When I was a baby believer in a power greater than myself I asked my mentor, “I just do not understand why you keep talking about love. I think it is more important that I learn more about God.”
Feel free to roll your eyes.
As a baby believer, I had a LOT to learn. I was confused about the things I needed to know. I was growing up in an age where emphasis was placed on the study of the scriptures - nothing wrong with that!! I was given the impression that I would do well to learn Greek, Hebrew, and how to pull apart God’s “inerrant” word phrase by phrase. There is value in this type of study. But as a newbie, I thought the highest priority was what I KNEW (and I didn’t know much) not how I LIVED. (After all, Jesus died for my sins so far better for me to spend my time learning about God than spending time in rigorous self-examination.) My mentors had no idea that this is how I was misinterpreting their teaching!!!
But they had been believers for a long time. I am not sure they understood the heart of a young woman who easily felt guilty and ashamed kneeling before a BIG GOD. This was complicated by a complete lack of understanding on my part about my responsibility for dealing with the wreckage of my past. I was too new at this spirituality stuff to NOT make confusing leaps of logic. The Jesus story through my eyes sounded like (and to be fair we sang a hymn every now and again that said this) Jesus “paid it all”. This left me convinced that there was nothing left for me to “do”.
This is a far different perspective than the 12-steps, a process where we learn how to take responsibility for our side of the street; make amends; serve others. Lest we forget, the first three steps set the stage for this later work. We have stuff we have to acknowledge, we are encouraged to have hope in our higher power, we are told that if we surrender, God does the heavy lifting in the healing department AND then, we begin to do our work.
It took decades for me to begin to see the vision of God’s kingdom come together in a more coherent fashion. Yes it is important to know this God, to understand him. Yes it is important to know how to take responsibility for ourselves. Yes we have wounds from our past, many of which are not our fault. Yes we have responsibility for participating in the healing work - which is often long, winding and more process-driven than miracle-receiving. And yes, yes, 1,000 times yes - it ALL has to do with this love that God has and gives to us. It all matters. Clearly, I was confused. And of all the confusing things I was learning, how to love was the most confusing of all. To be frank, I believe that some of the things I was taught now feel more like codependency run amok than what the bible actually teaches about love of God, self and others. But let’s be honest - some of the verses in the bible can easily be applied in a confusing manner no matter our best intentions. I want to unpack love for a few days!
To be continued…