Last week, when sharing what Love really is, I spoke of the difficulty of truly showing love. I hope you thought about it and I hope you experienced the hardness of it, not because misery loves company, but because experiencing something in a fuller and truer way does wonders for your ability to understand and transform knowledge in your head to wisdom in your heart. And "from out of the heart your mouth speaks" Matt 15:18
Whether it is a lax in parenting, my cooking skills--which I always thought highly of before--, the knowledge that all children are different no matter how similarly raised, the predisposed condition of sin in our hearts, or a perfect storm of all of the above, we have been fighting some MAJOR food battles in our home. All the preparation of our own hearts and his through planning and conversations in no way truly prepared any of us for the insanity of getting one child to take one bite of one thing that everyone else at the table finds perfectly acceptable and even delicious.
It took about a week to hone in on a method that my husband and I both felt was equally helpful and necessary to get the deed done at each meal where a different food tasting was required. The process was still not enjoyable but at least there was a consensus among the grown ups. However, it took well over a week for either of the supposedly intellectually superior humans in the house to understand the real problem. It was truly not a picky eater we were at war against, it was a stubborn and sinful heart that wanted nothing but its own way.
This came clear one evening when the precious face sitting at the table expressed rather passionately "I just don't like doing what I don't want to do!"
Bless his heart, mine, and everyone else's. He nailed it. There in the midst of his current turmoil, he spoke straight to the heart of each of ours. We just do not like doing what we do not want to do.
There are so many reasons our heart does not love, does not produce an inner disposition full of compassionate acts to build others up. Never once will you hear me say that your reasons, whatever they might be, are not very real to you and therefore important in understanding your actions and your heart. And if you do, please throw these next words straight back at me (in a loving way of course).
Our inability to love others, whether as a whole or a specific individual, stems from real life, below the surface struggles. The actions and consequences produced may be completely visible above the surface, but there is an iceberg hiding underneath that can take down any size relationship no matter how seemingly unsinkable.
The lack of love can come from a lack of compassion and empathy, not being able to understand another's emotion. It can come from a lack of forgiveness, a wall in your heart between you and another built through unforgiveness that love can not permeate. The lack of real love felt in one's own life keeps you from being able to love another. The saying "Hurt people hurt people" poetically wraps up the cycle of unloving prevalent in every relationship that has existed since the fall.
And in full disclosure, all honesty, transparency, and vulnerability, getting back to the lessons five year olds can teach you about what is going on in your own heart, love is often something we just don't want to do.
But no matter how hurt we may have been, no matter how justified we may feel in our unloving, no matter how much is below the surface, down deeper, beneath the places we have even thought to look, stands a Truth that goes far beyond not wanting to love. It is the fact that we CAN'T love.
It his book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when talking about community, spends a good deal of time comparing humanity to spirituality and in that includes the ability and inability to love another. He tells us that "human love is directed to the other person for his own sake. It wants to gain, to capture by every means; it uses force. It desires to be irresistible, to rule." Because of this "Human love cannot love an enemy...where it can no longer expect its desire to be fulfilled, there it stops short--namely, in the face of an enemy."
If I'm understanding his reasoning, than I have to assume when he uses the word enemy he is not referring, or just referring, to someone who has hurt you in a monumental way. He is encompassing any and every person that keeps you from getting what you want at any specific moment. On any given day your enemy could be those you love the most.
Of the millions of lessons learned from these past thirty five years of life, twelve years of marriage, and ten years of parenting it is that as much as I think I love my family and friends, as much as I think I would do anything for them at any moment, I on my own will never live up to my own expectations. I will fail to love them in countless ways, every single day. Sometimes its because I just don't want to love, I am loved out. Sometimes its because I'm hurting, physically, mentally, spiritually, and hurt them in return. Sometimes it's because of a lack of understanding of what they are truly feeling and going through. Sometimes it's when I am giving them the very best of the love I have but have forgotten that my humanity can not truly do the job Love is required to do. My very best is still the filthiest of rags.
BUT, "right here is the point where spiritual love begins..." ~Bonhoeffer
Up next, will be How we love and just in case you were wondering it starts with Jesus. If you will forgive my rudimentary paraphrasing of Colossians 1, He is the beginning and the end of it all. In Him alone do all the things in this crazy, beautiful, divinely created, full of sinful-hearted human world hold together.
Until then, do not despair because you cannot love, none of us can. Do not give up because you have been hurt, we all have. Do not fear because you are terrible at loving another, we all are. Hold on to the Hope of the promises our Savior fulfilled. Rest in the Peace he brings in the midst of your turmoil. Rejoice with the Joy that he is above all circumstances.
I'll be praying for you, pray for me.
Other posts from the Learning about Love series