When Love Isn't Just a Feeling
Maybe it was my dreamy-eyed youth at play or maybe it was a skewed misconception portrayed by culture, but I was well into my adulthood before I realized I didn't have to FEEL love in order TO love. I also didn't need to feel loved in order to choose to love. Perhaps you learned this way before me, but when I look around our world, I wonder if all of us could use a refresher course.
We know our culture has turned love into this ooey-gooey, melt-your-heart, tingly from your head to your toes feeling and that's great. Sometimes that does happen. Sometimes our hearts flutter and our voices are silenced in awe. And, sometimes all we want to do is shake someone until they get the fact that we do love them.
When love is only a feeling, the true power of love is completely lost.
When my parents informed me that I was no longer welcome in their family, I was devastated. I knew their reasons were unreasonable. Putting beliefs ahead of relationship is never a good idea. However, we all get to choose how we show up in this world and what we place priority upon, so I had to find a way to honor my parents' decision without becoming hateful and seeking revenge for all the pain they were inflicting upon me.
I wrote an email to my pastor, Greg Boyd, never dreaming he would answer it because our church family is in the thousands. When I received an email back in less than 24 hours, I was pretty sure God was trying to communicate with me through Greg.
Greg initially wrote what is to be expected. He wrote how sorry he was this had happened and how beliefs should not come before relationship. Then he wrote something that kind of smacked me up side my head. He wrote,
"What you need to do now is decide how you will love them right where they are at."
What the hell? Is this man bonkers? Should I change churches? Did he not read my email? I had just told him my parents don't want a relationship with me and that kind of lets me off the hook in the love department. Greg was telling me even in the midst of my parents breaking relationship with me, I was still to choose love.
This seemed quite messed up to me. I was pretty sure all I felt was anger and hatred towards my parents. I was pretty sure they deserved that. I was for sure right. Or was I?
I put Greg's email aside and I indulged my anger and hatred for a few weeks, but then I was exhausted. I knew no amount of anger and hatred would change the situation, so as I do with most difficult situations, I challenged God. I issued this statement to the Universe by saying, "Okay, if I am supposed to love them, I am going to need some help."
I looked back over Greg's email and with fresh eyes was able to see the suggestions he had provided for getting started on choosing to love my parents in the midst of their unloving actions.
It's been over twelve years since that email. I have completed Greg's list and have added to it. I started with cards on their birthdays. Eventually I was able to find generic, yet affirmative, Mother's and Father's Day cards. I started being in the same space with them at large family gatherings and moved into greeting them and now I even engage them in conversation. I don't always get a response, but the fact that I choose to put love out there is what matters.
I don't necessarily feel love when I do these loving actions, but if I choose to act in an unloving way, I feel untrue to myself and my fellow human family, including my parents. Therefore, when in doubt, I choose to be loving.
Here's the pretty cool thing I have noticed in this very painful of situations as well as in situations where I am not emotionally invested like addressing a stressed out Target employee, LOVE ALWAYS MAKES A POSITIVE IMPACT!
Loving actions calm, soothe, empower, confuse, upset the negative intention, build connection, and so much more. When we love one another at our lowest moments, we build the entire human family up. I am not saying stay close when others are hurting you. No, love from a distance when needed, even if it is simply sending wishes for wellbeing towards that person. Remember, our thoughts create realities. If we are hating in our minds, that sends negative vibes into the human family. If we are loving in our minds, that empowers us to do and be so much more than a feeling could ever prompt.