It has been really difficult to continue writing my story. The last 10 years haven't been easy or fun though they have had moments of both. In particular, the last 2 years have been extremely difficult to put on paper - both in terms of articulating what happened and in terms of my personal emotions as I write them. I am currently writing them piece by piece off line and will post them in order when they're ready.
In the meantime, I'm going to write about some less tangible things I've learned - particularly in the last year - about God, my faith, and my life and relationships.
Today I'm writing about something that is far more incredible to do than to say - Living God's Love.
Oh, we all think we do. We go to worship, we 'forgive' people who have hurt us - at least we say the words, and perhaps we even give of our time, money and talents. But the thing I've realized lately is that we rarely show the unconditional love that Christ did.
So many times we put conditions on our relationships - you need to be nice, kind, successful, funny, smart, well-behaved, well-dresses, employed, or whatever for you to be our friend. You need to attend church and live as a Christian in a certain kind of way.
The church is incredibly hypocritical when it comes to extending God's love and grace. Oh, we love you - but only if you live the way we think you should! Too much debt? No thanks. Have an addiction to something? No thanks. Not 'nice' enough? No thanks. A bit lazy? No thanks. Don't meet our standards for dress, or hair, or employment, or housekeeping, or education, or...? No thanks.
The last few months it has been really difficult to feel God's love for me. Why? Or church is struggling. People are being nasty to each other - in some cases, it is really nasty. I have found myself trying to avoid certain people. I ignore emails. I try to rush out as fast as I can.
Forgiveness in particular is difficult to do at best. Impossible to do at worst. Many of us think we forgive and say the words, when in reality we carry a grudge. Sometimes for years. Or decades.
Yet, I know this is why people leave the church. People who have maybe been half-hearted Christians, people who are new to the church, or people who don't truly have a relationship with Jesus Christ, though they have been raised in the church. They don't have the relationships with God and with the other people to try to draw them into the communion with their Lord. They look at our behavior and say "What a crazy bunch of hypocrites? No thanks."
Really, God doesn't expect us to be perfect. He does expect us to love each other as he has loved us. Unconditionally. No holds barred. No strings attached. Regardless of all those things that we like to put conditions on.
God doesn't expect us to be perfect. But he does expect us to be honest about our imperfections. If we are, it's much easier to love and treat with respect all those other imperfect people around us.
More than that, I've found that if I feel the love of my husband unconditionally, it makes it easier to ignore the other people. This is the most important person to me on the earth, and to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he loves me makes everything better.
How do you do that?
Really listen. Listen. Not talk. Listen. To each other. And to others.
Try to understand each other's feelings - asking questions until you really get it. It may take a while, but it's worth it.
Serve each other. Do something that is important to the other person, even if it's not important to you. John's on spring break this week and he's done the dishes for me each night. I love that! Make that time for each other, whether you feel like you have time or not.
Most importantly, let God do these things through you. God listens, and thus you do. God understands, and therefore, you can. Jesus served us, and we can serve too. Jesus made time along his way for others and so can we. I have trouble forgiving, but letting God do the heavy lifting and allowing Him to forgive through me is terribly freeing and something I can do.
It is worth it.
So, listen. Try to understand (which doesn't mean you have to agree). Serve each other. Make time for each other.
You'd be surprised at how much healing in the church can happen from this!