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Archive for March, 2016

Life Notes

Love Believes All Things

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things… 1 Corinthians 13:4-7b

In my late teens I dreamed of being a solo performer. Folksingers who told stories, played guitar, and sang astounded me. I was certain that was my destiny. I spent countless hours learning my favorite songs and practicing them repeatedly. When I felt ready, I met with the owner of the club I had chosen for my debut. Her name was Elizabeth Dring, and her club was The Windjammer. She booked me for a single night. To say my performance was terrible that night is a vast understatement. I was embarrassed, and I decided to give up on my folksinger dreams. Three days later, Elizabeth called to schedule more dates. I was stunned. I told her I was awful and was quitting. She said, “You were nervous, but you have talent. You’ll get over the nervousness.” She believed in me, and I have performed with my guitar – alone and with bands – for over four decades now.

There is no value we can place on one who believes in us. There are few gifts more loving than our belief in another’s inherent goodness and ability. Those who see through the surface to the core of a person have an amazing skill. Elizabeth Dring believed in me, and my life changed as a result. Paul writes that love believes all things. Goethe says our beliefs shape us. In a similar way, our expressed beliefs about others shape them, in both positive and negative ways. We shape others not in our own likeness, but in a way most becoming of who they truly are. In many accounts of Jesus’ healings, he explains, “Your faith (belief) has made you well.” Belief has power. When we believe in another, when we see beyond their uncertainty, we give a gift of love they may never receive from anybody else. It is as if God uses us to speak truth to another.

Of course, the realist in me feels obliged to add that no matter how strongly others and I believe I will become a professional sports star, it simply is not going to happen. That belief is incongruous with who and what I am. It also serves no ideal other than my own ego. Desiring to become something inconsistent with our inner nature is like trying to trim a plant created to grow round into a square shrub – we may force it into an uneasy square for a time, but it will always strive to regain its roundness. It is when our belief in ourselves, and the belief of others, meshes with the way we were wired at birth that magic will manifest. Believing in another is a vital part of any loving relationship.

Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.

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Life Notes

Love Bears All Things

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things… 1 Corinthians 13:4-7a

A vow recited in nearly every wedding ceremony I attend includes these words: “…for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” It is a promise we make as a married couple to bear one another’s burdens – together. The 12th trait of love, according to Paul, is that love bears all things. Of course, Christian love goes beyond the love and commitment of a married couple, but the expectation is the same. Serious followers of Christ will not stand by and allow others to suffer alone. When we are in a loving relationship with another – and Jesus emphasizes that love is the expectation for all – we assume responsibility for that relationship. A part of that responsibility is to provide assistance, support, and companionship as needed.

Assisting another with a burden should not be a hardship – it should be a joy! I think of the “barn-raising” events of the past, where a family would need a barn and neighbors and friends would gather for a weekend and build it together. They would work side-by-side, eat, talk, rest, and bask in the fellowship. Today, we hire a contractor. In our haste not to impose on others, we starve our relationships by not allowing space for the precious gift of giving and receiving one another. What greater gift can we give another than a portion of our being? Our material wealth and our overflowing schedules have led us to a state of poverty in our social relationships.

We lack an integrated, interdependent world-view, where we recognize that your burdens are my burdens, too. Bearing one another’s burdens is what we do in community, and it is what we do when we live a life of love. Robert Greenleaf, an early proponent of servant leadership, said we must bear “unlimited liability” for others. With the exception of abusive relationships, we are encouraged to bear all things, not just some things.

Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.

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Life Notes

Love Rejoices in the Truth

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.

1 Corinthians 13:4-6

Paul lists 16 characteristics about love in the second paragraph of 1 Corinthians 13. Eight are positive, or things that describe love, and eight are negative. I find the groupings interesting. He begins with two traits that characterize love, followed by eight qualities that do not, closing with another six positive qualities. It seems to follow a common pattern of worship today – begin with a positive, uplifting tone, move to something more somber, and then end on a positive, encouraging note.

That “love rejoices in the truth” may seem obvious, at least at first. After all, why would love rejoice in a lie? Yet, what poses as “truth” is often harsh. Truth may take the form of a significant other being a little too honest with us, or a boss providing an all-too-candid performance review. In her book, Lean In, Cheryl Sandburg writes, “Communication works best when we combine appropriateness with authenticity, finding that sweet spot where opinions are not brutally honest but delicately honest. Speaking truthfully without hurting feelings comes naturally to some and is an acquired skill for others.” When we consider love in relationships, we often need to be “delicately honest” with the truth – not that we should lie, but there are many ways to speak the truth in an unloving manner. When we speak truth without a perceptible love behind it, we simply make the other person defensive, or worse. Once that happens, the opportunity for a meaningful and healthy dialogue is likely lost, at least for a time.

