscious, the focus of our plans, hopes and dreams. We are to remind ourselves of it in physical symbols and signs, and teach it to our kids. Had the writer of Deuteronomy had the gift of social media he would have urged us to Tweet it, Facebook it, and email it. He would have urged us to send ourselves alerts, digital ‘notes to self’ to keep us focused on loving God. When we practice the pause, and turn to God regularly in the busyness of the day, revisiting that command to love God with all our energies, we are effectively rebooting our imaginations and refreshing the pages of possibility.
What does it mean to love God with all our heart, soul and might? It means the flow of my energy is outward. I am no longer focused on myself. I am freed from narcissism, freed from the futile hamster wheel of ‘pleasing myself’. I am freed to echo the generosity of God. Thing is, unless we practice the pause and deliberately focus our energies on the goal of loving God in our thoughts, attitudes, actions and words, then the fog of forgetfulness falls… and once again we drift off course. This is why the writer of Deuteronomy is so adamant about intentional remembering – talk about it, dream about it, send your self intentional reminders. Put it another way: tattoo it on your forehead and send yourself regular alerts.