Friday, July 12, 2013

How do I love thee, let me count the ways

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Confession (although I'm not Catholic). I've recently gone back to church. Before I went back to school, I had found a local church that I felt comfortable attending and dragging taking my kids to. But then I began to feel overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed with the school work of my classes. Between working all day, doing the mom stuff, the wife stuff, and the school stuff, I looked forward to Family Day. (For as long as I can remember, Sundays have been Family Day. I think it started because The Man Beast worked six days a week and the one day he was off, Sunday, we all wanted to spend together.)

One thing led to another and I stopped going to church. At first, I'd miss a Sunday here and there. Oh, people always understood. I had a lot on my plate, after all. Eventually, those Sundays that I went to church came further and further apart until one day, I stopped going altogether. I promised myself that I'd go back to church after all this "stuff" was taken care of.

That "stuff" was "taken care of" six months ago.

I kept the promise to myself, but I feel like I had a lot of pushes from God in the form of friends and other well-meaning people. All I have to say is thank God for very stubborn friends in my life who never stop their pursuits. (I have one friend who has been praying for my family since we moved to this community seven years ago.)

I finally took my friend/neighbor/Spiritual Mother up on her offer and attended church for the first time in a very long time. And I'm glad to be back "in the house".

But a funny thing happens when you stop going to church. You get out of The Word, too (at least I did). I have not broken out my Bible in a good two years (probably closer to three). It's true! My Bible had dust on it that first Sunday I pulled it off the shelf to take to church with me.

I've been cracking my Bible more frequently (and not just on Sundays). I've recently started reading Bad News Religion: The Virus That Attacks God's Grace by Greg Albrecht. In it, Albrecht discusses that pretty much any religion that makes you jump through hoops to "earn" God's love (good graces, if you will) is bad news.

I've had many "aha" moments while reading the book, but something poignant struck me, recently, that I'd like to share if you'll humor me a bit.

We all know this verse (or have a least heard of it):
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
We get it, right? Love one another. Okay, sure. I love you. I LOVE you. I love YOU! Okay, done.

Did you know that there are two Greek words for the word "love" that are used frequently in the New Testament? Philia is brotherly love (Philadelphia - City of Brotherly Love - get it?) This type of love is earned. I love you because you are my friend and I like you and you like me. But the other Greek word, agape, means a fatherly-type of love. You don't deserve it. You haven't earned it. A mother loves her child because it is her child. Nothing more. Nothing less. I love you because you are.

This agape love is how God loves us. So, in turn, when He commands us to love one another as He has loved us - woah! - we are to love one another unconditionally.

Um. Ooops. I kind of missed that for the past ten to fifteen years of my Walk. Did you?

Instead of giving love freely, I have been condemning under the guise of love. Or, I've been loving those who are like me. Think like me. Act like me. Look like me.

I am very polite. I'm not rude. I'm not vulgar. I'm not hateful (most of the time). I'm not spiteful (most of the time). But I am not what you would call lovable toward my fellow man. Not everybody. How can I do that?!?

I think 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is an excellent start:
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. (The Message)

Until next time,

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