In Part 1 I’m learning that I am a day late and a dollar short when it comes to accepting (and, by association sharing) God’s love. I’m chewing on 1 Corinthians 13…particularly 1 Corinthians 13:4 and beyond…to get a taste of what it is that I am missing…
Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil and rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. It never fails.
When I take my spiritual temperature by this guidepost I’m encouraged…at least at first. I’ve been working on this Christianity thing in earnest for more than 5 years and I can see some indication of what appears to be a genuine change of heart. While I know that I haven’t “arrived” I can see that I am a little more patient than I used to be. And, as my well-constructed wall of bravado continues to crumble, a kinder, gentler Joan appears to be peeking out from beneath the rubble. Of course I’d love to report that I never envy or boast, or that I’ve kicked the pride and self-seeking habits to the curb, but these still require daily attention. But they have my attention–which, I think, can be half the battle.
As I continue through the list, however, things started to darken up. Love is no easily angered? It keeps no record of wrongs? It’s like I’m walking along, whistling a tune and promptly step into quicksand. Not only am I quick to anger and a notorious record keeper of wrongs–I have not spent nearly enough time or energy concentrating on this particular weakness. Sure, I know that forgiveness is important and that resentment is damaging, but is it front of mind? Not really. So I let it go. And, as usual, I got every opportunity to practice operating differently.
How, you ask? Unfortunately…I mean fortunately…I have not stopped running into people against whom I harbor resentments. And, I am not just running into them–they want to talk to me. Catch up. Shoot the breeze.
The first is a woman who I was very close to that I haven’t spoken to for over a year. It wasn’t until we were a minute or two into the conversation that I got it. Standing there on the street trying to pretend that my skin was not crawling, I saw that I had to figure out a way to genuinely have this conversation without keeping a record of wrongs. Woefully illequipped for the task (I come from a long line of grudge-holders) I found myself half listening and half praying for help. By the end of the conversation, I can say that my skin wasn’t crawling–a step in the right direction.
The next morning I meet a guy (an adult) who had treated my daughter poorly (a teenager) when she was sick. I’ve seen him a half a dozen times since then, but this time he decides to stop and talk. This time I know what I was up against, so I get down to business and pray. This time the skin stopped crawling a little more quickly and I felt a little compassion (it was noon and I could smell booze on him.)
That same afternoon I’m reading a book in the park and a guy who dated (and mistreated) a friend of mine years ago walks up and startw talking to me. This time I just laugh to myself. I’m gonna get to learn this lesson whether I like it or not.
I’m not exactly sure how I will keep myself from adding up new records in the future–or what will happen as I continue to learn about mercy and forgiveness and the other elements that make up what love is and isn’t. What I do know is that I have a new committment to learning to place love in it’s right place–at the center of this ongoing spiritual journey.