Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What I would rather not admit….

Over the last few weeks at Woodcrest, we have worked through the subject of hurt; the hurt we carry and the hurt we cause. We spent a lot of time talking about forgiveness.  We defined it.  We illustrated what happens when we don’t extend it as well as the mess we can create.  We talked about how to ask for it and why it matters so much.

When all was said and done, it turned out to be a rather emotional series.  My inbox has been full.  I have had more Facebook messages in the last two weeks than I have had in a long time.  My appointment calendar is packed, as well.  The point is that people have had a lot of questions and a lot of specific concerns that reminded me of something I have been thinking about for some time as it relates to my own relational journey.

I want to share something more on the personal side.  I feel more than a bit vulnerable putting this out there, because it can be so easily misunderstood.  But, in the course of my conversations over the last few weeks, I realize that what I myself have been addressing may not be mine alone to bear.

Once a quarter, I take a three day break in order to get away and spend some time in silence and solitude in order to pay closer attention to what is happening in my soul.  Sometimes it is not easy to figure out what is really going on “down there.”  This has been very fruitful for me.  A question I have been pondering for the last year or so is about love. “Why do I love people?”  I have tried to honestly evaluate my core motivations on this all important subject – especially for people in ministry.

What is my motivation for love?

My initial thoughts were as follows.  On one level I thought of love as a decision one makes in response to Christ’s command.  If we are to be about anything as Christ followers it is love.  We are commanded to love God and people.  It is a step of obedience.  In fact, Jesus said it was (and is) the most important thing.

Beyond that, I love because I am drawn to certain kinds of people.  I find them attractive spiritually, emotionally, and/or physically.  We have things in common.  We can joke and laugh together.  I like this kind of love.  It is easy, and it is fun.

So there is a love prompted by duty, and a love prompted by pleasure.  

All this made sense to me except for the fact that I often found myself disappointed by love.  This didn’t make sense to me.  Because, if I tried to do this well (and it was the most important thing), why wasn’t it more satisfying?

What I have come to understand and see about myself is that my practice of love is much less mature than I would like to believe.  What I have discovered is that, more often than not, my love isn’t really about God or other people at all.  It is actually about me and what I hope to get out of it.  I love God because of the blessings I hope that He will bring me.  I love people so that they will be nice to me, like me, and think I am a good guy.  I know this because if God doesn’t “love me back” in the ways I think I deserve, then I am disappointed and mad.  If other people don’t reciprocate my love in the way I hope, I am disappointed there as well.  One of the biggest heart aches of my life is that my expectations are rarely (if ever) met.

That sucks! 

Nor is it really love!

I don’t want to stay here.  I want to learn increasingly about real love.  I haven’t figured all this out yet, but one of the things that is increasingly making sense to me is that when I try to manage my own love needs through how I love God and others, I am regularly disappointed.  Will God love me in the ways I expect? Will people reciprocate my love in the ways I think I need?  


So, what I have been trying to do is find times to let God love me in the ways He prefers by just being more available to Him in seasons of silence and solitude.  To not be demanding.  To not set unrealistic expectations.  Just let Him love me.  He does so generously.  Over time, that has begun to lower my expectations about what people give me – because I am no longer as needy.  I don’t “need” them to do certain things in certain ways for me to feel like they have responded with a “reasonable” level of return love.  I seem freer to love in a way that is actually more unconditional.  Dare I say that?  Conversely, I think I am also freer to ask for what is reasonable without being manipulative and codependent.

Do, I always get that right?  No.  Do I still have to manage expectations?  Yes!  However, slowly but surely I see things shifting.
I share all this because when we are talking about the relational hurts of life, we can’t just think in terms of improving our capacity at managing the disappointment, frustrations and debilitating moments of relational break-down.  In addition, we need to ask the more penetrating question of “Why does all this matter to me so much in the first place?” 

If my candor helps prompt that kind of reflection, it will have been a worthwhile risk.



EE said...

This is very helpful, Piet!

LaurieJo said...

Just want you to know this has me thinking. I love the question Why do I love? The question Is the way/reason I love connected to my expectations? is definitely a tougher one for me.

My initial thoughts about reasons for loving are this: I choose to love in pretty much every relationship at one point or another. I don't have to choose because the other person is lacking in the given moment but because I feel less lovable and deserving of love. So the unspoken expectation there is that if I love, I will be loved in return.

The one relationship in which I have yet to be called on to make that choice is with Sophia. That's not to say that I don't have to choose patience or kindness, but to not love her is not a possibility in my being at this point. Maybe it's also because my love for her is, at least at this point in her life, untainted by her feelings for me. This is unspeakably encouraging to me as it relates to my relationship with God. I hope it's an indication of a choice that He never has to make.

Just wanted you to know you've provoked some reflection... Thanks for the candor, Piet.

-Mel. said...

This post has made me think. :) As humans we do have limited time. While we might have intentions to love all, and we should question our motives periodically, we can't share love with everyone. We choose those who choose us because it is practical. I think it's when our time becomes repetitive that we take things/people for granted.

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