I haven’t written as I’ve been away with my family. We drove 1,398 miles to my favorite place in the world, the Bolivar Penninsula. It is a beach that holds my family’s history in it, my childhood. Spending a week in this sacred place, we swam, made mud castles and celebrated my fifty-seventh birthday with barbecue, queso, and two cakes. My mom, one of my brothers with his family and my sister with hers, were there too. My kids got to play with their cousins.
The community of the beach is messy, it mirrors the reality of the beach –with the human equivalent of both perfect joy and stickaburs. Some played music way too loud, indifferent to the presence of anyone who might want to hear the beach. Others drove with flags that taught the innocent words they should not know. Those same people helped push cars out of the sand that got stuck, and watched out for children in the water, and lent shovels when a stinging jellyfish needed to be disposed of in quick fashion. Thoughtless and selfless, impulsive and reflective, all humans are both and. It is the luxury of free will.
Our big problem is, we only want to love the part that’s easy to love, and so dismiss, ignore or actively dislike whosoever we perceive to be difficult.
These things are both beautiful and terrifying because they will pinch and it hurts. They’re also delicious so –whenever they take a pound of flesh out of me, I put it back but with butter or rice and okra.
Yesterday, one of my sons talked about not wanting to ever have children because they seem like too much duty. Looked at from the perspective of what needs to be done to meet the needs of another, yes, children are in constant need. Parenting requires sacrifice, and all sacrifice is tedious and irksome. Love makes it possible, perfect love makes it a joy. Not being in love, he does not see the point of surrendering one’s self to the point of infinity. However I told him, “That’s okay, you can be a priest.”
He laughed. He considers himself agnostic. “That would be even more duty.” he said. He’s right, but it would also be even more sacrifice, even more surrendering, even more love. I’m letting time do the work on this one. I’ll keep dropping hints though.
Learning to not see people as either or, that is the responsibility of anyone who would witness to God’s reality, and their love of Christ. The disciples are the ones who love Christ and do the Father’s will, who love all who God loves. That means, not just “Here comes everybody,” but we must actively will to love everybody. How we manifest it, is based on our will, our means, our talents and our persistence. We will know we are doing so by the fruits. I looked at my son’s life. He may say duty, but I see how he responds to others, and it’s love.
We can chose each day to help make God visible by our words and our deeds or to keep Him veiled by our actions or inactions. Where our line is drawn, where we cease to pray for someone, where we cease to be willing to see the both and, rather than the either or, that is where we must grow if we would be good and faithful servants.
God’s love stretches to infinity for each. His disciples must seek to do the same. His disciples must choose not merely to be dutiful, but to go willingly, lovingly to the cross –or it is empty. None of us want someone we love to be merely dutiful, we want the reciprocity, we want love. Duty without love, while of virtue, leaves the recpient wanting and the giver, resentful.
None of this is easy, it all involves the cross –but Christ told us, this would be the case. However He also said, the burden would be light –because when we love as God loves, the fruit is joy. That does not mean there aren’t stickaburs or sunburn or rude people who blast fireworks long after midnight. It just means, those painful components of reality do not detract from or negate the bigger reality, of the beauty of life. Children mean stretchmarks and sleepless nights and extra errands and bills and dreams changed or deferred, in favor of a better reality than even an honorable or difficult dream or goal. They require sacrice and surrender, but both must be done out of love.
Life is about the business of bringing joy to those around you, and it will allow people to see that sacrifice brings joy, and joy makes all of this business of loving the both and of everyone in all things, light.