There is this place that we get to if we hunger for love and peace until every corner of our heart aches. It is a place where we have run out of things to try. We have no more tricks up our sleeves. No more energy to keep thinking of new things to do. We’ve tried, over and over and over again, to be different, to make things different. To be what we are told matters, is good and right. And here we are again. Back in the same place. In the same conversations. The same behaviors. The same brokenness. The same horrible feeling of disconnection and near hopelessness that it can ever really be better.
But this can be a beautiful place. If we can just believe, even a little, that we can be set free from our striving, that we are not forever bound by the pain and cycle of circumstances that we cannot see a way around or through.
It is here, it is now… when we are lying bleeding and exhausted on the ground, our worn-out body a scarce reflection of our even more badly battered heart. There is nothing left. Our heart, our life, is broken beyond our repair. When we reach the end of ourselves and everything we know doesn’t work, we have an opportunity to become who God dreamed us to be, not who people say we are or condemn us to be in their judgment.
A beautiful soul of a man whom I met here in a church in Inverness asked me about my religious background. The way he described his own journey summed it up perfectly. ‘I love God but I can’t be bothered with religion.’ He is in a church led by a humble pastor whose heart calls out to the broken. He serves in the church and outside the church and his heart reaches out to the community around him. He is love to those around him.
I was raised and taught how to judge and condemn with a smile and the right ‘loving Christian’ words and attitude. I am/was/sometimes still am, one of those. Oh how gracious and wise is the God of this universe to let me fall hard and far from that precarious place. To fall deep into despair, into my winding, painful journey that brought me to the end of everything that I had been taught and everything I thought I knew, to the end of my efforts to fix myself, to the glorious despair that was the end of my broken self… to fall at His feet. The feet of the One who is not confined by religion or dogma or rules or ideology. The feet of the One who can set right what is a complete mess. The feet of the One who chooses to allow the ‘wise’ to be blinded by their own rightness and reveal His Love to those whom the wise throw away. The feet of the One who can see the end from the beginning and who waits patiently for me to stop striving and just lay quietly in His arms.
Being love is being human with each other, not better than, not holier than thou, not embued with secret knowledge that makes one elite–that someone has to be ‘good’ to get. The more we learn about God, the more we fall to our knees in humility… chastened by how flawed and treacherous our human hearts can be.
If we are to fatally err… may we err in love of God, ourselves and our neighbor. If we are to freefall, let it not be into the arms of judgment, but into the arms of God. If we are to trust anything, may we trust that God can handle the running of the world. If we are to judge, let it be whether we have loved God, ourselves and our neighbor well this day.
And that is what it’s about. God asks people to do one thing, well maybe two things but they are so linked as to be only one… love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength, and love one’s neighbor as oneself. And He even provides an example of neighbor in case we are too dense to get who that is (and we are). The Good Samaritan story is clear. The person who the religious people condemn and move away from, the one whom they judge and lecture, whom they look down upon… this is my neighbor. And I am that neighbor. Who has not been an outsider to love? Who has not been stung by hatred or rejection? Who has not been lost and confused in this painful world? Who has not done things that they want to hide from others? It’s important to note that the Samaritan did not lecture the person or tell him how to live; he bandaged his wounds, got him a place to stay and provided for his food and care. He provided what the man needed. The loving care spoke more to the hurt man than anything the Samaritan could have said. Also important, Samaritans were not highly valued in that culture either, so he didn’t come from a place of ‘better than’ but just compassion to one who is like him. In fact, it’s a huge statement that it was the Samaritan’s actions that Christ highlighted to teach the wise and religious.
If we reject, let us reject the judge and jury in ourselves. If we are stung with anger, let us be stung and angered by recognition of our own pride and ‘rightness.’ If we are intolerant, let us be intolerant of ‘better than thou’ in ourselves. If we group-think, let it be to the somber conclusion that we have no stone to throw and walk away with a humble heart. Let us not refuse God’s request to love Him, ourselves and our neighbors by participating in or taking abuse from the perfectly religious who look at broken people on the side of the road and cross on the other, gossiping and judging from a ‘better than thou’ distance.
Let me not find myself cocooned in the right and might of the perfectly religious but let me find the courage and humility to offer God a home within myself and to be among the imperfect and broken on the side of the road, sharing the fishes and loaves I have with others as they share with me. And let me be humbled to the core of my soul to be able to hold my heart open to the proudly religious who hurt and wound in the name of the God who is Love. Let my anger pierce my own soul and if I speak, let me speak the simple truth of Love and let Love convict the heart. Let me see what lies within me ever more clearly. Let me remember who I am created to be and what is asked of me. Let me sit down on the side of the road and soothe the wounds of the hurting as my wounds have been soothed for me.
My heart cannot wait for the tears of the wounded to turn to joy. My heart cannot wait to see hope and healing spark big smiles that glimmer with life and light up the dark night with the beauty of true Love. May this kingdom come.