Tag Archives: Love

Adventures in Grace

The older I get, the more I realize what “grace” is all about.

Perhaps the older you get, the more you personally realize how fucked up you are, and how – for most of us – we never intended to be so dysfunctional.   When you are a teenager, or a young adult, you look at your dysfunctional family and lament how you wish your parents were “normal” and paid more attention to you and didn’t make so many mistakes.  It’s an ideal way of thinking, really, because you have NO idea what it is like to raise a child (or 5 children in my parent’s case).  It’s hard to forgive your parents (or whoever it is in your life) because you just assume they could have been better (and perhaps they could have been) but you never take the chance to weigh in the circumstances and the variables that played into why exactly they were how they were, or why a certain event played out the way it did.

As I grow older, and I experience lapses in patience, bouts of fatigue and sickness that leave me bewildered and hanging on by my fingertips (so to speak), all the while having to take care of toddlers whom I barely relate with, I am beginning to “understand” how hard it is to be perfect… how utterly impossible it is.  And it is, perhaps, out of a desperate need of grace (mainly from those I let down) that I am beginning to understand it more and more.

There are so many problems with the assumption that someone is “bad” and can be “better”.  

Well, no. Let me restate that.  Because it’s obvious that a man or woman who takes advantage of children in some hurtful way is indeed “bad” and needs to be “better”.  Or a man or woman who cheats and steals is in fact “bad” and hurting others and needs to get “better”.

No, that’s safe to say.
So let me try again.

There are so many problems with the assumption that the reason someone is “bad” is of their own “evil” doing and because they have brought this on themselves and they just need to “make a decision” and they will get “better” – the old “repent”, or “turn the other way”.  

Any assumption is dangerous, as every situation is different… but that’s exactly my point – every situation is different, and grace is needed in all situations because the fact is – we just don’t know.  You don’t know if the “evil” terrorist just loves hurting people and from an early age made a decision to hate people and hurt people (probably not) or if over years of misinformation, misunderstanding, prejudice, judgements and assumptions – they are acting not out of trying to hurt others or be “evil” or “bad” – but they are simply doing what they feel is right.

My point is this, the more you know about the history of a person, the details behind why they are exactly how they are, the more grace you can have for them.  

I think this perspective comes from having kids.  I look at my girls and think, there is no way any of them could grow up to intentionally hurt (even kill) another person… but I know, it’s possible.  Because it’s happened before.  Children grow up, and some children grow up to be awful human beings who take advantage of others and destroy other people’s lives.  But I DO NOT believe that these people wake up one day and make this decision to hurt others.  I would argue it is mainly other people’s influence and actions towards an individual that determines how that person will turn out.  Now, I don’t believe that 100% of the time, because I’ve seen people react differently to similar circumstances.  One child may turn away from their abusive parents and find peace in a life far away from the hate and pain of their childhood – while their sibling might grow up to resent and hate their parents and allow that hatred to infiltrate their souls and fill them with the exact same bitterness that they were shown.

Maybe what I am saying is that I am believing less and less in free-will.  OMG. I can’t believe I just said that… but more and more I am convinced that people are not to blame for the decisions they make, but instead they are lost, confused and ignorant to what is causing them to act a certain way.  We are so unaware, most of the time, of the stimuli that are affecting the way we are… our mental state, our bodies health, the shows we watch, the people we hang out with…  Grace is needed… grace is forgiveness, it is understanding, it is letting go of the “facts” of someone’s actions and looking beyond that to the person they could be if they were free from all the chains that entrap them, that shape (have shaped) them into what they are.

I believe there is a God that understands all things.  An all-knowing God who sees all and forgives all.  A God who displays grace to all people because that God knows exactly WHY they are the way they are, and exactly what they could be if the things outside of their control were different.

I’m not saying that people don’t get better, and that ultimately it doesn’t begin with an acknowledgement of “sin” or wrong doing, and a turning around / repenting sort of thing.  Sure.  But there is no path back to perfection (at least in this life)… and some chains are permanent… and I believe that, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be like him… to accept all people, no matter how they are, or how they are living, or the things they do – we welcome them and love them and accept them.  It’s not a behavioral religion – Christianity – it shouldn’t be at least.  It is a LOVE religion.  And love, and grace, covers a multitude of sins.

Live with more grace today.  Let things go. Try it. I’m going to.

Hopes and Dreams

What are my hopes and dreams for the future?

29 years.  Gone.

What has it all meant?  Where has it all gone?  Have I left my fingerprints on anything? And if so, in a good way – that brings life and growth and beauty?  Or in a detrimental way that brings destruction, confusion, fear and ugliness?

How can you really know…?

Maybe that is this fleeting feeling inside.  How do you measure life?  I mean, what reliable figure or statistic can you look at to insure the hours and days have not been wasted?  What awards or accolades can you show that mean anything at all except vain conceit?

