Simply Love

Holding My Truth Close (for now)

I know, it’s been a while. It’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything other than a few journal pages here and there. Life has brought about so many changes this past year – getting settled in Louisville, finding a church that serves a diverse population and seeks to live pure love in our community, seeing relationships damaged and smoothed over but still seeking healing, working in a job that almost crushed my soul, finding a job that is a good fit and feeds my soul, building new friendships and finding ‘my people’, having friendships strained and tested as we move toward different world views in this ever-changing political climate, realizing that as much as I want to be loving and open I am really scared and selfish, watching tragedy hit my small circle and having our lives turned upside down.

These are all important topics, worthy of writing and sharing. Love, abuse, betrayal, forgiveness, social justice, racism, truth, lies, spirituality, boundaries, passion, purpose, friendship, reconciliation, depression, suicide, mourning, healing, joy, service, and community. Valuable lessons learned, our hearts have grown and we will never be the same. But I can’t write about any of that. Not yet, anyhow. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write my truth, the truth that is blossoming in my heart through the lessons I have learned with family, friends, fellow lovers of Christ, my community, and those with whom my broken heart is grieving. But to share these stories, to share MY story, is complicated. To share my truth involves sharing other people’s truths as well, for they are all connected. And I haven’t quite figured out how to share my truth without betraying another’s truth. So until I figure out how to navigate those waters, I have decided to write about something else. 

To enter back into the world of writing, and in many ways, the world in general, I am going to write about my Next Big Adventure. This life in Louisville has offered us some new opportunities, and consequently I am about to embark on the trip of a lifetime. A three-week trip around the world – one week in Paris, one week in southern Germany, and one week in India. And I want to share it with you. It’s going to be a whirlwind trip, but I will try to write as I have time. Come with me – Adventure is out there!

 

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When Love Is a Foreign Language

Once there was a teenage girl who sought love by giving herself away, only to have a man respect her and simply ask, “Would you like a hand to hold?” rather than just taking, like so many others. She had not seen pure, innocent love for so long. She felt awkward, unsure of how to respond.

This type of selfless love that had no agenda  was unfamiliar to her.

Sometimes love is a foreign language.

This is true for many of us. If one has not seen pure love demonstrated, one might find it hard to recognize, and even more difficult to openly and freely accept.

As we seek to love others (and allow ourselves to be loved), we need to learn the language of love. I’m not talking about the Five Love Languages as written about by Dr. Gary Chapman, which outlines five ways to give and experience love as gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service (devotion), and physical touch (intimacy). Those have validity, but I’m talking about language that allows us to practically give and receive love, and the boundaries that we have that prevent us from accepting love. And this differs from person to person.

Because we are human and we live in an imperfect world, many of us find the language of unconditional love foreign and difficult to understand. We can be defensive and suspicious, which creates walls that make it difficult to experience true love, whether in giving or receiving.

When we are truly interested in loving others extravagantly, we accept the challenge of becoming a Love Interpreter. An Anthropologist. An Investigator.

We must be creative, so that we can love people in a language that they can understand and easily accept. With a gracious heart and without judgement, the eyes of our heart need to be able to see what is hidden beneath the surface. We need to investigate – what is the felt need? How can we best meet that need? And what might hinder the receiver from openly accepting the act of love?

I know that some people think of the Christmas story as just that, a made-up story. But it makes so much sense to me – if indeed there is a God of the universe (and I believe there is), why he would send his Son to earth to become a man.

"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

“Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

He came to love us in a language we could understand. He became a Love Investigator, Anthropologist, Interpreter from God to the people of the world.

John 1:14 The Message (MSG)

14 The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

Philippians 2:7 MSG

When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges.

Hebrews 4:15-16 The Message (MSG)
 We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

As we strive to learn what it means to love one another in a language they can understand, I’m reminded of Paul’s words.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 The Message (MSG)

19-23 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!

How can we be in on it? How can we show pure, unconditional love to those around us? How can we love extravagantly, with reckless abandon? How can we be Jesus with skin on?

Here are some examples where love might be a foreign language. What is the best way to show love in a language they will understand?

The autistic child, who can’t look you in the eyes, and is overwhelmed by outside stimuli. 

The overwhelmed single mother suffering from postpartum depression.

The bipolar middle-schooler who overheard his teacher say he might be a psychopath.

The new bride who is having flashbacks of her childhood sexual abuse.

The twenty-something atheist who has nothing but contempt for organized religion. 

The teen who was adopted from a home of origin full of violence and abuse. 

The WWII veteran who has never talked about the war. 

The refugee who fled their home after the rest of their family was brutally murdered. 

The divorced woman who feels she will never have a healthy relationship. 

The empty-nester in a dead marriage. 

The mentally ill homeless man you pass on the corner each morning as you head to work. 

The curmudgeonly senior citizen who has spent years alienating their family and is now terminally ill and dying alone.

The sex trade worker to whom touch means something other than love and respect. 

