We are called to love.
The belief in God has never been something that I have struggled with before. Even as a young child, it was just something that made sense to me. I was able to see a flow in life. I had a pretty clear understanding of kindness, compassion and love. I gravitated toward those who operated in these fruits of the spirit. My grandma would whisper messages to me as she rocked me to sleep and I would absorb them. She told me I was precious to God. She told me God loved me. I believed it without a second thought. What this gave to me was the belief that I was in this world for a reason and that reason had something to do with being loving.
I have a dear friend that describes her faith in a way that is simply brilliant. She has given me permission to use it publicly as it is something that I love so much and I come back to quite often. She describes herself as a children’s Bible thumper. Isn’t that fantastic? When she expands on this more she talks about really getting behind the God of the children’s Bible. The children’s bible has an overarching message. You were created by God and you are so very loved. Nice.
Then we hit puberty and we are all lost. Just utterly lost; rough stuff. Nothing that was is now. Along with that, suddenly, the message changes. The children’s Bible gets dark. It becomes more like Grimm’s Fairy Tales. For many faith communities, all of our desires and thoughts and wishes become somehow bad in some way; something to be denied and certainly to be controlled. The children’s bible will no longer do! For me, this is when intense shame entered the picture for me. My sense of belonging also became challenged as I walked toward the fringe, afraid if those people who say they loved me really knew what I thought and felt, I would be cast out.
The children’s bible version of life is often something that we can get behind. It doesn’t take too much to get us there. We seek to be loved and it feels mighty good when we experience love ourselves. I recently found out from a segment on 60 minutes about dogs that my dog likes to look at me. I have a pit bull mix that I have had since she was teeny tiny. She stares at me. A lot… Like all the time. I honestly have felt burdened by this because I thought she wanted something. Does she need to go outside? Does she want to play? What does she want?
It turns out she just wanted to stare at me because it is enjoyable to her. When she stares at me, her brain releases oxytocin. We like oxytocin. So we do things that will allow us to feel that chemical change. We are called to love and that is a good, good thing. We desire that feeling of love. It moves us and changes us to love.
So we are called to love. Yes, we can get behind that.
Let’s add to that now. We are called to love those around us.
One of the perks I have found in coming to church is that I get to imagine doing “better”, whatever better looks like given the topic at hand. We get to sit in our pews and chairs, listen to a message and apply that message to imagined circumstances. We can have imagined conversations where we put into practice some fundamental spiritual discipline. I can just see myself being loving next time I encounter whatever made it difficult last time. I am going to rock being kind and forgiving at the office on Monday. It’s going to be good.
I can create scenarios with a sense of ease in my head where I am either the hero or I am the regretful one, ready to do it different next time. But I am still imagining. I am running through scenarios, making minor promises to myself that I will do it different next time. I will really do it well.
We are called to love those around us. There is a small human that I know and love. He has been on this earth for about a decade. He is the son of two of my friends. Since his first years of being able to express himself, he has expressed a deep love for others. His ability to empathize is simply incredible. One aspect of him that is true over and over is his desire to see equality and fairness throughout the world. He has just been baffled by America’s reticence to accept all adult couples who desire marriage. It simply did not make sense to him. In June, when his mom told him the news that marriage equality had happened in America, he was thoughtful. And then his response a moment later, “Mom, now they have to be able to marry in the rest of the world.”
We are called to love those around us and the world was all around him. We can imagine as we sit here, loving others. And I do believe that is a powerful tool. The ability to imagine ourselves in a situation is often a step in living into that situation. So, as we sit here in this moment, reading these words, we are likely able to get behind the concept that we are called to love those around us.
Let’s sit with the spiritual gift of imagined experience. Spend time holding onto that and let’s check in again on Wednesday because there is more to this than a simple imagined experience. There is lived experience.