Thursday, October 14, 2010

Not An Option







An old conversation has come back to mind, lurking around the edges of my consciousness. Intruding itself into the present.

It was long ago, in the early stages of my faith. I was walking with a friend, using her as a platform upon which to vent my feelings. Hoping for some validation.

I had allowed another friend to hurt me. The wounds were deep and multiple. I had let them accumulate over time, stuffing the pain. The relationship was a complicated one, both a blessing and a curse. But bitterness had built up from unresolved issues and unhealed hurts.

I released it all in a torrent. Poured out all of that pent-up frustration and resentment.

Of course, it was under the disguise of seeking “spiritual counsel.”

But I really just wanted the venting-victim to agree with me. I wanted her to tell me that my resentment was justified. I wanted empathetic acknowledgement that I had been unfairly injured.

So on and on I went, listing offense after offense.

My friend listened and nodded sympathetically. She let me know that our mutual friend had hurt her as well. So it wasn’t just me.

I kept on, the articulation of what previously had been suppressed adding fuel to the emotional fire.

As I was in mid-sentence, she abruptly stopped walking. She turned to look me square in the eyes. And she said something I’ve never forgotten.

Kim, love is not optional.

That took a little wind out of the billowing sails of self-pity.

I looked at her.

“I know, but you don’t understand, she…”

“Love is not optional.”

“But she…”

“Love is not optional.”

I finally shut up. What else could I say?

She was right. She is right.

For anyone claiming the name of Christ, love is not optional. It is a basic requirement of the designation.

An order. A command.

Really, the main one.  All the others are just facets of that mirror.

The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Romans 13:9)

I think most of us would admit that there are people in our lives we don’t even like, much less love.

Mean people. Selfish people. Cruel people. Annoying people. Self-righteous people. Angry people. Know-It-All people. Manipulative people. Ignorant people. Hypocritical people. Controlling people. Outright crazy people.

People we dislike for no good reason. (Just not my cup of tea. Rubs me the wrong way. Gets under my skin. Not a fan.)

Imperfect people.

They’re difficult to avoid.

(We’re difficult to avoid.)

But real love is not an emotion.

Love is a motion.

I realize that no matter how I feel about a given person at a given moment, I have a choice to make in my intention and interaction.

Is it loving?

Is this proceeding from the Source of all love? Not from my fickle inclinations, but from the fountain of unconditional acceptance which has poured out over me… just as I am? The source that has taught me to love me in such a way that, in loving others as I do myself, I am giving them something worth having?

Sometimes I do better when there are fewer choices. Or when there is no choice at all.

It makes things simpler.


Love is not just an option.

It is the only way.

***************

 “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love… No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”(I John 4:7, 12)

 ***************

How do you show love to people you don’t happen to like? Those who’ve hurt you? People who seem impossible to love?

7 comments:

Laurel said...

This one is tricky for me. A couple of the commandments seem beyond my control, above and beyond the sinful nature thing. Specifically, those that direct us how to feel:

Do not covet
Love your neighbor as yourself
Love God above all things


How do you control your feelings?

I doubt I've cracked the code but I have found that my feelings often follow my actions. If I'm jealous, I cheer-publicly- for the other person's accomplishment/acquisition/success. Pretty soon, I get caught up in actual vicarious pleasure. My first instinct wasn't great, but I can change it with action.

The same applies for love. It's hard to serve someone, help them, act for them and not develop feelings of love and concern over time. It puts you on their team and somehow you find that you are working together, even if they don't know it. Even if they take it for granted.

So basically, I fake my way through it until what I'm feeling becomes the real thing.

Susan said...

Oh, Kim. You've done it again - really hit home with me! Many years ago, I was at a workshop and the leader was a well-known person. Everyone seemed to just LOVE him. Except me. I just didn't like him. And it was one of those workshops where everyone has to talk to everyone - no avoiding anyone, including the leader. So, finally, he just said, "You don't like me very much, do you?" I nearly collapsed right there. So, trying to be honest, but not too mean, I said, "Well, not so far." And he laughed out loud and said, "Hey, that's okay. Just act like you do!" Then he gave me a little shoulder hug and walked off. I have been applying that principle ever since. I may not love someone. I just try to act like I do. It works for me. (Laurel - you and I are on the same wavelength with this one!) The other thing I do is pray for people I don't like. It feels funny at first, and I know God knows that I may not be terribly sincere, but He knows I am trying. If I just keep at it, I actually do get to the point that I mean it!

Kim Arnold said...

Yes... you both head it on the head. "Love is the motion, not the emotion."

An act of obedience that ultimately results in the feelings.

This is an important spiritual truth that applies to other areas as well. For instant, I took up a challenge when I was searching to ACT as if I believed, even if I was still doubting. The belief came as a result of seeing the consequences of obedience. I was actually interacting with a Force outside myself.

I also 'fake my way" through things like courage until the feelings of courage arise from the actions of belief.

Susan, sometimes I have to grit my teeth and start by praying, "Lord, please bring xyz closer to You." I think I'm doing myself and the world a favor, because if the person gets closer to God, surely it will make them nicer. The gritted-teeth prayer does eventually change me, whether or not it has any effect on the other person.

And it reminds me, Laurel, that we are all on the same team and need each other. I end up praying,"Lord, bring ME closer to you!"

xoxo, kim

Anonymous said...

i'm having a meals this week with people i do honestly love and care about -- but i don't like! thanks for the reminder to start praying over my interactions now.
also good point you made about realizing that often the same person who has ticked off us has ticked off others. as my mother always says when someone does or says something hurtful "consider the source" and usually that means that person is operating out of a place of pain or fear or insecurity. oh my goodness we all need to give and get a lot of grace these days!
love, michelle

Anonymous said...

I have been wrestling with this daily for a couple years now. Unfortunately, my circumstance makes knowing what is actually loving very dificult. I feel like I am constantly asking God to give me wisdom and discernment as to how to love through some very horrible and messy trials. It is hardest when I am consistently treated with contempt and anger. I know in my head that it is mostly sin and just plain darkness speaking--but my heart still breaks a bit each time. There are some things that should never be. Wow--what a silly statement--because really due to sin there are many, many things that should not be, but are. I guess what I mean is that this valley is so deep and so dark and so long--these tiny sparks of love seem so small and inconsequential. My hope is that each is a pleasing sacrifice and I look forward to the day when God rights every wrong. I am waiting fervently to see what He will do with these ashes. Love must win.
Rebecca

Kim Arnold said...

Rebecca,

Wow. It sounds like you are in a really hard place. I will pray for wisdom, boundaries, peace, and patience in the situation.

God bless you.

Leslie said...

Kim,
I love you. Always have, always will. However, there are some who have crossed my path that were so hard to love. It was in those relationships that Jesus taught me the most about His love and the incredible power He has to use us for a vehicle of His love when we had none of our own. Thanks for reminding me that love is not an option.
You are easy to love-- and that-- I do!
Leslie