Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NIV)
I had heard these words and even said them many times as I grew up. Every time I said them, though, I didn't really think about love of God as anything more than obeying His commands. It couldn't possibly be talking about love the way we use the word love today, could it?
In trying to love God, I found myself struggling with this concept in many ways. How can you love someone that you cannot see? How can I treat God as a "someone" when God is "Holy, Holy, Holy"? How can I think about God in the same way that I think about my wife, my children, my best friend, and my love for Cincinnati chili and Mountain Dew? Loving God just didn't make sense, except in the idea of obeying His commands.
A little later in my life, I started meeting people who seemed to have something more in their lives. Following God wasn't about following rules. There was more depth to them. I wondered why. They would explain the difference by saying, "It's not about Religion. It's about relationship." They claimed to have a relationship with God. I was impressed...and confused.
I still wasn't sure how they built a "relationship" with an awesome, overwhelming, king of kings God; but I was willing to learn. So I began going to Church services, Bible studies, and serving in ministry with them. I began building a relationship with God as I built relationships with them. I learned to love the idea of a relationship with our Almighty God. And our relationship started to grow.