36. "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37. Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38. This is the first and greatest commandment. 39. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' 40. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.
At my Emmaus weekend, as we were discussing our individual gifts and our callings, both career and otherwise, my friend Teresa said she thought our childhood dreams and aspirations were an early indication of our gifts and our callings. Several of the women at our table concurred, each sharing how their childhood dreams were either directly linked to their careers, or how their chosen career might be different but incorporated many of the things they thought they would enjoy doing. I disagreed, as I really hadn't had any dreams and aspirations for a specific career. As a child, I dreamed of being a wife and a mother, and of having a big family. As to careers, I had vague ideas about working with children or animals, or a series of ever changing aspirations like being a brain surgeon, a writer, the president, or of just saving the world. Needless to say, I have not realized these fleeting dreams.
But were there clues in my childhood that I might have missed? Possibly. I have not written and published any great novels, but in some way I am satisfying my desire to write with my blog posts. I ended up divorced, and with only two children, but they are two amazing children. While they were growing up we always had lots of other children at the house, and I volunteered for scouts, school functions, etc. Still, the majority of my various aspirations were left unfulfilled. I feel no sense of loss, no disappointment over this, I would hate the stress of being president.....or of being a brain surgeon for that matter!!
The one thing that has remained pretty consistent throughout my life has been that, although I have been shy much of my life, I have always formed emotional bonds easily. At different times in my life, I have considered this both a blessing and a curse. I bond quickly, love deeply, and consequentially am hurt more often than I would be if I were more reserved. Now I am not talking exclusively romantic love here. I love my family deeply, of course, but I also love my friends, still feel love for friends who have hurt me in the past, and have been known to feel love in my heart for complete strangers. It would be understandable if people thought this meant I was disingenuous, however one does not need to know me for very long to realize I am being totally sincere.
As you child, and young woman, I firmly believed that anyone who was acting out, labeled a bad person, or was in any way socially marginalized, was that way because they hadn't experienced enough unconditional love in their lives. I was convinced that if they had unconditional love and support they would turn their lives around, and I was equally convinced that if I knew them it was my responsibility to give them that unconditional love. As you can imagine, my parents not only found this belief to be immature and unrealistic, but also found it to be cause for worry. As they saw it, my lack of common sense, and my willingness.... even determination to see an idealized version of everyone I came across, put me in harms way. This desire to befriend the friendless, bond with the "trouble makers", to love everyone, and yes to save everyone came to be called my "Dear Abby Complex" by my parents.
At the time, I saw it as my responsibility as a caring and compassionate human being. I also saw my parents inability to see this the way I did as a failing on their part, and felt that they just did not have a big enough capacity for love. Ahhhh, it seems there were no limits to my teenage hubris at times!!! As I have matured, I see the sad humor in the fact that I felt everyone deserved complete understanding and unconditional love, except for my parents who I seemed to think deserved my thick headed and harsh judgement. How I wish I could have seen that way back then!! In retrospect, some of the people I chose to bond with were just other teens with a variety of issues they were working through, but in some cases I really did put myself at risk, all the while unable to see the distinction. I also wonder....Where did I get the idea that I could save anyone, through love or any other means??
We all know that God is the only one who can really SAVE any of us, as He did through Jesus Christ. I think I have a much more realistic view of the world, in some ways, now. But I still can't help but feel that unconditional love is the key to unlock many of the worlds problems. It is His unconditional love that is the key. God's unconditional love is the ultimate gift, and we must each make a conscious choice to accept or decline that gift. So we each have an ability to determine if we wish to be saved, but He is the only one with that power.
Yet, I still feel like I have a responsibility to give unconditional love. I think we all, as Christians, are being called to do so. I think, as in every gift, we all may have a different capacity for this. We also all show it in different ways. Some are open and demonstrative as I am, some offer unconditional love in a more reserved or subdued way, but we all have some capacity to share Gods love. We all share this responsibility, this gift, this blessing. We may not be able to save the world with our love, but we can be an instrument for God to shine his unconditional love on others so that He can save us one heart, one soul, at a time.
So maybe I did have an indication of my calling as a child, maybe not my only calling but one of the most important. Maybe my heart, my capacity to bond and to love, was never a mixed blessing and curse. Maybe it was always a blessing, a gift from God, and I just had to learn how to use it. Learn to be able to love unconditionally, but in a way that will not put my safety, or the safety of others at risk. Yes, there will be heartache at times, but even if I could become a more guarded person and care just a little less deeply, I'm not sure that I would want to.
Lord let us all go out into the world and be an instrument for You to shine Your perfect love on those we meet. Help us not to get caught in the trap of trying to judge who is, or isn't, worthy of unconditional love. We are all Your children, and if we are worthy of Your unconditional love then certainly we are worthy of unconditional love from each other. When our offerings of love are met with rebuke, rejection, or heartache remind us that we are the beneficiaries of Your love, and bolster us with courage to continue in this mission. Thank you Heavenly Father for forgiving us our sins, and for loving us so completely. Thank you for the blessings of our own individual gifts, the beauty you surround us with, and for each other. Our work is made so much easier by Your unfailing presence in our lives, and by being able to share our work with others within our Christian community. Amen