Love or Sacrifice?

February 8th, 2016

There are two types of sacrifice: unhealthy sacrifice and healthy sacrifice. One is based on fear and the other on love. Knowing the difference is a key to knowing how to love and be loved.

Over the years, I have counseled people who tried to use unhealthy sacrifice to save a marriage. It appeared to work at first, but love and dishonesty are not good bedfellows. I have seen lovers try to play small in a relationship so as to heal power struggles and avoid rejection. I have seen children get ill in a desperate attempt to heal their parents’ relationship. I have seen business leaders nearly kill themselves for their cause. Unhealthy sacrifice is often well intentioned, but it doesn’t work, because it is based on fear and not love.

Healthy sacrifice is a different story. To be happy in a relationship, you have to be willing to sacrifice fear for love, independence for intimacy, resentment for forgiveness, and old wounds for new beginnings, for instance. Above all, you have to stop giving yourself away and learn how to give more of yourself. You give yourself away when you are not true to yourself, when you play a role, when you don’t speak up, when you don’t ask for what you want, when you don’t listen to yourself, and when you don’t allow yourself to receive. The key is to remember that whatever you are trying to achieve with unhealthy sacrifice can also be achieved without it.

— Robert Holden, Loveability, p. 149

Authentic Religion

February 7th, 2016

Religion is like love. The difference between religion as feeling or believing and authentic religion as how you live out your faith is like the difference between love as a teenage girl’s crush on her favorite pop singer and love as the relationship between a husband and wife who have shared years of good and bad experiences and know how to reach out to each other to gladden or to comfort. The first is a pleasant fantasy; the second is life-defining.

Harold S. Kushner, Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life, p. 106-107

More Labyrinth than Maze

February 3rd, 2016

The difference between a labyrinth and a maze is that a labyrinth has no dead ends….

It has become cliché to talk about faith as a journey, and yet the metaphor holds. Scripture doesn’t speak of people who found God. Scripture speaks of people who walked with God. This is a keep-moving, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, who-knows-what’s-next deal, and you never exactly arrive. I don’t know if the path’s all drawn out ahead of time, or if it corkscrews with each step like in Alice’s Wonderland, or if, as some like to say, we make the road by walking, but I believe the journey is more labyrinth than maze. No step taken in faith is wasted, not by a God who makes all things new.

Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday, p. 180

The Good in Our Neighbor

January 29th, 2016

For we are accountable for the sin in ourselves, and have to kill it. We are accountable for the good in our neighbor, and have to cherish it. But we are not accountable for the bad in him. He only, in the name and power of God, can kill the bad in himself. We can cherish the good in him by being good to him across all the evil fog that comes between our love and his good.

— George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, First Series, “Love Thine Enemy,” quoted in Knowing the Heart of God, p. 347

Letting Them See

January 29th, 2016

The whole deal about loving truly and for real and with all you’ve got has everything to do with letting those we love see us. Silence makes hard things harder than they need to be. It creates a secret you’re too beautiful to keep. Telling has a way of dispersing things.

— Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough, p. 87

Leaving God’s Work to God

January 26th, 2016

Some days are free of fear: they flow smoothly with not a single “tremor.” What’s different on those days? Without realizing it, we probably left God’s work to God. Fears generally surface when we get too personally invested in the outcomes of situations and in the actions of people we care about. We get confused and think our well-being is dependent on them and what they do rather than on God.

— Karen Casey, Peace a Day at a Time, January 26.

We Can’t Go Back.

January 25th, 2016

Once we fall in the service of being brave, we can never go back. We can rise up from our failures, screw-ups, and falls, but we can never go back to where we stood before we were brave or before we fell. Courage transforms the emotional structure of our being. This change often brings a deep sense of loss. During the process of rising, we sometimes find ourselves homesick for a place that no longer exists. We want to go back to that moment before we walked into the arena, but there’s nowhere to go back to. What makes this more difficult is that now we have a new level of awareness about what it means to be brave. We can’t fake it anymore. We now know when we’re showing up and when we’re hiding out, when we are living our values and when we are not. Our new awareness can also be invigorating — it can reignite our sense of purpose and remind us of our commitment to wholeheartedness. Straddling the tension that lies between wanting to go back to the moment before we risked and fell and being pulled forward to even greater courage is an inescapable part of rising strong.

— Brene Brown, Rising Strong, p. 5

Acceptance

January 23rd, 2016

Accept that their actions hurt you deeply. Accept that this experience taught you something you didn’t want to know. Accept that sorrow and strife are part of even a joyful life. Accept that it’s going to take a long time for you to get that monster out of your chest. Accept that someday what pains you now will surely pain you less.

— Cheryl Strayed, Brave Enough, p. 83

What You Do

January 22nd, 2016

Every clergyman I know, myself included, has heard these words from a marginal congregant trying to justify his noninvolvement: “I may not be religious in the conventional sense, but I am a very spiritual person.” The implication is that being spiritual, following a religion solely of the heart and mind, is a purer, more authentic way of communing with God than the physical act of attending church, giving charity, or performing good deeds. I never had a satisfactory reply to that claim until my friend and colleague Rabbi David Wolpe of Los Angeles shared his answer with me. He would tell his spiritual congregant, “No, spirituality is what you feel, theology is what you believe, religion is what you do.” The most sublime religious faith becomes real only when it is translated into behavior, into doing things you might not otherwise do as an enactment of your religious faith.

— Harold S. Kushner, Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life, p. 103-104.

A Family of Sinners

January 20th, 2016

Long enshrined traditions around communion aside, there are always folks who fancy themselves bouncers to the heavenly banquet, charged with keeping the wrong people away from the table and out of the church. Evangelicalism in particular has seen a resurgence in border patrol Christianity in recent years, as alliances and coalitions formed around shared theological distinctives elevate secondary issues to primary ones and declare anyone who fails to conform to their strict set of beliefs and behaviors unfit for Christian fellowship. Committed to purifying the church of every errant thought, difference of opinion, or variation in practice, these self-appointed gatekeepers tie up heavy loads of legalistic rules and place them on weary people’s shoulders. They strain out the gnats in everyone else’s theology while swallowing their own camel-sized inconsistencies. They slam the door of the kingdom in people’s faces and tell them to come back when they are sober, back on their feet, Republican, Reformed, doubtless, submissive, straight.

But the gospel doesn’t need a coalition devoted to keeping the wrong people out. It needs a family of sinners, saved by grace, committed to tearing down the walls, throwing open the doors, and shouting, “Welcome! There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk.” This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry.

— Rachel Held Evans, Searching for Sunday, p. 149