Journey to Love

Feb 17, 2020

I did a 30-day apprenticeship with Jesus in November last year following a book of the same name[1] by Gary W. Moon. There were readings every day plus a focus issue or question. It was a deeply felt study that revealed a lot of what is still going on within me—impatience and anger especially, but it was a great time of delving deeper into the mind of Christ and into my own commitment to the Lord. More than half-way through I began to think of how far I had come, even while acknowledging how far I still had to go.


Two issues in particular came to my attention during this time: 1) I started my journey with Jesus insisting that I had to know the “why” of what was happening before I could assent to it and 2)how privileged I have been in our country because I am a white middle-class woman. Both of these issues God has worked on in me over the three+ decades since I gave my life to Him. And it is interesting for me now to see how far I have come.


I had wrestled so many times with the need to know why something was happening to me that I finally had to decide that knowing the why was not important, that I had to deal with whatever had come into my life from little stuff like traffic screwing up my agenda to my husband’s illness and death. Giving up the need to know why opened up my ability to accept what was happening and, even later, to not just surrender to whatever was in my life, but to embrace it.


Much later, as my husband contracted lymphoma and a year later died of it, the Lord showed me how to deal with it. First, when I was trying to avoid this new reality, He showed me how to not latch on to what I feared so much, Hank dying, but to “hold all possible outcomes equally.” As soon as I was able to do that, I was given a gift of faith that went wide and deep. His help allowed me to support Hank, our adult children and friends through his death and led me way past any anger and resentment to an acceptance of his dying even as I grieved his death.


Now, 18 years later, I am able to surrender to and even embrace the changes in my life without any resistance. The transitions still are challenging, but I am no longer resisting what is being asked of me. And that has cut out so much suffering and led me to see just what I can do about this new thing, whatever it is, with God’s help.


The second issue, being a person of great privilege due to my race and status in our society, has been a slow learning process since my husband died. First. I traveled to Haiti twice. The first time I spent mornings for a week in an orphanage for sick babies and the next year for a month in another orphanage housing a number of cerebral palsy victims who were children. The lack of a good and nourishing future for the babies in the first place just killed me—all that I thought a child needed for a successful life would not be theirs, and the distinct impression I had from the wheelchair kids that they would have chosen to be born just as they were left me in grief and awe.


Later I spent three weeks at the Mexican-American Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas, learning how to work with Hispanics. We visited a garbage dump where many families lived barefooted outside of Metamores, Mexico, and then a stopover for Hispanics on their way to the U.S. We talked to three cousins, one of whom had been to the U.S. and had gone back to El Salvadore to bring his younger cousins with him. They were resting up from riding the outside of freight trains across Mexico before they crossed the Rio Grande River. Step by step, I am  learning to identify with people who are very different than I am and to feel the pain they have endured.


For a year I interviewed people who lived on the margins in Charlotte NC for Crisis Assistance Ministry. At best with FEMA money we could give out $1,000.; without FEMA funds we had only $150. to give, little help in a city where $500. for rent was the lowest available. It was heart-wrenching to have so little to give.


And then our church started a reading initiative with the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II whose book is entitled, “The Third Reconstruction.” That led me to Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates, Father Gregory Boyle, Mauricio L. Miller and many other authors examining race, poverty, the effects of trauma early in life and so many more.


What I have learned from all these experiences and books is that we are all God’s children, made in His image, all brothers and sisters, even if we are not following Jesus. Anyone who is not following Jesus has a good reason and it has to do with trauma they’ve experienced, especially in their early lives. There is a good reason—abuse or neglect or other horrific event in their lives which causes people to behave as they do for good or ill. God showers His love and blessings on all of us, good or evil,[2] rich or poor, and so are we to treat every man and woman—with love and forgiveness, with value and understanding, rather than judgment and dismissal.


For love is the goal. To love what God is doing in our lives. To love the grace and blessings He showers on us every day. To embrace our lives as they are, not as we wish they would be. And to embrace all our fellow human beings as brothers and sisters. To value them, to hear their stories and to understand where they come from. And to embrace them with God’s love and forgiveness and grace. For that is the journey of love’s best result: for us to express God’s love to everyone we meet through our attitudes, our interest in them, our graciousness, our love mixed with God’s love.


And then that hymn will ring true in people’s lives: “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love; they will know we are Christians by our love.”


“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love


We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”[3]


Questions to ponder over the week: What has the Lord taught me during the time I have followed Him? What in me has He healed? What is left to heal? Will I put those issues on His altar, put them in His hands? Is my life’s focus on the Lord and everything in my life comes under His supervision and direction—work, family, recreation? Or am I still in charge of my life? How is that working for me?


Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who listen to God’s direction in everything. May we follow His lead. May we be true to our lives as He created them to be, to our purpose.


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[1] “Apprenticeship with Jesus: Learning to Live Like the Master,” Baker Books, 2009

[2] Matthew 5:45

[3] Lyrics by Fr.Peter Scholtes, inspired by John 13:35

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