Just thinking … about agape.

I’ve thought a lot recently about the last decade.

How quickly it evaporated.  If you mark your life by major transitions a big one was in 2001 when I quit full-time work at InterVarsity.  In the years since I have grown up — as in separated from my parents emotionally and allowed myself to grow up, mature, and even move ahead of where they were at my age.  It was harder than you think.  I have also fallen in love with Jesus, as never before and accepted the Grace offered to me freely. I pray for better understanding!  I have begun to ponder life’s greatest purposes for people and more specifically me.  And, I have found an emotional equilibrium of sorts — became a drunk & got sober.  All this in a decade.  Phew!

I can’t help but wonder — What will the next decade hold?

Sunday, we heard teaching on agape which is a different kind of love than the other three: eros, storge and philios.   Agape is completely motivated in one direction.

I struggle with love.  Not loving others, that comes easily for me.  Even the kind that goes only in one direction.  And I want to be the sort of person that doesn’t need to have something in return.  But the example I grew up with made it difficult for me to believe others really love me. I’m afraid that my parent’s example was always doubting others’ love and rarely trusting anyone.

I didn’t learn that people can be counted on.  My family legacy is one of anger and record keeping.  I am breaking that cycle but I still don’t really believe that I am lovable.  My Doc says if I would just “find confidence within myself” I wouldn’t need him any more.  “The root of all my problems” is my lack of confidence.  (Of course he also tells me not to take the things he says out of context, which I have completely done here.)

But I do think — have thought for some time — that if people (if I) could learn to love others in this way — agape — we (I) would be ultimately content.  And happy.

Where I get into trouble is my need.  What do you DO WITH THE NEED?

I do honestly help others simply out of a wish to be helpful.  These pears I dutifully checked for ripeness daily for three weeks for my neighbors, not out of a desire for anything but just to be helpful as they traveled.  Stuff like that comes easily.  But often, I know I am longing for people to love me. I am not motivated by it but it is there and can’t be ignored.  Or maybe I’m just a nice person.  Perhaps it doesn’t really matter that our motives are pure?  If you believe 1 Corinthians then I think it does.

On the other hand, if I expect nothing in return because I don’t feel lovable that is not agape either.  That’s something I don’t have a name for but my prayer is to stop that!

I want to become a person who is fully living out agape.  Mother Theresa was someone whose life exemplified agape. Henri Nouwen.  Many others.  How do we become more like them in their loving others?  I guess I’m gonna have to read C.S. Lewis’ Four Loves.  If this agape is something that is really important, as important as it seems to be, then I need to understand it more fully.

Just thinking.

If this got you thinking, my church is doing a series on all of this and you can watch or listen online.  Or, you’re welcome to come along with me some time.  I can’t promise that they have all the answers but they do make you think.  And obviously I don’t either but the journey is fun!

Be well,

Melody

Intense love does not measure, it just gives.   — Mother Teresa

Always Striving, Never Satisfied

Dad at the Great Wall
Image by M e l o d y via Flickr

I read about 50 blogs.  Not all the time and definitely not every day.  Correction.  I was curious and the fact is that I track more than 220 blogs on http://www.igoogle.com.  No wonder I feel overwhelmed by the glut of information out there for one to consume.

To be honest, my heart, mind and soul can only handle reading about five every day and sometimes not that many.

(I’d love to list them on my blog somehow if someone knows an easy way.  I have no clue.)

Today I read Introspections & Ideas of a Black Wasp.

It struck me, how sad it is when one spends their whole life striving, working, driven by the next “important” thing.  Having worked in a not-for-profit ministry for thirteen years and having grown up in Dan Harrison – the missionary leader’s home I know about striving!!!    I used to work like that.  I used to get such a rush from doing — it defined me.  It drove me.   I would wake in the morning frantic that I was somehow already behind and go to bed at night anxious over what I had forgotten or worse NOT gotten done.  I constantly thought people were judging me.  I thought my father was judging and on that account I’m still undecided.

