It's Easter y'all. And that means Choose Love. Every day we are faced with hundreds and hundreds of choices. Some choices are trivial, seemingly meaningless, and others are life-changing. In all of these, no matter how mundane or significant, we ultimately make a choice based in love or fear. Think about it. Fear of failing. Fear of losing. Fear of being last. Fear of being alone. Fear of being less than. Fear of not being enough. We make choices based on our fears of what other people will think, or how they will treat us, or what they will do. We choose things based on our fears of the unknown, the uncertain, the unpleasant, the unwanted. Choices that we make in fear manifest in anger, manipulation, discrimination, neglect, gossip, envy, hurt, lies, revenge, back-stabbing, meanness, and self-centeredness. All of these take us away from God. Away from our Higher Power. Away from our Highest Self. Choices made in love manifest in kindness, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, patience, empathy, tenderness, respect, gentleness, and concern for others. Love is always the choice that takes us closer to God. Closer to Godliness. Love is always the Higher Choice. Love is always the God-choice. In the Christian faith, we celebrate Easter to commemorate and remember the death and resurrection of Jesus. He chose love. Without fail. Without exception. Above the law, he chose love. Above society's norms, he chose love. Above his own safety and suffering, he chose love. Above the loss of friends and family, he chose love. Above his own will and his own fears, he chose love. Even above death. He chose love in the ultimate sacrifice any human being can offer, giving his life for others. He was our example, our teacher, our way-shower. And he taught us to choose love. In fact, it was his greatest commandment for us to fulfill. "Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples--when they see the love you have for each other." John 13:34-35 MSG So on Easter, I am reminded to Choose Love. When I am in heavy traffic, or the lines at Publix are unbelievably long, I am to choose love. When I am at work, and others annoy the crap out of me or take credit for something they didn't do, I am to choose love. When I disagree with someone--their decisions, their actions, their life--I am still to choose love. When I have been hurt, when I have been wronged, I am to choose love. When I am tired, or hungry, or short on funds or time, I am still to choose love. In all things, choose love. In the way you treat family and friends, choose love. In the way you treat strangers, choose love. In the way you treat those different from you, choose love. If you need to have a difficult conversation with someone, choose love in your words and approach. If you need to set boundaries or distance yourself from someone, choose love in your method and your actions. In each decision you make throughout your day, ask yourself: Which is the love choice? Which is the higher choice? Which is the God-choice? And choose love. Whether that is as small as letting in the idiot driver that waited til the very last minute to cut in, or not groaning when the British family doesn't see the "10 items or less" sign at Publix, or whether it is as big as offering forgiveness for a blatant wrong or extending kindness to someone who may not deserve it in your eyes. In all things, Choose Love. It may be hard to fathom, but we must also choose love for ourselves. When we pick what foods to eat, how much sleep to get, or whether or not we have time to exercise. Choose love when it comes to learning when to say no, or protecting yourself from people who suck the life out of you. Choose love when it comes to relationships and people who make it hard for you to be healthy. You have to choose love in how you treat them, but you also have to choose it for yourself. You are best able to help others when you are healthy first. I cannot really fathom how difficult it must have been to live His life. I have no way to measure the pain of being whipped, crowned with thorns, beaten, and crucified. I really have nothing in my life, even at my worst of times, to relate to what all Jesus encountered, endured, and witnessed. And there is definitely nothing I have ever had to sacrifice or give up that would come anywhere close to what He willingly did. After all, He was the Son of God. The most powerful human being to ever walk the Earth. Angels and heavens and universe at His command. And yet, He chose love. Others around us will recognize Him when they see the love. So it must be my daily mantra, my inner dialogue, my driving motivation, and my ever-renewing goal. CHOOSE LOVE.
