Valentine’s Day 2015…


Valentine’s Day 2015…

 

This is usually a strange day to me. Not strange because I have anything against a day to celebrate the wonderful gift of love, but strange to hold that gift in such high regard, yet be alone in the party. My daughter wrote a great Facebook status today:

“Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!!!

My favorite day of the year, has come again. If you’re in a relationship, if you’re married, if you’re single and loving it, if you’re single and hating it, today is about LOVE. It may have started with romantic love (I see you Saint Valentine, get it. Holla) it certainly is about more than that now. Love on your parents, love on your pup, love on your siblings, love on your friends, love on the guy you find annoying at work (you can go back to being annoyed tomorrow), love on people you don’t know (no one wants a creep though, use some tact), of course love on your significant other if that is a thing in your life. I don’t care who you love on, just adopt an attitude of LOVE today, and you know…it might bleed into tomorrow…and the day after that…and then maybe you won’t feel so down when its Valentine’s Day next year because you’ve decided that, significant other or not, you will love on SOMEBODY this day. Give a rare compliment, give a hug, give eye contact, give someone attention you might not have before and you know…you might create a new friend. Happy V Day!

Love,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Hopeless Romantic,

 Hannah.”

  

As I read it, I was blown away with her perspective. Such optimism and generosity of heart in her words!

For the first 49 years of my life, I lived with somebody. Often several somebodies. In the fall of 2010 my youngest child, Hannah, left home for college and I was left alone, living in a depressing basement in the house of an elderly couple in Kansas. The basement was quite small, with a bathroom, but no kitchen. After Hannah left, I appreciated the extra space…she’s a clothes collector…but I missed the thought that she no longer lived with me. https://blueeyesseeingclearly.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/last-week-with-hannah/

I found myself opening the gate to a new pasture on my journey. I have learned a lot about myself in these years. For instance, I have found that:

…I crave natural light in my home. A well-lighted space is cheerier to me.

…I enjoy choosing the colors in my house. Although I didn’t have much experience with interior design for most of my life, I like the creativity of decorating my space, and then continuing to add new touches from time to time.

…When my home is clean and straight, I feel more relaxed and less anxious. Allowing the space to become cluttered and dirty is a sign that I am being disrespectful to myself, and that I am probably running from something in my life that I don’t want to deal with, but for which I am responsible.

…When I am watching TV, or more likely, on the internet excessively, I am probably running from something I either want to do, but it is difficult (like writing) or time consuming (like changing the landscape of my yard).

Living alone has allowed me to get to know….me…and given me the opportunity to realize my own responsibility for my life; to either grow or run from growth, and be faced with the realization that I was doing so.

So…where is love in all of this, and what does it have to do with Valentine’s Day?

 

I have a growing belief that if a person is to learn how to love other people or another person, they must learn to love their self. Maybe better stated: I love others in direct relation to the manner in which I respect and love myself. As Christian…a preacher’s son…and a man who has spent many years attending, thinking about, and criticizing the Church; my thoughts seem always to return to the bible when I consider my life and how it is structured. So, once again I turn to the bible to help me understand where I have been, where I am currently, and what comes next. I think it was to this principle, about how to love in greater fullness, that Jesus’ response to a question by a Pharisee points:

“One of the scribes (teacher of the law…a lawyer) came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he (Jesus) answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is,

‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one;

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your

Heart, and with all your soul,

And with all your mind,

And with all your strength.’

 

The second is this: ‘You shall love

Your neighbor as yourself.’

There is no other commandment greater than these.’

And the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’

And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” Mark 22:28-34

 

If you are reading this and didn’t grow up in church or in a preacher’s home or spend your life wandering through the maze of differing interpretations of the bible and Christianity in general; the passage above may sound like a code language that you find hard to understand, from a different time and place… all this talk of “scribes” and “kingdoms” and “whole burnt offerings and sacrifices”. You are right! It is from a different time and place. And it could be considered a code which invites us to dive underneath the ancient cultural and religious context to find deep meaning and principles for life which are life giving in any culture or context. Honestly, even those who have heard the code their entire lives, or studied deeply the code and context from which it comes, may “miss the forest because of the trees.” We….I…..have a tendency to miss the simplicity of the message:

Loving God deeply changes how we love our self and others.

I would even change the first two words above to: Receiving love from God…

Now back to my story…

Living alone has helped me begin to understand how I have responded to the events in my life, and the ways I have read the code poorly. Somewhere along the line, I came to believe deeply that I must do something considered significant in order to be loved and accepted. Part of the problem was determining the valuation and definition of “significant.”  I have begun to call this my search for the Perfect Something…

You know…the

Perfect job…

Perfect relationship…

Perfect girl…

Perfect community…

Perfect church…

Perfect idea…

That sort of thing…  What I have really been searching for was love which I deeply felt had to be earned in some way. Love earned from God, friends, family, lovers…

Whomever…

Love had to be earned, and although I tried to accomplish the tasks, I always fell short. In fact, my failings often seemed both self-inflicted and destined to be my fate.

But…

As my life crashed…

My dreams crushed…

My expectations collapsed…

My blood continued to course…

I was alive…

Alone…

Yet not alone…

During Advent of this past year, I became impressed to embrace simplicity in my life. Maybe not to the level of the ancient mystics and ascetics, who ran into the desert to find God…that would be too…uncomfortable….OK, that was a joke…a TRUE joke but a joke nonetheless. Besides… chasing that level of simplicity, at least for me, would be just another pursuit of the Perfect Something. So, my aim is to receive my life in the simplicity in which it is given.

As I have thought about it, I realized that God’s first gift to me was the gift of God’s Self. This thought relates to the first “commandment” which Jesus mentions. I understand “commandment” to mean that I learn to understand and honor this gift, and relate to God in the totality of my being and activity. I receive the gift of God’s self as parent, confidante, closest friend, and even the most intimate lover. It is through this first gift that I learn about and how to receive God’s second gift to me: ME. From the first moment the two half-strands of DNA received from my parents twirled together to form the amazing catalog of unique genetic information which carried the instructions to created me; I was being formed into a distinctive bundle of talents, capabilities, qualities, and yes…weaknesses. In a wonderfully strange sense, this human quantity is an ongoing gift to itself. But I must learn how to receive it, as well as honor, respect, and love myself as both a gift from God, but also as having innate worth and beauty. There is the rub…the last part.

I have had great trouble with the last part. For a multiplicity of reasons, I have had a difficult time receiving my Self with joy, humility, and thankfulness. I have hidden annoyances and animosities about myself. Whether it is…

Where my body naturally stores its fat…

The apparent slowness of my brain to process information…

The ease with which I become distractedwow, its really raining…

The size of my….hands…..

And many other qualities that I become irritated with are part of the incredible gift I have been given. Much dysfunction is but an over-compensation for my distrust and judgment of the Me I have been given. I am realizing that the life I have received…

The experiences in that come in that life…

Are parts of a process to help me receive, respect, and love myself at steadily deeper levels. God interacts with me in and through my life in each new day, to show me not only that I am loved, but that I am worthy of that love.

Wow….the phrase “I am worthy of that love…” was still difficult for me to type…

Still in process….

This process gives me more access to qualities that greatly affect my relations to others, too. As I

accept my self…

respect my self…

receive my self…

enjoy my self…

forgive my self…

love my self…

more fully, I am freer to do the same in a weird sort of connectedness, to both God and others. Psychologists call this Self-differentiation, I call it Joy.

Valentine’s Day, 2015 was still hard, but I am trying to remember to receive love that is difficult to receive.

That is my process…

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