Thursday, March 28, 2013

Repetition of Love

" one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  John 13: 34b-35

I should not have to repeat myself!  How many times have we heard this irritated and frustrated response from a parent, grandparent, sister, brother, teacher, name it, we have all heard it directed at us.  And likely we have or will at some point in our lives say it to someone else!  When I read the passage from John's gospel today, in light of Holy Week & Maundy Thursday, I notice how repetitive Jesus is when he tells his disciples to love each other.  And that doesn't count the numerous "love one another" references throughout the rest of the Gospel.  Feel how you want about those lovable, well-meaning, maybe a bit confused disciples that Jesus called friends - I think we all need Jesus to repeat himself.  I think today -in 21st century social media America - we need Jesus to repeat himself over and over and over again.  It's saddening and hopeful in the same breath.

This past week Facebook & Twitter exploded in colors of red as people shared and posted a red version of the Human Rights Campaign symbol to support gay marriage and rights.  There were also plenty of posts and shared pictures of men's and women's wedding rings, stating a belief that marriage is for a man and woman only, and that the Bible tells us so.  Spanning the entire spectrum of the conversation were agitated remarks, inspirational quotations, pictures, scriptures, frustrations, celebrations, hopes and dreams.  There were people so passionate about this decision that they were essentially saying, "I should not have to repeat myself!"

In John's Gospel, before Jesus repeated the whole love mantra to his disciples, he kneeled down on the ground and washed their feet.  In those days, only the lowliest of the low did such an act.  It was the work of a servant for someone with a higher social, religious, or economic status.  And yet Jesus, of all people, took a cloth and some water, and gently cleaned the tired feet of his friends.  He told them he did this as an example to them...and that they should go and do the same.

I think, when we modern readers and disciples hear this story - and the similar story in the other Gospels of the Last Supper - we forget how tense it probably was in that room.  We know what the disciples didn't know.  And we don't understand how confused and frustrated they probably felt - why is Jesus doing all of this?  Why doesn't he just use his divine power to overthrow Rome?  The night ended in the betrayal and denial of close friends (I imagine they were a lot tighter than Facebook "friends").  And Jesus was the one who took the heat.

When we see heated conversations, arguments, and Bible beating going back and forth and back and forth between people who vehemently disagree with one another, I imagine Jesus saying..."love one another, just as I have loved you."

This whole judgement game is not ours to play.  We don't and never will have all the answers.  And the more we act like we do...the more we pull random passages from scripture with the sole purpose to prove our self-righteous right-ness over those we disagree with, the further and further we are from that image of Jesus kneeling on the floor and washing those dirty feet of the friends who eventually let him down.  The more we think we know...the less we truly learn from our scriptures and from each other.  Our differences are what make us stronger, our differences can unite us without making us the same.

I don't care what side of what coin you are on.  The love of God surpasses it all.  And the justice of God will overcome the wrongs we commit in this lifetime.  There are some days I have to repeat that belief to myself over and over again.  "Love one another...everyone will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another."  We cannot truly love when we refuse to recognize the humanity and personhood of another.

On this Holy Week, I pray that God holds us all and reminds us - because we always need to be reminded - that we are loved.  And that this whole discipleship journey requires some things from each of us...not judgement, not passive love, and not self-righteous love.  Rather, I pray that we can humble ourselves to receive and share the kind of love that causes us to stop what we are doing, get down on our knees, and wash the feet of another....Whoever they are, whatever they believe, whom ever they love...However that might look in 2013.

O God, keep repeating it until we finally get it..."love one another...."

(on a side-note, this blog post is more for me than for anyone else.  It's hard for me to truly love the people with whom I disagree.  It's hard for me to find [my interpretation of] the Gospel message in people who deny the human rights of another.  And it's hard for me to respect someone who bashes others on their Facebook page in the name of God; when they could be putting that energy and passion into doing something kind for someone else.  We are all guilty of this - and this kind of love is something that I struggle with every day.  Faith and religion are more than talking points and disagreements.  I wore red the last 2 days because I think that God's love trumps everything...and I cannot understand a God who doesn't support & celebrate people loving one another...You can call me weak, but I would hope you try to get to know me first.)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Finding Grace (and crying) over Spilled Milk

I felt the jar slip from my loose grip.  At that moment life turned into slow motion.  For a split second I thought I could catch the glass milk jar in mid-air on its way to the tile floor.  But just as quickly as the time seemed to slow down, it returned to real-time again and before I could move, I was staring at puddles of milk and shattered glass.  Sigh.