Just Write. That’s the challenge. Some days the words pour through me uncontrollably as though a plug was pulled, and my soul is draining with each keystroke. They come fast and furious, one right after another, stories and memories and characters and plots all weaving together seamlessly as my fingers fly. Other days the words hide from me, almost scared of the light, and I must coax them and pull them gently and tenderly from inside me. And then I spring them forth and out into the universe for you to see, and I cringe a little for their awkwardness and hope you read them without rejection or scorn. Some days the words are so tightly wound within me that I am scared to release them, lest they rush forward in a torrent with no thought or consideration of whom they may scar along the way. Their pressure, their force, and their poison builds within me, threatening to erupt in self-destruction and hurtful tirades. When it is happy writing, the typing--the releasing--can be a joy. It can make me smile and fill me with hope that when you read the words, you’ll smile too, and we’ll share a moment together of laughter and common ground. We’ll connect, we’ll get each other, and some small piece of the day will be brighter. When it is gut-wrenching writing, I type and erase and backspace and delete and chew my lip as I tug and pull at my very core to get the words released. On those days, sometimes I just stop and allow them to slink away back into their depths. I prefer the happy words, the ones that make you laugh. Luckily, there are many of those. I am blessed with happy thoughts, happy life, happy stories. I am thankful for my words. I am thankful for the ability to pull my emotions, my thoughts, my feelings, my hurts, my outrage and channel it all into a vessel that allows others to see me and know me and understand me better. But with that comes a vulnerability, and an ever-present question of….is it okay? Is it good enough? Did you like it? It’s me, laid bare and open. Sharing with you. Am I okay? Am I good enough? And I think no matter how confident we are in ourselves, there is always a part of us that is vulnerable and seeking to know if we’re okay. And so it is with love. We can only truly love with vulnerability. The act of loving another gives them the power to hurt us. To betray us. To let us down. Disappoint us. Break our hearts and our hopes and our trust and our faith. We cannot share ourselves, open ourselves up to others, without giving them access to the part of us that they can hurt. It is amid that vulnerability, that willingness to risk, that openness despite fear, that love blossoms and grows. And sometimes it may wither and die. Sometimes it is chopped brutally and left to bleed out. And other times it is overpruned and overplucked until it can no longer bear its surroundings. And sometimes, blessing of all blessings, it is nurtured and fed and it can grow and fill us so completely that our souls soar. I feel blessed to have known love in my life. Friends, family, children, spouse. I have known much love and great love. It’s worth it. I believe that. I tell myself that. I tell you that. It has to be better to love and experience love and give love, even with the pain that comes with it, than to live a life without love. Doesn’t it? A life without love? Blech. It’s not a life lived. I met someone long ago who told me that he had married young, before the age of 20, and she left him when he was 23. He had never gone out with another woman, and he said he never would. He said he would never again give anyone the ability to hurt him the way she did. So he had spent the last 32 years of his life closed off from vulnerability. Closed off from love. I suppose that in some way I understand his decision to close his heart and safeguard it. Who among us has not felt the burning, stabbing, crippling pain that love can bring? The loss of love, the betrayal of love, the disappointment of love. How can any of us say that we do not know its sting? A friend turns on you and leaves a dagger in your back, a family member hides something from you and leaves you shaken and unsure, a spouse lies and shatters your trust. When you hurt me, I bleed words. Words that are sorrow-tinged teardrops like regret, disappointment, hurt, disillusionment, revenge, and anger. And they hit the page in splashes of shattered hope, broken bonds, disfigured dreams, and splintered pieces of a heart that will heal with tiny traces of scars that spell out your name. To borrow words from one of my favorite musicals: "The Greatest Thing You'll Ever Learn Is To Love And Be Loved In Return." But hidden deep within the curve of those letters and the lure of those words is the dark-shadowed truth that there is pain in that learning. They are hidden in the darkness because they cannot overpower the light of love. But they are there nonetheless.
Linking up to Just Write.
Lots of people commented or wrote about my first blog post to show their support, and I send a heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you! I am feeling the love and loving it! Several said reading about my leap into following my dreams inspired them to look at their own lives and their own dreams. I think that's awesome. We should all do an inventory every now and then to ask where we are and where we want to be. I think we all want to look back on the life we lived and be happy with the overall picture. But our professions, our possessions and our accomplishments will not define our lives as much as who we were to those around us. What would those who knew me say if they were asked who I was? Was I a good friend? Was I loving and kind? Did I make time for others? Did I help those in need? Did I make people laugh? (hopefully with me, not at me) Did people know I loved them? Was my desk always clean and organized? (Yeah, I figure it's a gimme that I'm going to fail on some of the questions.) Continue reading "Known by Love (why everyone should have an Aunt Zula)"