For all of us, there’s an inevitable side benefit to being human, and it’s this: if life is a journey, sooner or later we all lose our way.
Every journey begins with a single step in the right direction, but as life goes on, when we don’t have our eyes fixed on the outcome, it’s all too easy to veer off track. You’ve probably heard it said that when our focus is off by even just one degree over a long enough time, it leads us to places we’d never planned on going.
And unfortunately, we’ve all been there.
Some of you saw the title of this article and said, “I want to find my groove again. I’ve lost my way a little. I want to get back on track following Jesus.”
I am excited for you.
Know why? Because Jesus wants you back on track, too.
How do I know? Because he told us so.
Sometimes the way back is so simple that it almost feels complicated.
As a pastor and author, I meet people all the time who know the “right” answers, but for whatever reason, can’t seem to recall them (or live them) in the most essential moments.
As a follower of Jesus, I always want to keep the most important things front and center in my life. And there is no greater teaching of Jesus than the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:36–40).
So to get our groove back, I want to look at three simple steps that Jesus gave us, right in the Great Commandment.
1. Start upward.
Jesus introduced the Great Commandment by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, that we should “love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind.” I call this living upward. Getting your groove back has everything to do with living and loving upward.
Every relationship begins, and is ultimately sustained, by saying “yes.” We need to say yes to Jesus again and respond to him. God loves you. He always has, and he always will. Even though you may be off track right now, God’s love for you has not diminished at all.
In order to see transformation happen in your own life, you need to respond to God’s love by returning that love. So the first step back is to cultivate upward living by loving God with the totality of who you are.
2. Go inward.
Not only is it imperative to love God, but through God’s love, we learn how to love ourselves properly.
You see, what happens when we lose our focus on loving God is we begin to love ourselves in unhealthy ways. We do things we shouldn’t, because we are redefining what self-love looks like. The vertical access, living upward by loving God, is the essential pacesetter for living inward by loving yourself.
When you love yourself without being fully devoted to God, things get messy extraordinarily fast.
The only way to properly love yourself is to see yourself through the lens of the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross teaches us that we are simultaneously more loved than we can ever imagine and also more broken than we would ever care to admit. The cross shows us God’s amazing love because Jesus died for us. But it also shows us the depth of our sin—it’s so bad that Jesus had to die.
And the good news for us is that as we live upward by loving God, the Lord will reorient our self-love so we become increasingly healthy people emotionally.
3. Push outward.
The final step to getting back on track is to live outward by loving others.
As you live upward by responding to God’s love with love for him, and then you begin to love yourself based on God’s love, the Spirit of God invites you to push outward to love others with this amazing love.
God doesn’t want his love to stop with us. But let’s be honest: Loving others is incredibly hard.
Why? Because people are messy. And when we lose our way, we don’t want to love messy people.
But living upward continually reminds us that God loves us, even in the midst of our messes.
And living inward teaches us to love ourselves, even though we are messy.
Then, living outward directs us to love others, especially when they are messy.
And just like that, in three simple steps, you find yourself, day in and day out, locked into the groove of following Jesus.
It’s that simple. Upward. Inward. Outward.
To explore this more in depth, I hope you will join me in the pages of my book Upward, Inward, Outward, where I share a lot more about how the Great Commandment—a God-breathed system for living—works.