Goal: To become aware of your 7 Core Areas, along with the necessity and benefit of daily work in these core parts of yourself.
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is replied in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’, and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” – Luke 10: 25 – 28 (TNIV)
Here in this passage of scripture you’ll find the core of Wisdom for Life. I say this because as I consider this exchange, I see Jesus providing a simple yet profound “template of activity,” which if integrated into our lives could constructively impact our immediate, “here and now” experiences in life, in addition to creating opportunities for long-term, productive and wise personal and relational outcomes in our future. How? Let’s take a closer look at this.
In this passage of scripture, I see Jesus affirming there are Seven Core Areas of our existence, in that we are Spiritual, Cognitive, Emotional, Physical/Biological and Sexual beings (these relate to the 1st Greatest Commandment – “Heart, Soul, Strength and Mind”), and that we are Social/Relational and Environmental beings (these relate to the 2nd Greatest Commandment – “Neighbor as Yourself”). Take a look at the chart below for a visual depiction of this.
After identifying these Core parts of who we are, Jesus invites us to open up our total being, all that we are, to seek Him and to be a recipient of His love (“Love God”), then to incorporate His love into ourselves for our own well-being and growth (“Love Self”), and finally, with His help and direction, to produce then give away healthy manifestations of love to others (“Love Neighbor as Yourself”). As I’ve re-read this scripture over the decades of my life, I’ve come away thinking this is the simplest yet most profound way to interpret these Two Greatest Commandments. So how do you accomplish these tasks associated with growing wisdom in and through the totality of your being? Glad you asked!
You may recall that one of your sub-goals from the previous post is to grow edifying and nutritious wisdom which reflects you’re becoming skilled at living. So, in your endeavor to cultivate, harvest, enjoy and share any form of fruitful and qualitative change in your life and relationships, I’d like to suggest that you look at your 7 Core Areas as “seven rows of a garden.” The goal of this suggestion is for you to plant “seed-like” ideas which are germane to circumstances in your life and specific to the nature of each row, that you’ll nurture, mature then eventually harvest as therapeutic and skilled behaviors over the seasons of your life, which are good for you and good for your “neighbors” (who are simply the people in closest proximity to you). An example of this would be to plant (which infers repetitive practice) the spiritual disciplines of study, meditation and reflection each day to grow your Spirituality, or to integrate a nutrition and exercise plan to achieve wellness in the Physical/Biological domain of your life, or to attend a grief group to help you deal with your Emotions following the loss of a family member. I think that looking at your life and growth process in this manner will accomplish three important objectives.
First, by opening yourself up to God to receive His love means you’re tapping into a positive power greater than yourself who has your best interests in mind (that is, to provide a depth, richness and quality of love and life experience for you, in and through you, as manifested by the production of healthy, edifying and therapeutic behaviors).
And what are these behaviors to be fertilized and grown in the soil of your head and heart? Well, in my research, and subsequently counsel/practice regarding the Greek word for Love (“Agapao”), I’ve discovered it has ten behavioral descriptors (to Love, Esteem, Cherish, Respect, Favor, Honor, Accept, Prize, Relish and be Devoted to), which when planted or integrated into the soil of our 7 Core Areas has the triple ability to “produce, flavor and fortify” any value, virtue or behavior that mutually benefits us and the neighbors in our lives. So this first objective encourages you to “open up your soil” (your head and heart) to receive the love that God desires to pour into the 7 Core Areas or “7 rows in the garden” of your life.
The second objective (and sometimes I call this the “Middle or 1.5 Commandment”), is to simply let God’s love permeate the totality of your being, which is your 7 Core Areas. Practically, this means allowing the love of God to water, saturate, fertilize, touch, empower, inform, transform and mature the virtues, values, principles and behaviors you’ve chosen to live by. The end goal of this collaborative activity is for you to be edified, nurtured, healed, and strengthened by the nutritious, diverse and wise fruit of your labor, born in the union of your work with God and harvested for its invigorating self-care and other-care benefits.
A key takeaway for me with this second objective is that over the course of my life, I’ve realized the best virtues and values which edified and provided the best self- and other care nourishment are those connected to the Ten behavioral descriptors of Love and the Nine Fruit of the Spirit, and we’ll define these virtues in the next section of this book.