Truly, I used to think that the only measure of success was the lives of others, unfolding in beautiful, meaningful ways… but then, you begin to wonder – what in them would measure success?  Money? Power? Prestige?  Influence?  Saving 100 lives?  1,000 lives?  1 life?

So then I began to think, perhaps this life is not about attaining some goal or success, but instead it is about enjoying the minutes as they pass.  Being fully present in each passing second, savoring it and making the most of it – for it all soon will pass away.  Then, life becomes about those around you – about my family right now.  About seeing Robin smile, making the girls laugh, and finding beauty in the world around me.  This way, it does not matter how many friends I have… or what I have done with business… or how much money I have made.  Life is simply about enjoying and experiencing those you love – giving love and receiving love.

But daily, I feel the temptation of meaning and significance.  To do something spectacular with my life – to be special, to have people envy me.  These were the temptations of Jesus, were they not?  To be important.  And yet, in those stories (the temptations in the desert), as unfolded by one of my favorite mystics, Henry Nouwen (in his book, In the Name of Jesus), Jesus resisted these temptations to be some important religious fool (when asked to turn rocks into bread), to be some vain, conceited, powerful ruler (when offered the kingdoms of the world), and to be some sideshow celebrity that everyone marvels at (when tempted to throw himself off the temple and have angels rescue him).  Instead, he entered his thirties by calling around him the rejects of society, to have them follow him from town to town, loving those around them: touching the untouchables… healing the sick…eating with outcasts… and unveiling what life is truly about.  Love.

Love. The kind of love that seeks not for itself, but truly yearns and desires for the happiness in another’s heart.  Love that wants nothing but to see a smile on the faces around them, from a need met, even if it means you don’t get the best seat in the house, or you miss out on the concert you’ve been dying to go to so you can spend time with someone in their suffering.  Love that looks beneath the surface, below the costumes and masks we wear, beneath the tattoos and peircings – to the child within.  The child that is still seeking attention, meaning, and significance.  And if we’re lucky, love finds us, and holds us, and doesn’t let go.  It leads us out of the desert of temptations, and into a simple life full of meaning and significance found only in those you love, and those who love you.

I don’t know what I believe about God.  There must be something out there.

I don’t know what I believe about Jesus being God.  I don’t know what I believe about Christian theology… but I do know this: Jesus, at his core, the guy who gives up power, celebrity, and comfort – for life in the dirt of the country side with his closest friends and family, loving all those he meets, healing and accepting them:  that is the best example of unconditional love I have ever experienced or heard of.  And it is what I am basing my life around.  To let “the spirit” lead me day in and day out, through these temptations of meaning and significance, and into a simple life where Love is the only thing that matters, and everything else grows out of love.

What does that mean? And what does that look like?

It means that I will not ignore my children.  I will work when I need to work, to provide so that we can live healthily and happily – but I will never let my work become my source of meaning and significance.  It is a means to an end.  And the end, is love – family – friends – and ultimately, everyone.

It means I will work at my marriage.  I will submit to my wife when she needs me to, and I will stand up for her and respect her.  I will pursue her and always try and make her feel special, beautiful, loved, and important.  I will do what I can to put a smile on her face and laughter on her lips.  I will work when I need to work, and watch the kids when I need to watch the kids.  I will provide a safe space for her to be herself, to complain, to cry, to laugh, to cuss, to create in her own special Robin-way. ^_^

It means I will take care of myself, because the ability to love unconditionally without becoming impatient, or angry – begins with my body.  If I am tired, I get grumpy.  If I am hungry, I easily get frustrated and angry at little things.  If I have not exercised, I have little energy to play with my girls when they are asking me to play chase or tag.  If I do not eat right, I get sick and then can not serve my family the way they need me to serve them.

So what are my hopes and dreams for the future?

The day I die, I want to look back on my life and say without a shadow of a doubt that I never wasted my time.  That I did not give into the temptations of pleasure and comfort, celebrity and popularity, power and meaning and significance.  I want to feel that people smiled because of me, and not because I was making fun of other people, but because I cared about them.  I want to see how my sweat and toil created opportunity for others to succeed and find peace in their lives.  I want to die knowing that my life was not wasted being selfish and vain – finding meaning in my intelligence or my accomplishments – finding pleasure in my toys and technology – finding pleasure in putting down others and placing myself on top.

Through all of my existential wanderings, it’s time to nail things down to tangible things that I can practice day in and day out.  No more arguing about small details that do not matter.  As cheesy as it is, and it is (thanks to DC Talk): Love is a verb.  It’s time to start love-ING.

I will be peace, not violence.

I will be safe, not angry.

I will be patient, not volatile.

I will give, and take only when given.

I will fail, but continue to write and refine.

(And I will always listen to Sigur Ros when writing, as it opens up treasure troves I never knew existed within me)