I am influenced by one of my favorite Teachers who takes all this “deep stuff” and not only talks about it in big, theological ways, but teaches us to think about HOW to LIVE the “deeper stuff”.
There are schools of thought. Why not schools of love? After all Love is the ever fixed mark of Jesus’s Ministry.
As we grow and evolve, the lessons get more challenging, but also more satisfying. Maybe we should think about love as lessons that we work through and grow through. We become more fully rich and loving as we “pass each test” or each level.
But maybe, if the lessons aren’t getting harder or changing, we might wonder where we are we stuck.
We don’t start with Loving our Enemies.
Perhaps that’s the big final exam. I don’t know about you, I can struggle with that. My own enemies. And when I think about where I’m at, I think about my most unlovable person. I also think about Hitler? I’m not there yet, but I’m sure Jesus loves Hitler. PAUSE. That’s really hard to even say out loud.
Are we getting closer? It’s not about perfection, it’s about moving in the right direction.
A excerpt from a poem:
Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, It is an ever-fixed mark That is never shaken;
As we think about the “lessons” in love, let’s think about this ever fixed mark that is never shaken. Sin, as a reminder is “missing the mark”. Perhaps, it is not something to beat ourselves up about, but to continually practice until we more often hit the mark. No archer is always perfect.
Every lesson begins at home. And what we do at home…matters. And we don’t go through the stages until we’re done (or most of us don’t), we practice, pass tests, “graduate”, move on, and come back to the earlier lessons. Over and over.
Perhaps, we start in elementary school. We might learn how to love our loved ones. Love when it’s the people who are familiar and like us. This is our first practice ground and even this is not always easy. Sibling relationships. Parent relationships.
Perhaps, we graduate to high school level love where we learn to love outside our families. We learn to love outside the safety zone of home. We get more daring in our love.
We go on to college level love. Where we begin to meet ill will with good will. We begin to love those who are different and think differently from us. Instead of looking for what to dislike in other people, we look for what there is to love in other people. How to love our differences. The world would be a boring place if we were all the same.
Perhaps graduate level love is loving thy enemy.
Imagine if we all lived in graduate level love? PAUSE to Imagine.
There would be peace in our homes.
Peace in our communities.
Peace in our nations.
Peace in the world.
PAUSE to Imagine.
We can look to Paul for help: Love is patient. Love is kind.
A couple of things to consider when loving is what matters? What is of value? PAUSE to reflect.
We can have all the knowledge in the world and all the money in the world, but if we don’t know Love, we have nothing.
We measure so much by money.
We measure our own worth, and other people’s worth, by money. Who has the best and coolest…stuff. We all know, that keeping up with the Jones’s leads to anxiety and depression (science validates this). Yet, we still measure ourselves and others by money and money making jobs. At the expense of living and really learning to love and show love.
There’s a bigger picture. When we value money over everything else, we commit crimes to get more stuff and sometimes…people get hurt because it’s the stuff, not the people we value most. This plays out in households, communities…war. Stealing.
What do we value?
(Science again) Stuff only has momentary happiness and then we need more to fill the void of that thing we just bought that wasn’t quite…enough. Because it’s never ever enough. That is the biggest secret around stuff. It’s never enough. Experiences have lasting Joy. Recall the best memories of your life. They usually aren’t around stuff. It’s that experience (often with someone) that went wrong, but is oh so funny now. Spend your money wisely.
It’s the actually valuable things. Experiences and real learning. It’s Love.
Go enjoy each others company.
Being with people is essential for the lessons of love.
Yes. Being irritated by people. Being anxious in all sorts of social settings. Worrying about being good enough, or if our social skills our good enough. Life would be easier if we met one another with love, because being social wouldn’t be so scary. It’s our work to bring love to the table and that means going to the table. Being uncomfortable is how we grow and learn the lessons.
It’s easy to hide and stay home. Hide behind busy. Hide behind our labels. Hide behind anger. Hide behind being “right”. Hide behind gossip. We can hide from loving ourselves and we can hide from loving others. Watch “easy” paths and habits. The easy path is usually avoiding the real lessons. Those who have really worked through the levels look at every challenge with Gratitude: this is an opportunity to practice and grow.
Love requires difficult relationships or we stay in first grade level of easy and familiar love. We talk about Love, but don’t practice love.
Love is patient. Be patient with yourself.
Patience requires…slowing down. Ever notice we are the least loving when we’re rushed? Think about when we’re running late and there’s suddenly a traffic jam. Are our thoughts and words loving in those moments?
Think about when we’re rushing through an uncomfortable conversation (or argument). Are our thoughts and words loving?
Slow down. Practice patience. Practice love.
Love is kind. Be kind to yourself.
Social media. Social media is an excellent practice ground! There are so many thoughtless comments.
Notice how quick we are to nod and agree with unkind things on social media? The post about the waiter who was lazy and slow. The cashier who’s always grumpy. The doctor who never listen. Fill in your own blank here (maybe notice its association with patience)
Everyone is quick to hating. And yet, we all talk love and peace. Peace begins at home. Recognizing that these people are people. Yes, the grumpy waiter. The lazy cashier. The overweight jogger. That person who “shouldn’t quit their day job”.
And watch “funny” posts. You can see why we’re never “enough”. No wonder we’re terrified of sharing any artistic abilities. No wonder we feel fat and ugly. No wonder we’re always poor (remember, we value money over everything else).
These posts teach us that we are unlovable. That we are not valuable. And who’s posting them? This is the big thing. We are. Our friends. Friends of friends.
Do we not have better things to talk about?
We are teaching ourselves to be unkind.
I bring up social media because, we talk about how terrible it is, but it is an excellent practice ground for changing the way we relate and act in this world. The easy path is to scroll past and/or get upset. The lesson is to stop, think, and formulate a response.
I challenge you to notice and not scroll past. Don’t ignore it, use it to practice. Use it as a Bell Chime for kindness. Write a comment or post of kindness when someone says something thoughtless.
We can practice love by lifting people up.
Kindness changes people. It is our greatest act of love.
Kindness just might make someone think “I must be a lovable person.” She was nice to me. He noticed me. They complemented me. Life isn’t so awful. I’m not so awful.
When you are frustrated or angry or tempted, pause (patience).
Choose your response.
Start with silence (we don’t always have to respond). Perhaps even include your own silent Prayer Word to connect you to a sense of Calm.
Start with one kind word. Make it your go to.
Graduate to a phrase.
Graduate to a sentence.
Graduate to patience and kindness everywhere.
Practice Radical Love.
That is what leads to a focus on the things that really matter.
That is what leads to peace. Peace in our homes. Peace in our lives. And peace in the world. It starts with us. In elementary practices of love until we are able to love everyone. Including our enemies.
Have Courage and Be Kind.