“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 29-31
Ok, y’all. I know you’re probably thinking, this concept of loving God and loving your neighbor isn’t anything new, but let me tell you…these verses hit me in a whole new way this past year. As an athletic trainer and an Enneagram 2 (shout out to all my fellow Enneagram nerds), it’s basically in my DNA and job description to love people. I mean you all know what your ATC’s do for you athletes out there. And trust me, I love it, but it comes with a major responsibility.
Expectations from coaches, athletes, parents, administrators and myself to prevent injury, heal injury, restore broken bodies, counsel you through the pain and suffering of lost time in your sport or the isolation from your team; these come with the burden of serving and loving you well. And with these burdens of love, sometimes there comes a breaking point. Mine came when I realized I believed I could fix and hold and help and love my athletes’ bodies, hearts, minds, and souls…all by myself (side note: this doesn’t work). I put it all on my shoulders and it was too much.
So, let me tell you why Mark 12 hit me with a new revelation. Jesus was asked by some teachers of the law to pick the greatest commandment; mind you, the Jewish Mosaic Law contained a little over 600 laws to be followed, and this teacher asked Jesus to pick the most important one. Jesus decides to one up him (gotta love the competition mindset) and picks the top two:
#1: Love the Lord your God with all your heart & all your soul & all your mind & all your strength.
If you’re like me (again: Enneagram 2 wing 1), then you just read those prerequisites of don’t just love God. Love Him with every part of you. Not just your head or just your heart or just your body or just your spirit. Nope, love Him with everything. Ok, and then as if that wasn’t enough already, Jesus gives us His second pick for greatest commandment:
#2: love your neighbor as yourself. And here’s the rub people.
I have been living for 28 years with these in reverse order! My rule book said, ‘Love people and don’t forget to love God.’ To quote the Grinch…”wrongo.” There is a reason He puts these in first and second place. We literally cannot love people well if we don’t first love the Lord. It is because Jesus first loved us that we are even able to love at all (1 John 4:19). I love the way John writes it: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11). Mic drop.
This was the answer to my breaking point of struggling to love people with everything I had…love Jesus with everything instead and then my love for people would flow out of that love for the Lord. And let me tell you…it has changed my life. Do I still give myself in the love and service of others? Yes. Do I still answer those late night phone calls and hold the tears of my athletes and feel the pain of their heartaches? Yes. But I do it from a new source of power: God’s power enabling me to love them because I know He loves me and holds more tears in his hands than I can possibly ever do. When I put my love towards Him first, he amplifies it, magnifies it, and empowers it as I then love my athletes. Oh and by the way, I don’t do this perfectly. But I do it while holding myself to a standard of grace and not perfection. Praise Jesus.
Now I live with a new rule book of grace: “Love God. Love each other. Love our world.”
Pami is an athletic trainer at Point Loma Nazarene University. She loves all things sports and competition, is passionate about the development and formation in the lives of her college student athletes, and nerds out on the Enneagram. When she’s not on the sidelines saving lives one ankle tape at a time, she’s probably on a walk & talk with a friend, drinking chai, or trying to one up you on a movie quote.