I love you but I just can’t smile

Have you ever played the game “Honey, if you love me will you please, please smile?” It’s a popular children’s game so I’m sure you have. I remember playing it at summer camp. We would stand in a circle early in the morning, the fog just starting to dissipate as the undertow of the thick humid heat began to scorch the ground. “Let me demonstrate,” I would say, walking up to the kid with the least amount of self-control; the one who stayed up the previous night laughing at every fart sound his bunkmate could muster up. “Honey, if you love….” Immediately the kid’s cheek would deflate as a spray of spit-expelling laughter came out.

The goal of the game was to try and make the other person laugh. If they could manage somehow to keep a straight face after you finished your part, they then had to reply “Honey, I love you but I just can’t smile” without breaking their stern character.

It’s just a silly game, but it turned on a lightbulb for me today during my devotional time.

John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

I kept picturing Jesus going around the circle begging, pleading, “Honey if you love me, will you please, please smile?”  One after another His children, broken down by life’s messes, replied “Jesus I love you, but I just can’t smile.” Jesus tries again, “But I love you, the Father loves you, I want to show myself to you.” His child falls to their knees in defeat “Jesus I just can’t…”

It’s a sobering thought, but I wonder how many people are feeling that way today. Overwhelmed, defeated, burned.  We have let the stresses and knock-outs of life become our driving force instead of love. We know God’s commands, but sometimes it feels like too much. They become burdensome. Instead of principals that guide our life, we try to somehow squeeze them into our own navigating.

We must allow them to saturate our very core until they flow out naturally. We must become driven by love. We should keep these commands not just to “follow the rules” but as an act of love.

We need to practice saying “Jesus I love you and I will smile” even when it’s hard. When we act out of love instead of sin, our relationship with the Father begins to sync. The Son who is obedient to His Father then shows himself to us as we are invited into reciprocal relationship of the trinity.

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