Truism and True Love

Psalm 26
 ~ retold by Deborah

Just look and see, O Eternal One; peer into my soul:
examine my deepest desires and most cherished dreams
and there You will find Your steadfast love.

It is You, O Beloved, whom I seek;
You are the one I long for, sigh for, pine for.

You are my heart’s desire.

There is no other.

In faithfulness to you,
I avoid the hateful, the hurtful, and the mean-spirited.

I am filled with hope and gratitude by the glories of Your world and the power of Your love.

Keep me safe, O Holy One, from wickedness and harm;
don’t let me slip into evil practices or smug hypocrisy.

With Your help, I will follow the Way of peace and compassion,
seeking to be a person of strength and integrity
all the days of my life.

And when I trip and fall from these lofty goals —
as all mortal beings do —
lift me up, O Kind Redeemer,
and guide my feet back along Your royal Road.

Now and always, hear me say: Hallelujah, praise the Lord!

Amen.

Enough, Already

I have grown increasingly troubled by an alleged truism I’ve been seeing a lot lately, appearing in various forms: “Love makes us suffer.” “Keep loving, despite the pain.” “We suffer for love.” “Love hurts.” I’m sure you’ve heard these phrases, too, and seen the memes.

After prayerful consideration, I have decided they require a response. That response is an unqualified, unequivocal: NO. That’s not true.

Love doesn’t hurt. Disappointment hurts, grief hurts, loss hurts; abuse, injury, abandonment, betrayal — those hurt. But love doesn’t hurt.

Love lifts us up, inspires and dazzles and delights us. Love gives us hope, and strength, and courage. But love doesn’t hurt.

Suffering Servant

Too often, as Christians, we have extolled “suffering love,” as exemplified by our Lord when he was betrayed, tortured, and crucified. It is as if the abuse Jesus endured made his love for us better, more perfect. But Jesus didn’t suffer because of his love, but because of our lack of love.

Our Lord suffered because the world around him was ruled by ignorance, fear, anger, and jealousy. He suffered because his message was perceived as a threat to those in power — who responded with violence. Love did not hurt our Lord — hatred did.

It was love: God’s gracious, healing, restorative love — that brought Christ back to life.

Love heals. Love doesn’t hurt.

Tradition

There is a scripture passage that is often quoted during marriage ceremonies. Attributed to the apostle formerly known as Saul, it is as follows:

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

In the King James Version of the Bible, the word we now translate as “patient,” was given as “long suffering.” This is another way in which the concept of Christian love became associated with pain.

The belief that “pain/suffering = love” has a long and tragic history. It has been used as a weapon to shame and silence victims: “Jesus suffered for love, and so must you.” “Love tolerates and endures all things; show love to the one who hurt you.” “Love is long-suffering and does not complain.” “Love hurts.” Such calumnies were — and still are — repeated to battered wives, abused children, and others who have been mistreated, scorned, and exploited.

It’s a load of rubbish. Love doesn’t hurt. Love heals and blesses; love comforts and restores.

Not a Cakewalk

This is not to say that loving is easy or uncomplicated. Love brings challenges into our lives: it takes of our time, our energy, our imagination. A loving relationship requires effort, cooperation, negotiation… even sacrifices — giving up what we want for what is best for the other.

Love is relational. It is a sacred sharing; sometimes giving, sometimes receiving, always blessing.

Love may be complicated, demanding, stressful at times, but it doesn’t hurt.

Large-Scale Works of Love

Love may call us into a life of service. Caring for others, ministering to those in need, working for justice, peace, earth stewardship — any of the many paths of “doing good,” can be blessed works of love, indeed. Yet even such as these can be misused, misinterpreted, and sometimes twisted into something utterly other than holy and good.

What we call “Christian service,” or “ministry,” must be inspired by love, fueled by love, and done with love. Like any other aspect of love, these will heal and bless and never hurt — neither the giver nor the receiver.

Too often I have seen works that began as gifts of grace become onerous, teeth-gritting, resentment-filled obligations. Somewhere along the line, love was lost. Somewhere along the line another force took over.

Who is Driving?

When our mission in life begins to become “a pain,” we need to pay attention. When what we say we do “for love,” drags us down, depletes our energy, annoys, angers or frustrates us, it is time to sit back and take a long and sober look at what is going on. Another force is driving us.

When troubles arise, one of the first suspects is our old frenemy, Ego.

The same force that is ready and willing to accept challenges can also entice us into smug self-absorption: “Look at me! Look at all that I am doing!” Before we realize it, Ego is driving. And ego can truly drive us — to do, and achieve, and accomplish, and be admired…. and forget everyone else.

Meanwhile, love has flown out the window. We are no longer in a relationship (ourselves & love), but on a solitary ego-trip.

Lost and Found

It is often also true that when our work becomes me-centric, we are trying to prove to ourselves that we are worthy. “Look at how I suffer! It must be love.”

Yikes.

There is no one we need to convince: we can’t “earn” any heavenly brownie points. We are already deeply, truly, eternally loved by God. That is a freely-given, unearned blessing. Whatever we do — or don’t do — is our response to that love. No strings. No conditions. It is what it is, as the saying goes.

Love doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t threaten, despise, demean, or condemn. Love heals and blesses; love comforts and restores.

May love dwell abundantly within you always!

Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,

Deborah  ♰

This Week’s Suggested Spiritual Exercise

I believe there are times when the Holy Spirit enables authors to convey love-drenched truth in textual form. What follows is an example worth meditating on:

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God as revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ the letter to the Romans 8:38–39

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About inklingscommunity

I am a struggling Christian, committed pacifist, near-obsessive recycler, incurable animal lover, inveterate tree-hugger; a nature mystic, a socialized introvert, an advocate for the vulnerable, an opponent of exploiters.
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