On the other hand, Jesus says, “…and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). Knowing the truth is supposed to be a freeing experience, but it seems contradictory to our experience to say the truth will always make us free. Is it always best to know how another truly feels about us? Is that truth? Is it best to know where we stand with our boss, or how our abilities rate against others? Probably, but that is not necessarily truth. It is best to know these things when we first know we are loved and accepted as we are and not judged for what we are not. In an unloving environment, knowing the “truth” will not be a freeing experience at all. We will not rejoice – we will be devastated. The truth is found in the knowledge that who and what we are is good enough for love and acceptance as a child of God – only then will the truth set us free. As a result of that truth, relationships become more genuine, love based in truth thrives, and there is much rejoicing! The Truth is that we are loved with an eternal, freeing, undeserved love that is beyond all comprehension, and for that we can rejoice!

Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.

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Life Notes

Love Does Not Rejoice in Wrongdoing

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing… 1 Corinthians 13:4-6a

The last of the unloving traits listed by Paul is to rejoice in wrongdoing. Most of the time when we do something wrong, we already feel ashamed. To have our mistake be the reason for someone else’s happiness just multiplies our frustration and sadness. Likewise, to rejoice in something we did wrong to another is equally unloving, especially if it was something we did intentionally. Rejoicing in the misfortune of others is cruel, and yet it is all too common. Much gossip is of this nature. The competitive part of me enjoys seeing someone else make a poor judgement that allows me an advantage in a game. I do not believe that, in itself, is wrong. It would be unloving if I did a happy dance in front of the other, however.

 Often, we rejoice in the wrongdoing of another as a way to lift ourselves up. Particularly when it is a person we believe has a better life than we have. We think, “Ha! Now you know what my life is like!” None of us, however, can know the life experience of another. It is too easy to judge the circumstances of another through our own biases. Easy, yes, but usually inaccurate.

The problem with lifting ourselves up at the expense of another is that we are intimately interconnected. None of us can truly rise above life’s circumstances unless and until we all rise. It is like being in a boat with someone and laughing at the hole in his or her end of the boat. Ultimately, everyone in the boat is going down.

In marriage, two lives become one life. One person cannot “succeed” in a marriage if the other is not also successful. That would be like saying my right hand lived a full, happy life, but the rest of my body failed miserably. In many of his letters, the apostle Paul refers to the church and its members as the body of Christ. He writes in Romans, “…we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” Finally, on his last night on earth in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays that we all become one with him, just as he is one with God. Contrary to popular belief, our fates are tied. Acknowledging our interconnectedness can solve many of the world’s ills. Loving relationships require unity. If we rejoice in the wrongdoing of another, we cannot be in union with him or her. Love demands that we lift others up, not tear them down.

Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.

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Life Notes

Love is not Resentful

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful… 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Resentment is an indignant feeling of ill will because of something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury. The act or acts associated with the resentment may or may not have been done intentionally, intended for the person who is now resentful, or an act that others would consider wrong, insulting, or injurious. Resentment is an individual perception, and as such is a choice we make. We can be wronged or injured and not become resentful, although we may experience disappointment or anger. When we do not express our feelings of anger or disappointment about something that truly bothers us, we repress those feelings and become resentful. Like a over inflated balloon, repressed emotions explode when exposed to heat.

In the context of a loving relationship, resentfulness is a double-edged sword, meaning it cuts both partners. Nelson Mandela, the South-African revolutionary, put it succinctly: “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” When we give others the silent treatment, we are likely resentful of something. We want him or her to repent of their sin(s) and treat us as we believe we deserve to be treated. Resentment is an immature, self-serving way to treat others, as well as an ineffective way to achieve what we want. Humans (particularly husbands) are terrible mind readers. When we need an apology or a behavioral change but we are not willing to confront the offending behavior, we are not very serious about building or maintaining a strong, healthy relationship; nor are we likely to be successful.

None of this is to say there are not behaviors worthy of resentment – intentionally cruel behaviors, for example. If we are in a loving relationship and the other person does not respond in positive ways to our sincere needs, the relationship is not a good one for us. In those cases, our resentment is more likely to hurt us than the other.

It is clear why the apostle Paul lists resentfulness as not characteristic of love. Love involves the actions we do for and with another. When our regular response to a relationship is resentment, the relationship is not a healthy or loving one for either party.

Let us make 2016 the year of love, as love was meant to be.

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