Thankful.

Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday, because of times in the past that were hard, but perhaps this year it can be redeemed.  Since no one is making me perhaps I will talk about gratitude.

“The continuum of words related to gratitude go from greed and jealousy; through taking things for granted and feeling entitled; to appreciation, acceptance, and satisfaction. The practice of gratitude would be an appropriate prescription whichever one of the above describes your attitudes.  The rules of the grammar of gratitude are not as simple as they seem at first glance, however. For example, often instead of rejoicing in what we have, we greedily want something more, better, or different. We can’t be grateful because we are making comparisons and coveting other possibilities.  When this happens on a personal level, when it’s our ego that is dissatisfied, then we are ungrateful. But when we want something more, better, or different for the glory of God or for the benefit of the community, this greed may be a manifestation of our devotion, our love, or our yearning for justice. And then we are grateful for these commitments.”  — Spirituality & Practice.

I read this yesterday:

If God hasn’t changed your circumstances then perhaps he wants to change you.

This has been a long time coming for me. I have asked God to change my circumstances for years.  And seemingly he is either silent or I am not listening well.

I thought I wanted a job that pays money.  I still do want that and a job where I am making a difference in the world, a contribution to my community or to helping others through exposing the injustice with pictures and words.  If I am honest, I also still want position and power for my glory and ego, so perhaps this is why God doesn’t give me back those opportunities just yet.

Instead I am learning to lean in to being a mother, for it is an honorable, risky and challenging job (though the pay is low and the retirement plan stinks!)  In all seriousness, God has given me the four children I have for a reason, they are an extravagant gift. And you never know whose mother you are, who your children will become.

I am learning that I am valuable even though I don’t make money. And learning that my contribution to world just may be through something else — through insight, or creativity, or dare I say a prophetic word (small p definitely) from time to time?  Okay perhaps not.  I don’t know much, but I am learning.  There is so much that I don’t know.  I too quickly go from insecure to proud and satisfied; from cock sure to fearful and hesitant; from mute to long-winded and rambling; from loving my own thoughts to wondering at my idiocy.  But I am learning to be comfortable with my voice and in my skin.

And I am unlearning many things.  Sorting and sifting through what has been taught to me. I am encountering and learning from beautiful people along the way.

Though my house collects dust bunnies — even as my house collects them — I see

all that is growing

in and around me. 

The dust bunnies can wait.

I am being transformed and I am grateful.

October 26th, 2011

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’ 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NRSV

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