Love Gives all the Good Things
“Fear less, hope more, whine less, breathe more, talk less, say more, hate less, love more – and all the good things are yours.” – Swedish Proverb
This proverb causes tug of war in my soul. Do I dive in and believe and embrace it with reckless naive abandon or call it’s bluff and recall all of the reasons the injustice of the world prove it contrary. I am learning that for me, it is best to do both. I just can’t skip over the hard if I want to fully embrace the good. It is just not as easy as the above proverb for me – to just “do all the good things more…” and even less simple during a pandemic.
I told my girlfriends yesterday that my mind is a therapist's playground right now. I have a hard time keeping my thoughts together and often jump topics mid conversation. My mind races from work projects to patient care to Universal Pandemic Precautions to what-in-the-world-am-I-cooking-for-dinner to homeschooling to playing dolls enough with my seven year old to checking on family to marriage…you get the picture and I am sure most of you can relate. My mind is a constant train jumping tracks, trying to avoid crashing. And don't even get me started on my Covid dreams.
I sat in quiet reflection for the first time last weekend while sorting and folding the clothes of someone I love who can no longer care for herself. As I picked up each piece of clothing, I considered the time in her life she may have worn each piece. A Sunday afternoon sipping sweet tea on the deck, a Wednesday morning ocean front seashell gathering stroll, a Tuesday afternoon planting pink hydrangeas at the edge of the back yard, a Friday night surprise birthday celebration party. I felt the different textured materials slip through my fingers, my imagination awakened and I considered the great power of memories.
I remember when my grandmother was experiencing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Her thoughts were fleeting as she expressed herself in snippets of time, present and past all at once and then paused as she peered into the distance with a deep stare of wonder. What was she was seeing, what she was thinking? I would calmly enter into her realities with her, though the pain of her present was deeply hard to accept. I sat with her, I held her hand. I played UNO with her and let her win every time. I painted her fingernails. I snuggled with her in her bed. I said prayers over her. Though her reality was confusing, her thoughts fleeting and disorganized, she was still able to remember me and I believe with my whole heart, that I brought her peace and those precious moments of clarity.
There is a familiarity between my pandemic thoughts and those of my Alzheimer’s ridden grandmother. I remember Grandma’s eyes lighting up when she would see me and a silly joke was immediately released from her hot pink lipstick lips. What it is in my present that helps me to remember. What is it the rights my ship, straightens my sail, soothes my soul? What brings me back to the best parts of myself, those same parts that allowed my grandmother to tell jokes in the midst of dementia?
I believe it is love. The deepest scariest parts of me get lost in love. My grandmother knew the deep love I had for her that was strong enough to penetrate the demons of Alzheimer’s. I am most able to let down my coronavirus guard and subsequent walls of control when I feel love. Connecting with other humans right now in love is the very best thing we can do for each other. Love means going there - going to the hard places and sitting through the blank stares off into space…the fleeting and confusing thoughts…so the jokes can emerge when the soul exhales. Love means truly giving each other the benefit of the doubt, cheering on others' successes and going the extra mile to reach out and show care without expecting anything in return. Love means being tender with one another, a lot like I was with my UNO playing Grandma.
I don’t know how you identify with love or how you have experienced it. For me, it has been through the love I know from Jesus himself and the people He has used to tangibly touch my heart and soul. One of my favorite verses in the bible is from Roman’s 12: 9-10, The Message, “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply.” Though I do love this verse, I recognize this "loving from the center of who you are" is wildly hard during times of deep stress, confusion and turmoil. Sometimes I can't even remember who I am at my core when the walls of pain rise up to guard my sensitive heart and soul. I shy away from letting others have my love for fear they will reject it, question it or not return it.
The only way I can share sincere love from my center is to invite and keep Jesus there. He wades through my track jumping thoughts, recognizes the evil one and calls him out and leaves me with His peace. That peace then opens the window to real sincere love that only exists because He is there. His love rescues me from myself and allows me to offer His unconditional pure love to others, despite my fleshly pull to keep it to myself or offer my own jaded and fragile love. His love helps me remember what love really is...
If there is one thing I want my friends, family and especially my children to remember from their interactions with me – both pre and post pandemic, it is that I sincerely love. I want to live my life in a way where Jesus’s love flows from my being. I want that love to bring me peace in whatever present I find myself in – and in turn, whatever present my people are in. I can only truly do this through the power of Jesus' love that is far beyond my own loving abilities.
Love is not always easy, but it is always good. Sometimes it is uncomfortable when it demands truth telling. Sometimes it is excruciating when it is not reciprocated. Sometimes it is painfully difficult when the one you are extending it to just can't remember. It is often a feeling, but sometimes a choice. It is safety. It makes me want to lean it…not out. Just like faith – it is something that cannot be seen with the naked eye, rather with the soul. It feels full, secure, tender and it allows my true self to be free. It heals, relieves, guides and protects. It also helps me remember that there is a reason to let go and giggle.
“Fear less, hope more, whine less, breathe more, talk less, say more, hate less, love more – and all the good things are yours.” I think it is fitting that the last thing mentioned is love – the greatest of these, just like in the bible - “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:13. Love is what holds people together and what will get us through this pandemic. Let’s show each other what my dear friend calls “Big Love” right now, for I believe that sincere love is what truly gives us all the good things.