How to Love My Neighbor When the World is a Frozen Mess…

I cannot tell you how many times in the spring that I stare at the frozen lake and wonder if it is still safe to walk out on. There is something so thrilling about walking on water, frozen water. Almost as if we are defying all of nature.

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Yet there comes this time every year when the ice becomes too thin.

Is it now?

Now?

The birds have returned. Robins. Purple finch. Mallards. Geese. Geese walk out on the frozen lake confused, skating instead of swimming. They honk in pairs.

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I don’t love geese, they are mean and they poop everywhere and eat all the grass they can find. I let my dogs chase them for fun. Maybe that makes me mean, but there is a circle of life.

Only now the puppy can’t chase the geese onto the froze lake because I am not sure if he will fall in. Everyone is upset by this. The circle is broken.

The geese skate, the puppy barks, my arm aches…spring are you here?

Winter, it seems, wants to hang on in 2018. Sometimes we don’t want to give up our spot at the front of the line so that the new kid can take its rightful place. Sometimes we like to keep the spotlight. We like to impose our values, our rule, our ways. But, gently I say, “Winter, you’ve had your time. Move on now to the back of the line. You’ll be back again in a few months.”

That is how it is too with the letter from my neighbor, your time at making me upset is done, move to the back of the line. Just so you all know, this was our third letter. Nothing can be done to neighbors who send anonymous letters, besides move away or have the courage to keep being kind to everyone. I thank all of you all for your calls and texts to see how I am.

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Also, I never would have posted something like that if it was still really upsetting me. Instead, I wanted to chronicle the real life living out of loving our neighbors…literal neighbor on my street, not the “is someone half way around the world my neighbor” conversation, here. Because I find loving the people standing next to me sometimes harder than loving people half way around the world.

It is Holy Week. My family goes to church. We try to follow Jesus the best we can, however imperfect and human that looks. Because we are not perfect Jesus followers and we the rebel Jesus, the Jesus who asks us to be servants instead of kings, the Jesus who invited the least of these to his table, not the Jesus of perfection or shame or sinfulness, we tend to love imperfectly too. As a family we are still learning how to do this better.

I believe we were given the Ten Commandments as a guidepost to follow to live a whole hearted life, but when Jesus was asked which were the greatest commandments, he responded, to first love God above all others and then to love your neighbor. So I choose to focus on these two, to start there if you will. I figure if I can get those somewhat right, then…well…one step at a time…

Because here I am, 43 years old, getting a boiled down, easy example of loving my literal neighbor, during Lent…well shoot. That is like the Cliff’s notes of the Bible. Bible 101. Here it is, easy peasy for me to understand. Let’s go family of mine, starting at the beginning of these lessons AGAIN.

We are not talking now about loving someone half a world away, someone I can send money to or love from a distance.  This is the sort of love I have to do every day, even when I don’t feel much love for this person.  So how do I do that?

1 Corinthians 13:4 seems to be the gold standard Bible definition of love. What is love?  I have sat through inumeral weddings where this verse has been read. I can almost recite it word for word as the reader begins, no matter the Bible translation. But have I really ever absorbed what the verse says about love? Not really.  As with so many things I hear too often, I begin to just recite instead of truly listen to what is being said.

Besides love is patient and love is kind, what else is love?

How about, love does not demand its own way?
Love is not irritable?
Love does not keep a record of being wronged?

So PMS Rachel is not love, I guess. I use excuses constantly for why I cannot be a loving person.  I am too tired…I have too much on my plate…THAT person was SO…you cannot expect ME to be the one to…YOU need to understand…YOU need to change your attitude about this…

No wonder I am stuck on that love your neighbor commandment.

Bible 101 then really for me boils down to…Love will NOT be an easy, breezy mushy feeling. Love is more like choosing and forgiving in the mess of life. Why didn’t Paul just write that instead of all this poetic language that makes me stop listening?  Patient, kind…blah, blah…I’ve got it…apparently I don’t.

So next month when I go back to book club and I face these woman who don’t like my kids, who don’t seem to really like me, it won’t be easy to be patient or kind, or any of the rest of it. I will be a sweaty mess.

But, the truth is, if I am going to lecture my kids about not fighting with each other and being kinder, then I am going to live that out in real time too. Whatever, messy, imperfect way that looks…circle of life.

I’ll let you know how my Bible 101 lesson goes…

One thought on “How to Love My Neighbor When the World is a Frozen Mess…

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