Everything is coming back to life in my small city. The maple tree in our front yard is dropping its neon green seeds. Tiny fuchsia leaves are pushing their way out of dried-crispy grape vines entwined around our basketball hoop. Even my fiddle leaf fig tree in the climate-controlled corner of our dining room seems to know it is spring. It stretches its many leafy faces toward the sun beating through the huge southern windows.
There is something so delicious about the anticipation of more green, more life, more fruit to come. On my long walks through our historic residential area, resplendent with mature trees and foliage, it seems as though the springtime sprouts and shoots are grinning at me, “You think this is great – wait until summer!”
As I walk, I pray that Love would grow in me, in us, in our world – with the same tenacity, steadfastness, frozen-death-and-then-all-of-a-suddenness as all of these little green things. I pray that the people who come after me, after us, will benefit from our Love the way I benefit from the people who planted these trees a hundred years ago. Like those people and these trees, maybe most of the Love that we plant and practice and grow today in our hearts won’t even be seen or manifest fully for a hundred years. And maybe it will last hundreds of years after our tenure on this planet, spreading far and wide, its beneficiaries not even knowing our names or the hard work that Love was for us. They won’t know us at all, but they’ll know Love full well. Now, isn’t that a delightful thought?
And then I was thinking lately about hate and Love.
Isn’t Life just basically about growing out of hate and into Love?
Isn’t it about practicing the kind of forgiveness that roots out the hate in your heart?
Isn’t it about seeing people more than seeing problems?
Isn’t it about letting Love grow in our hearts until there is no more soil, no more nutrients, no more space for hate?
Of course there are always things we will (and probably should, in some ways) hate: “slums and battlefields and insane asylums” – as Madeleine L’Engle would say. (And I’d add brothels and false piety to that list.) But the more I’ve let Love grow in my heart, the less hate I feel. Even when confronted with terrible things, I find that the hate that bubbles up in me is minuscule compared to my compassion for the people stuck in those places and compared to my sadness over the pain and grief those people must experience. I think maybe this is what happens when we let Love grow.
If you feel so inclined, here is a little practice for today:
List the things you hate.
List the things you love.
Ask yourself how you might move one thing from the hate list to the love list. (Example: I hate my sister could become I miss my relationship with my sister and my love for her makes me sad to be missing out on a friendship with her. Don’t get me wrong – moving your sister from the hate list to the love list will not solve your problem immediately and entirely, but it definitely stands a chance of interrupting the hate and beginning to coax your heart toward love. It might not radically change your relationship with your sis, but it has a darned good chance of changing you. And that alone is worth your trouble.)
Ask God to keep shortening your first list and lengthening your second.