As I surveyed the mess and rushed the pups out of the kitchen, I could feel my frustration and anger begin to surface.  Why didn't I just use both my hands to get the milk out of the fridge? I have all these things I want to do today, and now I'm going to be spending the next 30 minutes - at least - (because I'm that thorough) making sure not one minuscule piece of clear sharp stuff is left for a dog or a cat to eat - or to get inconveniently lodged in mine or Jeff's foot.  Why can't I just be more careful?!

I say these kinds of things to myself a lot.  Why can't I just..?....Why didn't I..?...If had done it this way....I really should have done...

It seems too often we find the fault within our actions or choices without taking our critical glasses off to see that life really will go on.  That tiny delay caused from a tiny inconvenience or perhaps careless decision really doesn't alter the universe in such a horrific way that we will never be the same again.  Sure we can't go back in time, but who's to say we really would have done things differently if we could?  Now that the milk has spilled, of course I would love to go back in time and use both hands...but where's the lesson in that, right?  What's the point of the spill and the broken pieces if you know how to mop & sweep them up in the first place?

If we could just be perfect or do things absolutely right, without breaking anything, would life really be so much better?  Easier to navigate?  That much more efficient?  Would not having to deal with the stickiness because we know exactly how to avoid it, or how to sweep it under the rug before it even happens make life any more awesome or worth it?  I don't think so...

Wishing that we could just do it perfect the first time neglects the fact that we are human...that we aren't perfect...that, every once in a while - if not more than that - we will spill the milk.  We (or life) will shatter the glass of our "perfect" day, or the glass that conveniently wraps itself around our hearts and conscious, protecting us from painful realities, from recognizing our own brokenness.

Maybe it's just me.  But I absolutely despise "messing up."  I have the audacity to think that I can simply glide through life, carefully observing what I do & how I do it - the words I say, the choices I make - so as to not mess up; I try to take every step...just avoid every avoid risk or drama or inconvenience that could arise.  It's exhausting & boring.  And it doesn't work.  Because I'm human.  Messing up is absolutely unavoidable.  Which is why I feel the blood begin to boil and my nerves tense up when I stare at that spilled milk on the floor.

My dad jokes with me about this broken piece of myself.  When I was little and things didn't go as I wanted them to, I would get really mad and throw a hissy-fit and stomp around the house yelling "this just gets on my nerves!"  I would literally act like the world was ending because my Sunday morning cinnamon rolls got burned (that's a story for another blog...).  And my parents would just sit, watch, and lovingly smile - reveling in this silly characteristic of their youngest daughter.  It really was going to be okay, I just didn't know it yet, and I had to figure it out in my own time.

Learning the lessons of our mistakes is one of the first pieces of wisdom we are taught as children.  And it is probably the most difficult one to grasp.  Learning from our mistakes does not mean that we will be more perfect next time; we might be better, but not perfect.  And sometimes our grip on life can be so tight that we lose sight of what it really means to live.  I'm not saying that we should have no hold on our lives, our actions or decisions - but rather, letting go, or living with one hand a little more open than the other can be freeing and life-giving.  Plus, messing up and learning from our mistakes teaches us to make room for grace - in our lives and for others.  Grace is something that is given to us without our control or our judgment; it is given without keeping tally marks of our good works.  And we need to remember it...hold it for ourselves...and gently give it to others along the way.

We won't always be able to tiptoe through the shattered glass...there will be days when the sharp edges will prick our toe or slice our finger.  And I think we are good to remember that it's okay to cry over spilled milk.  Because life can be downright frustrating sometimes!  It can be spoiled and sour...or too lukewarm and lumpy....sometimes there's not enough of the good stuff to fill our bowl...and other times, it's just plain awesome and refreshing - right when we need it to be.

But after my literal spilled milk episode, I'm learning not to shed too many tears over it.  Because as we all know, there are these things called paper towels and vacuums...and there are these great people called friends & family....and there are adorable, happy dogs that will lick it up...and a gracious God that will forgive.

Life goes on...and so will we.  Next time, maybe a little laughter will loosen the tightened nerves in our neck.  Maybe a little more grace in the clean up process will help us move on... and make the most of the next glass.