I am the kind-of guy who writes poetry and asks his wife for hugs. Maybe you’d say I’m a modern guy in touch with his emotions. Maybe you’d say I’m a wimp in desperate need of cajones. Whichever is fine. That’s not really my point right now.
My point is that I talk the talk about seeing the importance of love. I put on quite a show.
There has been this struggle in my life which I did not react to in a loving way. For a really long time. I stunted some relationships. I hurt some people. I lost out on a lot of possibilities, a lot of things I might have experienced with somebody really precious in my life.
I know that a part of love is firmness. And the thing is, that I used this truth. I used it to manipulate and justify. In a variety of different ways, I said to myself and others, “The way I am going to love this person is to be firm and hold them accountable.”
But the truth is that what I was doing was avoiding the fullness of this person’s struggles. I was holding them “accountable” for things that they had no control over. I was expecting the impossible.
I was doing this because I care deeply for this person, and I didn’t want to really grapple with how great their struggle was. I didn’t want to agnowledge that God allows suffering on this level to happen. It is so much easier to think things are someone else’s fault. Even when we claim to love them.
I realize that this is vague and abstract. But the reason I’m writing this is because I had this learning experience that I’m just beginning to be able to put into words, and it’s something I wished I had learned a long time ago…
Saying “love” is easy. Putting on a show is easy. Even playing the heavy, being full of responsibility, accountability, and expectations… this can be easy.
Entering into suffering is the real deal though. It’s what Jesus did. He entered into the world’s pain. That’s what the crucifixion is about. It’s not about holding us responsible for the bad things we did. It’s not about making our suffering suddenly disapear. It’s about suffering with us.
Even toddlers can offer up hugs. Even Drill Sergeants can hold people responsible. Read a couple self-help books, and you probably will have some useful advice.
I know that people say that we need both love and justice. And I think that’s right. But love, love is like strawberries. And justice, justice is dark chocolate. And the question is this:
Do we want chocolate covered strawberries? Or strawberry covered chocolate?
Is love going to be at the center, draped in justice? Or is justice going to be at the center, prettied up with love on the surface?
But none of these are as important as a deep level of love: suffering with somebody. And going even deeper… the deepest level of love: Suffering for somebody.
Maybe (Hopefully!) there were people a little quicker on the learning curve than me. But as for myself, I can say that it’s taken me about 4 decades to start to really glimpse this reality. In some strange way, we are built to love. But to unmask this potential, to really do it right: it’s a hard lesson, that takes a lot of time to learn. It’s one I’m just taking baby steps at.
How about you? How are you doing on this part of the journey?