That annoying co-worker who you’re sure is out to get you. 

The cancer patient who cannot answer one more “How are you doing?” query, and just wants to be ‘one of the girls’ again. 

The recently divorced empty nester, who longs for love but can only see the ways that she has pushed it away. 

The single dad, who was a player in high school, who now has a young daughter and must learn to treat women with respect.

 

When we look beyond the surface and discover ways to love – creatively, extravagantly, purposefully, unconditionally – it will be a foreign language to many. Key points to remember:

LOVE WITHOUT AN AGENDA: Don’t expect a thank-you note. Pure acts of love are not so other people can see how awesome you are. Pure acts are not so you can post about how loving you are on social media. We are all tainted by mixed motives, but as much as possible, check your ego and expectations at the door.

LOVE IS PERFECTLY IMPERFECT: Pure love is not finding the perfect gift, or always knowing the right words to say. Acts of love that seek to meet felt needs are often imperfectly perfect. It may feel awkward or uncomfortable. Love anyway.

LOVE DOESN’T ALWAYS MAKE SENSE: It is likely you will feel or even look foolish to outsiders. Love doesn’t always make sense.

LOVE MIGHT COST YOU SOMETHING: It takes time and effort to be a Love Investigator, to discern how to love in a language that can be understood and received. It might mean giving your time, your attention, or even spending some money or giving your material goods.

LOVE MIGHT NOT BE WELL-RECEIVED: Your efforts might not be well received. There might be so much brokenness or the walls might be so high that each act of love might just plant a small seed that needs to be nurtured until it can grow. Don’t give up. Just keep watering and letting the sun shine in.

LOVE JUST SHOWS UP: Listen to your intuition. If that little voice is prompting you, MOVE. If you don’t know what to do or what to say, just show up and be present. Often that is just enough.

LOVE WINS: If it’s awkward, imperfect, poorly received, that doesn’t matter. Just keep practicing love.

1 Corinthians 13:13b The Message (MSG)

Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Simply Love, and Love Well

A couple of years ago, my life was in chaos. I felt broken. I felt wounded by the church. I couldn’t enter a church without wanting to run screaming, so I stopped going. I could barely stand it when someone spoke “Christianese” at me.

My relationships were broken. I had hurt one of my best friends, and she refused to forgive me after multiple attempts to reconcile. A family member had deeply wounded me. To create safe boundaries, I had cut off communication for a time in order to build healthy boundaries and not be revictimized.

But God had a plan for this chaos. Broken, my heart was humbled as I saw the devastating consequences of my actions as well as others. I started counseling again for the first time in many years, and started healing anew. As this emotional healing progressed, my spirit was also beginning the healing process. I determined that the story I was living could not continue. I wanted to live a better story.

Eventually, relationships were restored, although the wounds remain. Not as an open source of pain, but a scar that serves as a reminder to love gently and purposefully. While I had turned my back on the “church”, I never felt far from God. Slowly, the contempt I had for organized religion was replaced by a longing for community, to once again find my place in the body of Christ. That is an ongoing process, but I don’t want to run screaming any more (at least, most of the time I don’t).

This week I had the luxury of solitude. I decided not to travel with my husband on business, so I had a blissful week alone. This became a mini-retreat that allowed me hours upon hours to process what I learned at the Storyline conference, and to spend time reading, praying, and journaling. I was able to organize all of the things that had been weighing heavy on my heart. I developed goals for the coming year – specific and purposeful goals. I created a theme for the year that will help guide me and help me focus on those important things that will help me lead a better story.

Simply love, and love well.

Love God. Love others. Love yourself.

Love God –

I will spend more time learning, reading, studying, praying, and journaling. And yes, I am going on a silent retreat next month so that I can learn to be still and listen. And I think I have found a church here in Louisville that doesn’t make me want to run screaming.

I considered the five major roles in my life (wife, family, friend, neighbor, writer) from Storyline’s Creating Your Life Plan, and set goals for each one. I also took into account the concept of the relational atom

Love others:

  • as a wife, be a partner in creating memories and building a home of restorative community

  • as a family member (daughter, sister), love purposefully and practically

  • as a friend (this includes just my inner circle of friends), also love purposefully and practically, and work to maintain relationships though we are at a distance; be ‘present’ even though I am not present

  • as a neighbor (this includes the people in my neighborhood, extended family, my outer circle of friends, co-workers, and church friends) , show God’s love with purpose and presence

Love yourself:

as a writer and creative soul; care for myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually

In light of this new focus, there will be some changes for my blog. I will just be posting a couple of times each week about this journey. In setting some boundaries so that I can be more purposeful in my relationships, I want to spend less time on social media and more time being actually present. My ‘new year’ will start at the beginning of the church calendar, on the first Sunday of Advent  (November 30 this year). I hope you will continue with me as I learn to Simply Love

What have you done to live a better story this past year? Share your answer on my Facebook page.

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