Most of us are simply trying to do the best job with the life that we have. Most of us are working and taking care of someone, whether it is children, parents or someone in our life. We are tying to do what is right, to do our part and gain some measure of security, peace and enjoyment in life. Some of us are struggling to just survive and security, peace and enjoyment seem unreachable. Life is hard and difficult with out many good things happening like a stable job, good health, safe people that love you and care for you and are there for you. Even then, most people are trying to do the right thing and live the right way; at least the ones I know.
Some of the people I have gotten to know I have seen in my counseling practice. Some of them have mental health issues but most of them do not. Maybe some mental health professional would say they do but I think we over diagnose in our field and what looks like mental health disorder is more the effect of a life that has lived poorly loved. They might have many of the symptoms of a disorder and even benefit from medication but the genesis of their disorder is not physical, biologically based in the sense that “they were born that way”. It is more that “they were raised that way or treated that way”. And even if there are genetic, biologically based reasons for disorders in living, when someone is well loved it makes all the difference in how they live with their disability. Love really does make all the difference.
You might be thinking “Duh! Of course love matters! What an obvious thing to say.” Maybe so, but it seems to me we are not very good lovers of one another. We have lost sight of love as a priority, what love is, what it means to love one another and how to do it. In my last few blogs I have commented that much of what goes wrong with marriage and family relationships is related to“doing what works for me” versus “doing what works for us”. We do not understand that what is best for us individually is grounded in what is best for us collectively so that when I am responding in the best interests of you I am benefiting. It is a principle or truth we seem to have trouble remembering because we have lost sight of what love is. I think loving well is the single most challenging thing we have to do in life and we need to be focusing our efforts on how to better love one another. It is the primary thing that can begin to turn the tide of improving our most important relationships. So many things seem to get set right when love is present; so many things go wrong when it is not.
My frame of reference for love is Jesus. I think most of the new in the New Testament is Jesus' presentation of God as love. The New Testament is new precisely because of its focus on the love of God, rather than the wrath of God (this is not to say that the Old Testament misses the love of God). A significant purpose, if not the purpose of Jesus' life is to usher in a new kingdom based on love. In other words, love is what is most real. It is the thing that really matters because love is as elemental and basic and necessary as air. We cannot survive or thrive without love; it is what we are made to be and do. Everything about Jesus' life was (and is) an expression of love in action. And he asked his followers to do likewise: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love is to be the priority in our lives. It is amazing to me how often and easily and quickly we lose track of this most basic and beautiful thing and fall back into “doing what works for me”.
One of the things that John, a follower of Jesus said is “We love because he (Jesus) first loved us.” Our love begins with the love of Jesus/God. Just because Jesus is my example does not mean that I always or even regularly love well. But I do have a reference point, someone to remind me what matters and a life to follow showing me how.