Most of us can agree that God is Love, that the Way of Jesus in this world is Love, and that God wants nothing more for each of us than to become a more loving human being.
I think a lot about Love.
The Love of God is so vast and comprehensive, I find that my small brain is helped so much when it finds small ways to talk about such big things. I don’t mean trite or reductionistic or cliché ways to think and talk about big things. I mean simple, short, but picturesque ways to think and talk about big things.
Here’s one way to think and talk about Love that’s been on my mind lately:
The river of God’s Love in my life seems to have two main purposes, or directions, or courses if you will.
One river course carves out actual love for my enemies in my heart.
The other river course carves out space in which I actually live like I love my intimates.
After all, those are pretty much the two main kinds of relationships with which I need the most help in Love: enemies and intimates. We all have people in our lives who we don’t like, people who annoy us, people who we judge to be hypocrites, people whose dysfunction keeps us from having an honest and deep relationship with them – you know – the modern day version of what Jesus called “enemies.” And we all have people in our lives who we like, who we love quickly and easily, people with whom we feel most “at home” – you know – the people we consider to be our intimates.
Unfortunately, I’m not really very good at loving either of these kinds of people.
Obviously I’m bad at loving my enemies – they are by definition difficult to love (in the privacy of my heart). I usually pretend pretty well that I love them. I mean, it’s not like I ever tell them what I really think about them or allow them to be the recipients of all of the hell they bring into my psyche. But then I often trick myself into thinking that that is Love – absorbing all of the hardship they give me like the saint that I am – while I go on hating them in my heart. I don’t actually hope Good for them. Or pray for flourishing for them. Or ask God for beautiful transformation for them. I’m kind of glad they suck; after all, it makes me look better and I get to bitch about them behind their backs. So, as you can see, I need God to help me actually love them in my heart.
And then there are my intimates. I have no trouble saying I love them. I have no trouble feeling like I love them. But I have lots of trouble consistently living like I love them. I mean, I have to live with them. Living with anyone is hard. Getting into deep relationships with anyone has its difficult seasons. My intimates are the ones who I struggle most to show Love, that is, consistent, non-conditional warmth and self-sacrificing relationship, among other things. I often use harsh words with them, or just the cold shoulder. I’m much more quickly angry with them, or I hardly ever really think about them. In fact, in an ironic twist, of all the humans in the world, my intimates are the ones who often get the worst of me because most of the repressed anger, irritation, or anxiety that comes to me via my enemies gets taken out on them. Plus, I’m always with them so I forget about them. They become like furniture in my life. So, as you can see, I need God to help me actually practice loving my intimates in word and deed.
Jesus, God has a lot of work to do. Amen and amen.