Saturday, July 09, 2005

Great Love Brings Great Change

From the book, "Blue Like Jazz", by Donald Miller, pp 219-221.

There was this guy in my life at the time, a guy I went to church with whom I honestly didn't like. I thought he was sarcastic and lazy and manipulative, and he ate with his mouth open so that food almost fell from his chin when he talked. He began and ended every sentence with the word dude.

"Dude, did you see Springer yesterday?" he would say,. "They had this fat lady on there who was doing it with a midget. It was crazy, dude. I want to get me a midget, dude."

That's the sort of thing he would talk about. It was very interesting to talk to him. I don't enjoy not liking people, but sometimes these things feel as though you are not in control of them. I never chose not to like the guy. It felt more like the dislike of him chose me. Regardless, I had to spend a good amount of time with him as we were working on a temporary project together. He began to get under my skin. I wanted him to change. I wanted him to read a book, memorize a poem, or explore morality, at least as an intellectual concept. I didn't know how to communicate to him that he needed to change, so I displayed it on my face. I rolled my eyes. I gave him dirty looks. I would mouth the word loser when he wasn't looking. I thought somehow he would sense my disapproval and change his life in order to gain my favor. I short, I withheld love.

After Greg Spencer's lecture, I knew what I was doing was wrong. It was selfish, and what's more, it would never work. By withholding love from my friend, he became defensive, he didn't like me, he thought I was judgmental, snobbish, proud, and mean. Rather than being drawn to me, wanting to change, he was repulsed. I was guilty of using love like money, withholding it to get somebody to be who I wanted them to be. I was making a mess of everything. And I was disobeying God. I became convicted about these things, so much so that I had some trouble getting sleep. It was clear that I was to love everybody, be delighted at everybody's existence, and I had fallen miles short of God's aim. The power of Christian spirituality has always rested in repentance, so that's what I did. I repented. I told God I was sorry. I replaced economic metaphor, in my mind, with something different, a free gift metaphor or a magnet metaphor. That is , instead of withholding love to change somebody, I poured it on, lavishly. I hoped that love would work like a magnet, pulling people from the mire and toward healing. I knew this was the way God loved me. God had never withheld love to teach me a lesson.

Here is something very simple about relationships that Spencer helped me discover: Nobody will listen to you unless they sense that you like them.

If a person senses that you do not like them, that you do not approve of their existence, then your religion and your political ideas will all seem wrong to them. If they sense that you like them, then they are open to what you have to say.

After I repented things were different, but the difference wasn't with my friend, the difference was with me. I was happy. Before, I had all this negative tension flipping around in my gut, all this judgmentalism and pride and loathing of other people. I hated it, and now I was set free. I was free to love. I didn't have to discipline anybody, I didn't have to judge anybody, I could treat everybody as though they were my best friend, as though they were rock stars or famous poets, as though they were amazing, and to me they became amazing, especially my new friend. I loved him. After I decided to let go of judging him, I discovered he was very funny. I mean, really hilarious. I kept telling him how funny he was. And he was smart. Quite brilliant, really. I couldn't believe that I had never seen it before. I felt as though I had lost an enemy and gained a brother. And then he began to change. It didn't matter to me whether he did or not, but he did. He began to get a little more serious about God. He gave up television for a period of time as a sort of fast. He started praying and got regular about going to church. He was a great human being getting even better. I could feel God's love for him. I loved the fact that it wasn't my responsibility to change somebody, that it was God's, that my part was just to communicate love and approval.

When I am talking to somebody there are always two conversations going on. The first is on the surface; it is about politics or music or whatever it is our mouths are saying. The other is beneath the surface, on the level of the heart, and my heart is either communicating that I like the person I am talking to or I don't. God wants both conversations to be true. That is, we are supposed to speak truth in love. If both conversations are not true, God is not involved in the exchange, we are on our own, and on our own, we will lead people astray. The Bible says that if you talk to somebody with your mouth, and your heart does not love them, that you are like a person standing there smashing two cymbals together. You are only annoying everybody around you. I think that is very beautiful and true.

Now, since Greg Spencer told me about truth, when I go to meet somebody, I pray that God will help me feel His love for them. I ask God to make it so both conversations, the one from the mouth and the one from the heart, are true.


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