Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Struggle to Love

With all the strident hate these days, Karma demands balance. Love is all around. And if one looks, it's easy to find.

When I was at chiropractic college, surrounded by liberalism in it's many rainbows of conformity, and when I was with those who held that liberalism enduring with pinched restraint my quaint notions of How The World Should Be, I learned fully that indulgence and condescension and certain forms of charity were not love. Because my husband and I were friendly enough, "not that kind of Christian", we were included. Tolerated. In the way one tolerates rotten potatoes in the trash until the Hefty bag gets filled and must be taken out.

We removed ourselves from New York. Two more rotten potatoes in Texas.

That's not to say that my liberal friends weren't capable of love. They were. But the environment swirled of anger at perceived slights and prejudice. The circles were small, exclusive, defensive. The community reminded me of the harsh, unforgiving dogmatism that defined the Christian sect my family joined when I was a baby. The us-and-them mentality informed all thought. It rose to the level of hysteria should a possible persecution loom. Those who left the fold were shunned. We had dear friends literally turn their backs to us.

It goes without saying, but I'll say it. That's not love. This is love:

1 If I speak in human and angelic tongues 2 but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
3 Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated,
it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
4 Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
5 So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Some parts of this pivotal New Testament passage are often overlooked. What does it mean, that we know "in part"? What does it mean to "put aside childish things"? What does it mean to "see indistinctly, as in a mirror"?

What Paul says to me through these passages is that we think we know a lot now, we think we have all the answers, but it's foggy. A mirror is only a reflection of our version of things. We don't have the whole story. When we were children we thought we had the whole story. We thought that our little experience was the whole experience. When we grow up, we learn differently. We "know partially", but there is a time coming when we will "know fully". That time is not now--all technology, science, theory and thoughts that deceive us to the contrary.

Paul is reminding us to be humble. And in that humility, comes love. We really can be silly creatures, so sure of ourselves. Love and patience and kindness endure. Hope endures. But the greatest is love.

How do you recognize love? What are love's fruits? In a word: laughter. Joy, patience, mercy all demonstrate love. At church the other day, during prayer time, one woman gave a prayer of thanks for her husband's health. He had some health problems and facing 60 was depressed at the notion of going down hill. But his health turned around. The whole family was buoyed by his vitality. She said, "I'm just so glad he's healthy and turning 60, that he's still so, so.... capable." The kids were in kids church, and all the adults remaining laughed for a good few minutes. That wasn't exactly what she meant, of course. He's a self-employed handyman and his shoulder and health problems interfered with his work and we all knew this, but what it sounded like. Well, you know. Now a more vain person would be embarrassed, but not this great lady. When she figured it out, she laughed along with everyone else.

The proud don't laugh. The vain don't love. There isn't much room for either when trying to be smarter and right.

Is it possible to be convicted of your own beliefs and possess the grace and humility to know that "knowledge passes away", to be open to a new knowledge or a new view? I hope so. Love is not some empty ideal, it takes work and action. It is merciful and gentle and kind. Siggy shares a beautiful post about love and says:

We cannot allow the toxicity of the past to poison the love of the present and future. We must engage in a 'cleanup,' so that future generations are not poisoned. No parent would expose their child to radioactive waste, willingly. The would do whatever it took to provide the child with a safe environment.

It is clear that the foundation pillars of a loving and healthy home are the spiritual connections that are found there. Not necessarily in the religious and stereotypical context of the word, but rather, spiritual in the sense of people who embrace life and celebrate life.

A loving home is where meaningful exchanges and conversations take place, where ideas are shared in a honest and encouraging way, discussed without fear of ridicule. A loving home is place where words do not have to be measured and there are no eggshells to be found. In a loving home, egos are not wielded like swords. Real love, shared, is about common goals and ideals and visions of an always expanding love and encouragement.

I fear that what is happening societally reflects what happens in the home. Harsh and critical, unforgiving and mean, and always, always angry, the nation will cease to be a environment of "common goals and ideals and visions of an always expanding love and encouragement". It is worth cultivating love in our life, one person at a time. It is worth contributing respectful rhetoric. And in a loving environment, disagreement is tolerated and encouraged. People argue, even about something as unassailable as God's word, studying if it be so.

Love does not require mindless automatons. In fact, conformity of thought and rejection of dissent reveals a frightened, insecure, unfaithful and unloving perspective.

It takes effort to love. It's easy to hate. Like a muscle, though, love grows with exercise. Around seven years ago, when I began attempting to restructure my life and determine to do differently, I lamented to a personal advisor, "Every day, every thought, I have to work so hard just to avoid succumbing to my old beliefs. I catch myself mid-sentence and have to strangle the words. It's such effort." He assured me that is would get easier. That eventually, just like my "instinctual" reactions, these new beliefs and actions would become second nature, too. It was and is still difficult. It's hard work pulling the roots of life-choking actions and the beliefs that drive them.

The only solution is to plant good seeds in the place where weeds once lived. Life is so much easier in the presence of love. Love lifts the burdens of having do be and do everything
oneself. Seeking peace and pursuing it earnestly provides an environment for love to grow.

When motivated by love, one's vision clears. There is hope. The world expands. Enemies are viewed for what they are-God's children. As for our own children, love changes everything. Mercy and kindness and truth and gentleness, all of these spiritual things we provid our children will help us heal our past while dramatically changing the future. We have the opportunity to make a difference. We are making a difference.

It is worth the struggle to love. The whole world depends on us learning it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When we were children we thought we had the whole story. We thought that our little experience was the whole experience.

"Oh, I was so much Older then;
I'm Younger than that now..."