O Come Ye Unfaithful by Michelle Jones

What sticks with us most growing up is not the memory of what is given to us, but what is lost or taken away.  I suspect it is because we are born without disappointment, ready to receive, certain that our sucking mouths will be filled, and that our outstretched hands should have and hold every object of our desire.

Baby Love is this:  I ask.  You give.  I am satisfied.

Demands for simple things—food, a dry diaper, safety—are usually met and keep us in this posture of entitlement…until someone offends us.

Offense—any infliction of pain or withholding of pleasure—is our first signal that the world and its people have the power to rob us of control, stall our drive, and make us doubt the wisdom of expectancy.  The first time a parent ignores our cries and leaves us in the crib to sleep through the night, we are outraged, and that feeling doesn’t leave us easily.

If we are honest, somewhere deep inside us is the belief that trusting people entitles us to their faithfulness.  It’s an infantile notion—the stuff of tantrums—that remains in us because we don’t know how to challenge it and win.  We don’t know how to declare the world unfaithful and still have hope while we’re in the world.  This puts us in one of two postures:  perpetually disappointed or perpetually hopeless.

How do we discover and experience love among imperfect people in an unsafe world?

First we grow up.

Love is a very high cliff over a very deep ocean.  Only fools “fall” in Love.  The wise count the cost of it, know the worth of it, then willingly make the sometimes arduous climb and JUMP into it.

Love is not blind.  It sees the world as it truly is—in all its ugly and clumsy incompleteness—then reaches for it, drawn not by potential reward but need.  Adults know that caring is no guarantee that you’ll be cared for, and people who offer love with demands for loyalty usually cannot be trusted to deliver or appreciate either one.

Second, we become skilled at the art of forgiveness.

Pretending nothing happened is not the idea here.  If my brother’s aught against me is not real, pardon is unnecessary.  Forgiveness is not forgetting to remember, but rather remembering to forget.  It is choosing, with each thought of vengeance, to let your offender off the hook because there is a measure of grace burning a hole in your pocket.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe we have grace enough to spare.  But consider this:  How weak and deflated is the spirit of a bully?  How much evil does it take to shrivel the heart and create an abuser?  How long does the mind have to steep in ignorance and bile to produce a racist?  Grace doesn’t know the answer to these questions, and it takes pity on those who do.

Finally, we experience love in an imperfect world when we stop trusting people to be anything other than people, and start trusting Love.

The only thing people have the power to do perfectly is repent.  Don’t expect him to behave.  Expect Love to behave.  Don’t look for her to guard your heart.  Love will do it.  Relationships don’t heal us.  Love heals us and relationships.

Love does not keep us free from pain.  Bullies and abusers will always be with us on earth.  But Love will keep us free in pain.  Oppressors walk naked and unhidden before us when our pity exposes them as the only victim left in the room.

What sticks with us most when we live a life of Love is not the memory of what is lost or taken away, but the good we are fortunate enough to leave behind.

Love is this:  You need.  I give. We are satisfied.


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