I believe in love. Furthermore, I believe that existing in and enjoying love relationships is the very thing we were created for. I count it one of life’s greatest blessings to live life in community, in the love relationships of marriage, family, church, neighbor, friendship. It’s why being a coach and working with Crosspoint is a dream job! It’s all about loving each other.
Someone recently asked me if the coaching I do exhausts me. A fair question. I, as many soul care givers, spend countless hours listening and holding the many burdens of others. I thought about it a minute and answered from my gut, “no!” No, this job of loving and attending to others does not exhaust me, it actually fills me up (she caught me on a good day, you see!). It is because of the presence of God with us that we might find aid, wisdom, and comfort. We might find more truth as we meet together. We might unearth anger or pain. Maybe we will just keep it light and laugh a little and drink in some encouragement. We might discover ourselves to be far more capable or curious or courageous than we thought, or maybe we will discover for the first time or the one-hundredth time the particular love of God for us, and we will be overcome and filled to overflowing. Who knows what we will find, but we will meet with each other in community, and God will be with us, and it will be a worthy-time of loving others (I love my job!).
This is me. Living my dream. This is me. Receptive and in-tune with the love of God for me so that I can be present with and love others.
Ok, well that’s a beautiful picture isn’t it? Good for me! Newsflash, that’s not my reality every day. And though I do have rhythms and habits that help me get to a receptive and open-hearted space in my work and in my life with family and neighbors, it certainly doesn’t always go perfectly. When I’m feeling exhausted and depleted it’s easy to think that it’s this work of loving others that is to blame, but really, I know that something else is disordered. When I find myself in a season of exhaustion, melancholy, or on a war-path I have to go back to the basics. Back to the first commandment, loving God. Back to caring for myself with kindness and compassion, agreeing with God about me. There are 3 questions I find helpful in evaluating how my loving of others is going.
- Am I loving others intentionally or compulsively?
Intentional loving is embodied by a calm in my soul. Intentional loving gives dignity and respect to the other. Intentional loving is an act of worship. When I’m in a space of compulsive “loving” I can feel the chaos and stress in my body. Compulsive loving feels forced. Compulsive loving can use and exploit others to fill my need to feel important and competent. Compulsive loving often ignores boundaries and personal limits.
- Am I open to a surprise or overly committed to my agenda?
This is for me, one of the hardest tensions to live in. How can we live responsibly and get all the things done well without becoming blind to the people who are already crossing our paths each and every day. You know, I have a friend named Ron. We have often described Ron as the homeless guy who has lived in our neighborhood for 13 years. Ron started ringing my doorbell one summer asking me for a drink of water. And can I tell you, that this man has been one of loves greatest surprises to me! Ron has taught me about grit, about love, about honor, about curiosity, about courage. He has helped me laugh when I couldn’t, he has cried with me, celebrated with me, sang at the top of his lungs with me. I am no question a better person because Ron has been in my life! Sometimes we get so distracted with the prescribed agenda… with our plan. And don’t get me wrong, I love a good plan! But, when I’m so committed and focused on the plan that I become annoyed and too busy and “important” for the surprises and love gifts that God sends my way, God help me. It is truly my loss.
- Am I loving others generously, or from a place of scarcity?
When I am feeling depleted, I automatically start putting my time, energy, love, and words on a budget. I find myself dodging and avoiding any relationship that is unnecessary and limiting words and affection (8s go to the 5 space under stress for all you Enneagram junkies!). When I feel myself start to ration out my love, it is a sure sign that I have got to reconnect to the source of my love. I need rest. I need to nurture myself. I need to commune with God. One of my sisters always says to her sweetheart, “I love you BIG!” That’s how God loves us! God lavishes his love on us! Oh, how I want to love like that!
Telling others about the love of God and the good news of Jesus is the work so many of us have committed our lives to. We tell by word and deed. We pour out our lives to these people God loves. And blessed are we! Remember, loving others was never meant to be a duty. It is an act of worship. It is an experience of intimacy, empowered by the Spirit of God in us. It is what we are created for. But make no mistake, “loving” can get weird and then it begins to poison our relationships instead of enrich them. Oh! My friend, take the time to experience Christ shining through your body and let yourself feel the current of God’s love that you are in. Keep habits of nurture and kindness toward yourself. And go forth, living out your glorious design of entering in with others to love them.