Friday, January 13, 2012

Freedom in Love: Not for Sissies

octors are in the habit of telling seniors that “getting old is not for sissies.” Well, love is not for sissies either. 

When we imagine how free we would have to become to love an enemy, one who has seriously harmed us or harmed a member of our family, we realize the distance we have yet to climb. We can track that climb with two measures; our ability to accept others, and our ability to forgive others. Love of others begins with accepting them as equals. There can be no hierarchy or caste in love.


We are often quite good at accepting an abstract humankind, but not always the individual we face. We cannot honestly say we accept others when we make them invisible, as with innocent victims of crime or war. It is only when we allow ourselves to put faces on them and see their wounds that we can accept them so that we care for them.
Freedom begins with acceptance, but it stretches toward fullness with forgiveness, our second measure. They go together just as God’s passion for us incorporates forgiveness before we even ask for it. We have all read of parents who have forgiven the murderer or rapist of their own child. We can only marvel at their freedom to do that. In our times it seems almost incomprehensible that one of the most difficult acts of forgiveness many of us must muster is to forgive the leadership of our institutional church, even though we know they are only blind from living in an unhealthy cultural box out of which their behavior springs.
It is indeed a steep climb to the freedom exhibited by the type of parents described above. Often we sense a greater distance ahead than behind us. The important thing to remember is that God is with us on this journey. We are each a freedom to be achieved, an image of God to be advanced, and God wants us to become our full selves, that image.
It is a rare person who is free of disability when it comes to loving others. There is the disability of not knowing what is the caring thing to do. Do I do, or do I do nothing? Do I hug, or do I correct? The answer of course is, wade in. Do the best we can. Making mistakes is part of life and of loving. Waiting on the sidelines for a surety that will never come is death to freedom.
There exist other love-inhibiting disabilities rooted in our natures during our formative years. They are not the same for each of us, but we should learn to identify them so that we can present them to Christ for healing. They are disabilities that can only be overcome with the power of God’s grace. To discover your own personal disabilities you might find a study of the Enneagram helpful.

Rohr, Richard and Ebert, Andreas, The Enneagram, A Christian Perspective, Crossroad Publishing Company, 2004.

Palmer, Helen, The Enneagram – Understanding yourself and the Others in Your Life, Harper Collins, 1991.