Another key takeaway with this second objective is that I’ve realized it’s God responsibility to dynamically grow and season any of the virtues and values in our lives (John 15:1-5), but it’s our responsibility to protect, consume, be strengthened by then share with others that which is grown in us. This removes a lot of self-inflicted pressure to produce, perfect then perform because we may think it’s up to us to change, heal and grow but I’d like to suggest that our job, like the seed in the soil, is to remain in the soil, and tap into and benefit from the life-altering energy of God (the water, minerals, the sunlight for photosynthesis, etc.) to facilitate our fruitful (and oftentimes supernatural) growth and maturation.
Seen in this way this clarifies God’s responsibility and your responsibility for growth in the garden of your life which removes a lot of anxiety and makes our growth process seem easier, however I’ve also realized as a human being, I’ve tended to get in my own way and complicate my own growth process. Let me explain.
Not only has my growth process been stunted because I thought I had to produce the sweet and mature behavioral change that I and others around me needed or wanted (my “EGO,” or Edging God Out), I’ve also found the greatest challenge(s) to my growth has been to consistently open up and remain vulnerable, humble and to surrender to a process of growth which could benefit me and others. On the contrary, I’ve stymied or sabotaged my growth and effectiveness by doing the very things which are the opposite of God’s growth process by being closed-minded, stubborn, insensitive, or controlling of others and outcomes. Today I realized its very simple math: If I don’t open up and plant the seeds in the appropriate Core Areas of my life, then there is no light, no insight, no empowerment and no growth which as you could see leads to spiritual fatigue, malnutrition, famine conditions, etc.
On the other hand, if I do open my brain and heart and partner with God to engage in the daily process of planting ideas and processes into my head and heart, then the combined energy expenditure creates opportunities for new growth, new habits, new neural connections (neuroplasticity), phytoremediation (where plants are used to heal the soil) and above all, endless and fruitful possibilities. Are you beginning to see how the application of the Two Greatest Commandments could lead to eternal life on the other side, but I think just as importantly from Jesus’ perspective, for us to “live as if you’re recovering from an illness,” which is the meaning of the word Jesus used (Zao), and is certainly a condition I need help with?
The third and final objective is to simply, freely but also consistently share the fruit of our labor with others, which on the face of it may not be that difficult, because if we choose to live by the first or “1.0” commandment to Love God, then by the middle or “1.5” commandment to Love Self, then the natural and logical expression of our behavior to others will be an extension of the behavior we’re applying to ourselves.
The challenge is to love others by offering fruitful, wise and nutritious behavior from the abundance of our growth, which is why wisdom desires us to become skilled at living, and this skill is learning how to synergistically co-operate with God to produce these behaviors consistently over the seasons of our lives. I can’t begin to tell you how enthused and empowered I feel because the process of personal and relational growth has been “demystified” and simplified for me as I realize growth occurs when I garden with God daily. I encourage you to roll up your sleeves, get in the mindset to work in your 7 Core Area, and make sure you have a basket handy to harvest then share the fruit God will grow in you!
Suggested Activity: Begin to “live in consultation” with God and others: Seek counsel from a spiritual mentor or someone you trust who provides valuable insight and information regarding behaviors you’ll want to grow in your life. Take in the “suggested seeds,” then practice the behavior consistently to produce good and capable outcomes in your interactions with others. Also, remember to “G.A.S.” up frequently on your journey ahead. This means to…
- …Think about what goals you envision cultivating in each of your Core Areas, and why it’s important for you to develop and practice the behaviors connected to your goals. What are they?
- …Think about the activities you’d like to create, engage in and enjoy personally and/or with others which is a reflection of your growth. What activities come to mind?
- …Think about what skills you see yourself developing and how you see your life enriched due to the development and regular practice of the behaviors in each of the Core Areas. Who needs what fruit from you and how do you think the two of you will be mutually strengthened?
Skill: The ability to come to your own assistance and to the assistance of others by identifying and delivering specific, helpful, loving and “nutritious” behaviors that are appropriate to the circumstances you encounter in life.