Saturday, December 14, 2013

LOVE is a master motive


An Advent Reflection

I saw the writing on the wall. I was listed as a target person to talk about one of the virtues of advent. As a grandfather with a two-year old and a 6-month old granddaughter, it’s pretty easy to see the Christmas story as a love story.

Babies come to us so vulnerable. We want to gather round and offer presents, hold them, and make them feel wanted, safe, and happy. Above all, we want them to feel loved. Their parents are delighted to share stories and pictures. Their grandparents cannot get enough face-time. It doesn’t take long to get attached to children.

As children mature, the affectionate attachment grows. There are many delightful moments. Times to be proud they share the same name. They are part of us. But there are those moments that strain the relationship. Families fuss about rules, fairness, loyalty, authority, respect, freedom, the usual stuff.

And the family of faith is no exception; because all the faithful are human and shaped by human parents and divine inspiration. Love binds us together. And when families get close at Christmas time it’s easier to see the imperfections of our kin. And if we are willing, to see our own as well.

There is a love that transcends the imperfect in everyone. Hugging a precious bundled baby is no challenging task. But hugging people with a visible disease, helping the poor, forgiving the same person 7-times (who can think of 70 x 7?), embracing those who disagree with us, caring for the ungrateful, learning humility, managing anger, pursuing peace… these are the challenges that test love. The love that Jesus shared was wide open. He welcomed all. He embraced the unloved.

I'm going to hell
Rihanna worried, “I’m going to hell.” Something she heard at church, I learned. I sat and listened. Clinically, she appeared to be an 11 year old African American girl but I thought I was listening to an adult. Her face was sad with little affect. But the content of speech revealed a tortured anxiety. She was genuinely worried. No wonder the school counselor referred her. Christian spirituality- so out of place here at an Elementary school. And I, a psychologist, dealing with spirituality and depression and anxiety...Why do some Christians feel the need to scare children?
  Some faiths offer anxious love

Going home for Christmas?
Sometimes it seems harder to love a family member than a stranger. In fact, some feel more like strangers with family than with co-workers or neighbors. Love is an awkward complexity packed with feelings, memories, and arms outstretched, ready to embrace. Jealous love smothers and snuffs out creative growth. Healthy love longs to be with the other and see them grow and develop. Jealous love forces blind obedience. Healthy love finds the Sabbath made for people, not people for the Sabbath. Jealous love wants my traditions honored. Healthy love sees that new wine needs new wineskins.

I'll Be Home For Christmas

Honour your mother!
Rules of love
I had followed my mother’s progress following an emergency hip repair, through the hospital, and on to rehab. She fought hard against the rules. At age 93 she hadn’t been in hospital since giving birth…more than 60 years ago. There she sat in her favourite chair looking as if all was ok. It wasn’t. It was December-- two years ago. She’s gone now. No more pain. We had one of those distant relationships. The kind where an aging parent wants to be independent. And doesn’t want to move near family. Why am I here? I asked. “Because the Bible says to honour your father and your mother,” she replied. I blurted out, “No! I’m here because I love you.”

Rules are good. People need rules. But rules can drive love into a corner. And love can temper rules. 

Some Christians offer conditional love. Some Christians offer conditional love with a side of hate. Some Christians strive to offer unconditional love, which makes them vulnerable to be hurt and suffer pain.

As I wrote before (August 29), love is more than an emotion, it is more like an attitude that draws upon all we are. Love involves our feelings plus our thoughts, actions, spiritual focus, and physical energy. And love costs us time.  Love is a master motive in Christian living. Love drives compassion, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Love drives peace efforts. And love negates fear.
After school programme, South Africa

The third time he said to him,
“Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him
the third time, “Do you love me?”He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 
John 21:17 NIV

Perhaps you would enjoy a few songs? Suggest your favorite love songs-- Romantic, Oldies, Wedding, Religious...and of course, Christmas

You Light Up My Life, Debbie Boone 1977

I Will Always Love You, Whitney Houston, 1999

Just The Way You Are, Bruno Mars

All I Really Want for Christmas, Steven Curtis Chapman, 2005

For more on love click here.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry I missed the talk. Today we had family business to attend to. But thanks for the meditations here. I love our Sunday School class.