Come to find out, it mostly was me judging me.  My dear husband is constantly having to tell me that it was indeed NOT him saying the things I heard him say.  Oh, he may have said the words, but what heard — not true.  It’s crazy.  I need a mental filter to constantly redirect to what was actually said.  I’ve come a long way on this, but I’m still open to healing.

My father was like that.

I suppose I learned it from him, though I don’t think this is one I can blame on him; unless you go a bit deeper and acknowledge where that drive originates — the ugly and ominous insecurity — fear of failure — lack of self-love.  Those are the things I received in abundance.

Black Wasp (I can’t find a name on his blog to credit him) wrote about Stanley Hauwerwas and Jean Vanier’s Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness the third book in a Resources for Reconciliation series put out by InterVarsity Press.

He said:

As I read Vanier’s story of leaving what he thought he knew, changing his life’s trajectory and engaging in community with the mentally “handicapped” I immediately engaged with my own selfishness.  Reading From Brokenness to Community pushed me into a deep examination of myself, of my brokenness and of the redemption that God provides within community – both in communion with Him and communion with others.

My father was a deeply broken person.  He was also a leader, a vision setter with many friends and followers, charismatic in personality, never meeting a stranger, purposeful, always going, going, going.  Going to the former USSR when it was still the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with the idea of bring students over on lingua-cultural exchanges.  Entering Cuba  to discuss the same, when Americans weren’t allowed.  I believe he loved God.  I believe he lived to serve God and others.  I believe he served more than 40 years and did many good things.

And yet, he never had that.  He died very alone.  He died with family around him but essentially alone.  He never figured out that fundamental, essential, powerful thing: a deep examination of yourself.  He talked about his personal brokenness.  He even wrote a book ironically titled Strongest in the Broken Places and spoke about it at Urbana 96.  But he never truly experienced “the redemption that God provides within community – both in communion with Him and communion with others.”   He never did.   This makes me profoundly sad and …

I resolve to write about Dad
Image by M e l o d y via Flickr

Vanier tells rich stories about what love can do to individuals hurt by the pain of abuse; abuse, spiritual, social, and mental. L’Arche’s result is to address brokenness through the love that is found in true community. L’Arche’s uniqueness is that it highlights brokenness, not so that people wallow but so they can find redemption. It is the acknowledgement and gentle approach of community that pain and brokenness that allows society to find healing.

When we are willing to recess into our own brokenness, we are able to view the holy aspects of others. (emphasis mine)

We have come down off our spiritual or moral pedestals to dwell and broken people in need of healing and redemption via community and ultimately the Father.

Hauwerwas argues that peace is achieved by redemption and transformation.

Healing takes takes time.  My father never had time because he was constantly striving, going, getting on the next plane to do the next thing for God.  When he was diagnosed with brain tumors, the prognosis was bad.  At this point I don’t recall exactly the type or character but I know when I researched it at the time I immediately knew it was a death sentence.  It was just a matter of time.

He never received that.  He deeply believed “that he hadn’t finished all he could do!”  How could God possibly be calling him home when there was so much left to accomplish?  His heart was so deeply convicted by the lost and that was his life – his legacy.  His motives were good.  His passion were good.  He was so compelled.

But sadly, when at last our loving Father wanted to call him home he basically fought.  He fought hard.  Some would say that’s what you’re supposed to do when you get a diagnosis of cancer. I say, it depends.  It totally depending on type and nature and site of that cancer. And graciously accepting your own death, though not easy (just easy for me to say) would have allowed him to experience perhaps something of that beautiful community in the end.

We were not even allow to talk about his death.  We were not allowed to say he might die.  We were not allowed to say goodbye. Or face his anger.

“If the time has already been redeemed by Jesus, we learn to wait on the salvation of the Lord by taking time to listen to our weakest members”  Progress pushes us towards deafening speeds that force us to continue to move closer to an ideal, which seems to get further and further away.

Black Madonna of Częstochowa
Image via Wikipedia

As I read, I was overcome by grief, missing my father.  Joy, that I have moved to a place if not of health at least a place of  not having to constantly be rushing toward accomplishment.  I still hear those bad voices even when someone who loves me talks to me.  But when he tells me NOT SO!  I believe him.  And that my friends is freedom.

Now if I could just find community.

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