You only learn to love by loving

Art bloggers fascinate me, and I had hoped would motivate me to draw, paint, create. Well, today Citizen Sketcher ended a post with this:

As soon as I saw the waves I was thinking – OMG I have no idea how to paint these. What was I thinking coming here!

We all did our best learning to do it on the spot.

And that is really the main point anyway isn’t it? No matter what you read and study, you only learn to paint by practice:)


  • Stating the obvious
  • Plainspeak of the truth
  • Simple and clear language
These things delight me. I followed art bloggers to move me towards doing art, instead I’ve ended up appreciating the beauty of their skills and doing very little. I can only learn to paint by practicing. So the amusing directness transferred to another arena of life I’ve been thinking about – loving and community.
photo (12)
Loving people is hard work; it will be painful work even in the most precious and blessing of relationships. Jesus challenged his followers that people would know you’ve followed Him by how you love each other. And well, His kind of love is scary: it’s a give up all day being praised in the throne room of Heaven and come to be scorned, betrayed, tortured, and crucified.
I like warm, fuzzy love. Painful love tests the limits of who I am; sometimes requires surpassing the love I have a drawing from the well of God. Recently, I dropped off someone I profoundly love and walked to my next destination. I’d been hurt and needed to love fully and openly and wanted to turtle protectively away from the person. This person I love, and this person was hard to love right then.  On the sidewalk this showed up.
photo (11)
Ok, I will! But it’s so hard. How much time of conversation between humans is given to does s/he love me. I’m so mad, hurt, unsure. I want to love with my all. And I don’t want to feel hurt. Maybe the reason humans are drawn to babies and puppies is the absence of threat.
Christians are called to community, to love one another, and we don’t always have the maturity or the strength to live the call to love. So we organize. Organizing people can create the room for love, but it can also replace individual loving.
He who loves community, destroys community;
he who loves the brethern (and sistern, my addition),
builds community.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Jean Vanier’s Community and Growth p. 20
Then disappointment and more hurt comes when our organizing, our church, our fellowship, our small group, our family, our partner shows up human. Our needs didn’t get met, our expectations were let down. The luster of community and love have gone, and reality slips into estrangement. Jean Vanier says that “Love reveals the person behind the function.”
Well, this is where the rubber meets the road. When someone does not fulfill their obligations, this is as close as I get to having enemies.  Actually my crazy shows up when someone does not fulfill their responsibilities. I could give you a long list, but here’s a funny one.
A few years ago my brother gave my older kids iTunes cards. He bought them in the US; we were visiting family in the US, and my son tried to use the card in the US. But because his account is registered in Canada, it was not usable. I called the 1-800 number, chatted it up with a helpful, curious phone operator, who eventually passed me to the next person who was also warm, pleasant, delightful. Both understood the absurdity of the problem, but they could not help. Finally an hour and half into the waiting, my call is forward to a perky manager who made the mistake (poor her) of telling me how I felt and trying to manage me. (I HATE being managed.) Firmly, ok rudely, I said,
Do not tell me how I feel.
Do not tell me you are sorry. If you are sorry, do something about it.
You are a company who replaces computers, why can’t you credit his account with today’s exchange rate into Canadian dollars. He understands exchange rates and that will be a bit less than $20.
The card says for use in the US; he’s in the US.
Do not apologize. Do not waste any more of my time. Do something.
So, she did something; she passed me to a higher manager who tried talking with iTunes. They couldn’t work it out. My son received an iPod nano to replace the lost iTunes card. Only then did I realize 2 things: how much the mark up is on iPods and how truly separate Apple and iTunes are.
But a bit later I realized something else, in my hunger for justice; I was unloving. Then I began to pray that I would be patient, humble, and kind while pursuing what is right. I didn’t have Vanier’s words that “love reveals the person behind the function,” but I knew Christ’s “love your enemies.” I knew that I usually treat people better than I do when they fail to fulfill their role.
So when
  • teachers don’t teach
  • pastors disappoint
  • politicians develop self-serving policies
  • friends are preoccupied
  • loved ones speak painfully/rudely/thoughtlessly

I want to love and to be patient, humble, and kind while also loving enough to talk through the situation. Maybe they are not fulfilling their function (Friends don’t . . . ; ministers shouldn’t . . .; teachers are paid to . . . ), but I want to still love the person.

My son’s anguish motivated me to have a 2 hour phone call about at $20 iTunes card. The principle of the matter was important to him. But the discomfort of the woman on the phone; her anguish expanded my willingness to practice loving.

“Somewhere I am not confident in my own humanity.
I need you.
In some mysterious way, we are united in one human family.
But the uncertainty of it all raises anguish.
It is only when we dare to accept this anguish that
we can begin to love.” p. 68
So I need stickers on the sidewalk to remind me to love.
I need grace to love my enemies and my loved ones.
I need community where I can mess up big and try to love again.
I need forgiveness.
I need to walk close; to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, so He can fill me with His love.
I only learn to love by practicing.
I want to practice loving today.
More of Jean Vanier’s love observations from the chapter: How Can We Love? in Life’s Great Questions
  • Love begins with attraction p.62
  • Enjoying one another’s presence without words p. 65
  • Jesus reveals the weakness of our belovedness, which is our human need for one another p. 66
  • Love allows us to rejoice together p. 67
  • Love reveals that we are all human beings p. 67
  • Love reveals the person behind the function. p. 68

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