Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Love Is All You Need

I have only just discovered the most beautiful thing, called Caramel Almond Spread.  Of course I understand this is expensive candy in a jar. Listen, you don't even have to have anything to put this on. Just get a spoon and eat it straight out of the jar. Throw away your chemical-laden M&Ms and your red 40 Twizzlers and your who-actually-knows-what-is-in-this candy corn (and for the love do not offer it to my puppy-dog-eyed, our-mom-deprives-us children; they have braces and a mother who HATES commercial candy and sugar propoganda--go watch Fed Up and tell me I'm wrong) and get some Caramel Almond Spread. You will not regret this. Cross my heart. (I know this also has sugar in it. Just go with it.)

It started this morning with cul-de-sac issues (you know you live in 'Merica when you have cul-de-sac issues and all it involves is relative innocence from all parties. Especially when they don't even know they are actually involved in your issue.) and only got worse when I couldn't find the laptop and had to spend fifteen minutes of my busy morning looking for it. Ain't nobody got time to be looking for a laptop that isn't supposed to move from it's spot. Or at least that's how I see it.

"I think I am jaded", I told Jon.

He nodded in agreement. Yep.

"BUT," I countered. "What does jaded even mean, really?" Then I answered my own question. "I think it means you look at the world with a negative perspective. But I'm not a negative person. I'm typically pretty optimistic, right? I mean, I'm pretty encouraging. I don't always see the glass as half-empty, do I? I don't."

His eyes were saying "you scare me" and his lips were saying "I don't really think you can be a jaded optimist".

jaded optimist noun 1. a person who lives in a fantasy world 2. a person who thinks they are an optimist but they are not 3. a real thing you can actually google

When it comes to the world around me, I am mostly cynical. When it comes to my own intentions, I am mostly optimistic. When it comes to pessimistic people, I want to tell them to take a freaking hike and while you are out please lighten up for the love of everything decent and all of the sudden I am Pollyanna playing The Glad Game with bows in my hair.

When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.

I guess cynicism could be attributed to several different factors, like trust issues and life experience. Maybe it's the constant news feed and our exposure to media. Or maybe people are by nature cynics. Or they know themselves too well, and expect others may think/feel/act in the same ways. Whatever the issue may be, I, as a self-diagnosed cynic, have realized that it's hard to look at the world through the lens of doubt and still love people well. And since I am typically looking with doubt coloring my perspective, I do not serve others or love others well.

But I can't ignore that Jesus says that loving God with all our hearts, souls and minds is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is to love others. And as I've learned through many years of marriage and parenting, sometimes love is a choice, not a feeling.

If all people see when they look at me is doubt, distrust, open intolerance, judgement or hate (God forbid anyone see all these at the same time, I would die), then they aren't seeing the God I love and serve and say I represent. I told a friend today that I'm not very religious, meaning I don't do everything always by the books. But I do see myself as faithful. In my eyes, those are two separate things bound together only by assumption and expectation.

Loving others in a world where "others" are sometimes very hard to love cannot be a simple 3-Step process. It's different for every person. But I do believe it means to have a heart for God, and then pour his love out on others. Does others mean neighbors or family or the homeless? Does it mean creating boundaries where there were formerly none? Does it mean allowing God to heal your hurt heart so you can learn to love yourself then others? I don't know what it means for you. Maybe all of the above. But I know what it doesn't mean, and that is doing nothing.

For me, it means starting with baby steps. I'm not packing up tonight to go spend all weekend at the Rescue Mission. It means taking my eyes off me and understanding I'm not the only one who is in a hurry or tired or hungry.

Today I wasn't in a hurry at the grocery store, and the gentleman I had noticed earlier shuffling along the aisles pushed his basket behind me in the checkout line. He didn't have many groceries, and had to lean on his basket to support his legs. He had a smile on his face, but I had to assume this grocery trip hadn't been an easy one. Since I had an entire basket full of groceries plus coupons, I surprised myself by asking if he'd like to get in front of me in line since he had so few and I had so many. Will he remember me tomorrow or pay forward the kindness? Maybe it doesn't matter. In that moment, I had to believe that as I took a step away from cynicism and toward the second command, I was showing love to my others. Start letting your church be without walls and see what happens.

Maybe there is no getting over cynicism, but maybe by taking my eyes off myself and opening them to a world in need of the thing I withhold (that's loving with abandon, people), I can begin overcoming the doubt and distrust that led me toward cynicism in the first place. I'm not a bible scholar, but I'm pretty sure God never said "protect thyself and withhold love". No. I believe in (but haven't to date been entirely successful in living out this belief) loving shamelessly and abundantly and richly, with no expectations of getting it back from people but with every expectation of receiving it to the point of overflowing from the One who offers complete love and acceptance.

If I speak in the tongues of men or angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal...if I have faith that can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.
{1 corinthians 13:2}

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