Lately I’ve been telling more of my patients that they are loved.
And when I personalize it, when I tell them, “I love you,” the response is often overwhelming for both parties. I spoke those three words to an elderly woman recently. Initially, I had intended only to reassure her that she was loved. “You know you are loved, right?” When she asked me what I had said, I simplified my message: I love you. This beloved patient of mine quickly covered her face with her hands, began to weep, and shared in a whisper that she loved me too. Another woman, a former drug addict estranged from her family, in disbelief embraced me with her bony body after my expression of love to her.
Powerful words I love you.
1 John chapter 4 talks about divine love. “God is love” we read in verse 16. “Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
I wasn’t exactly living in love last night for sure!
Sadly I spent a good portion of the evening with my husband judging people at a Jackson Browne concert we attended for FREE. I found one woman in particular rather agitating as she quickly quelched any and all dancing that erupted in her vicinity where she sat on the ledge of a main walk way. “Who is SHE to stop others from swaying and moving to the music?” I thought throughout the concert. “What a joyless woman! She isn’t even in the official seating, grassy knoll or assigned seats. She chose to sit in a main throughway. She should just deal with it or move.”
From 1 John 4: 11-12: Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Perhaps I needed to whisper words of love and kindness to the grumpy woman at the concert even more than I already do with my patients. Perhaps I should have followed my instinct (when I wasn’t being so judgmental!) and invited her to join us on our blanket away from the dancers and endless by-passers.
In truth, instead of passing judgment, I should have passed along some divine love, whereby expanding God’s residency within me and maybe, just maybe, even within her!
Today and everyday, my friends…Pass love, not judgment!
I see it more and more wherever I go. People with each other—dining, sipping lattes, riding in cars, strolling down the street—yet solitary, as they remain glued to their personal gadgets.
I got my own smart phone this past May and within days understood the compulsion to look at that damn screen every few minutes for the newest email or text, to search random trivia, or to capture that moment in history by snapping, in many cases, pointless pictures.
These gadgets, coupled with the social media craze, have propelled so many of us into this strange world of See Me. See my life–my humor, my friends and family, my success, my uniqueness, my abilities and interests, my joy, my sadness. We spend life-consuming time on our gadgets, posting and tweeting to keep people in the loop of our lives and yet, we are reluctant or unable to be truly present with someone in person. We seeeach other, but we don’t really knowone another.
My daughter’s liturature teacher spoke of the use of gadgets “atrophying our social muscles” whereby degrading our ability to interact with others. I couldn’t agree more. We are robbed of our real-world human connection in an effort to stay “connected” in our social media realms. (See the links below for two wonderful, poetic commentaries on the digital world we now live in. Watch them both!)
A striking example of this digital disconnect manifested in a recent report received by a renowned restaurant in New York City. Concerned about their rise in bad reviews, they hired a firm to analyze why the restaurant’s number of dissatisfied customers was growing.
Thanks to a comparision of survellience footage from 2004 and 2014, it was learned that today’s patrons are obessed with their gadgets. Sadly, diners are not making the connection that their dissatisfaction in the service or their meals is often because of their social media needs: wi-fi has to be figured out and group pictures must be taken—often with the help of the wait staff—prior to food being ordered; multiple photos are snapped of the dishes served, texts replied to and status updates are made long before the food is enjoyed.
A friend in the restaurant business confirmed this battle to adequately serve customers who are more engaged with their phones than with their surrounding environment. He shared that a married couple came into the restaurant to celebrate their anniversary, then proceeded to spend their time absorbed with their individual gadgets. What kept them from interacting with one another instead of their devices?
My Christian faith calls me into relationship.
Yes, this implies a deep connection with the Divine, but I do not exist solely in a religious bubble of my God and me. I am called to See theOther, and more than that, to Love the Other. When asked what the greatest commandment in the Law was (there were, after all, over 600 Jewish laws!) Jesus responded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV).
Like I said, it’s about relationships.
I can’t really say when I first heard the word “kin-dom” used in place of kingdom—as in the kin-dom of Godvs. the kingdom of God. What I do know , however, is that I LOVE this image that in God’s realm we are are one family, a beloved community of God’s people.
In the words of Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, “The word kin-dom makes it clear that when the fullness of God becomes a day-to-day reality in the world at large, we will all be sisters and brothers—kin to each other.”*
But how much more difficult will it be for God’s Kin-dom come, God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, when we can’t manage or make time to truly be with one another? What does God’s reign look like when we insist on making life about US?
To be a person of faith, I must look beyond myself—beyond my social media realm, beyond my gallery of selfies, beyond my recent status updates.
I am called by my God to notice the brokenness and injustice in my world and strive to be a vessel of healing. And yet, if I’m obessessly snapping photos of that amazing banana flambe or if my attention is on my phone’s endless stream of data instead of on the person next to me—I just may miss the opportunity to show God’s love by serving others.
People of faith, PUT DOWN your gadgets! Look up. Serve one another. And live into God’s kin-dom come!
*Page 304, “Solidarity: Love of Neighbor in the 1980s,” in Lift Every Voice: Constructing Christian Theologies from the Underside, edited by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite and Mary Potter Engel, San Francisco: Harper, 1990).
The last time you spoke about someone else (or texted or posted), what words came out of your mouth? In what kind of light did you place her or him? What information did you divulge about this person? And what motivated you to do so in the first place?
In less time than it took for the woman to cut my son’s hair, we learned that her neighbors were from Afghanistan, worked for the government, were “a bit shady” and had a brain-injured relative with an annoying stutter whom she intentionally, of course, avoided.
Her son, who had a child when he was way too young, was worthless and her step-grandson was a delinquent and not to be trusted. It was exhausting listening to her negative ramblings. But as I left the barber shop, I had to admit—I was no saint when it came to speaking about others. I, too, have freely participated in gossip and slander more times than I care to admit. (I suppose I’m doing it even now…)
And what about you?
Are you guilty of sharing information or telling stories about another person that ultimately wasn’t any of your damn business to pass on? Do you enjoy gossiping?
If so…here is your spiritual prescription:
Before you speak, shut your mouth and consider why you are sharing information about another individual.
What purpose does sharing fulfill? Are you sharing because you feel better about yourself when you highlight the faults of others? Do you find humor or satisfaction in the mistakes, shortfalls or foolish tragedies of someone else?
Are you even aware of your words, or like the woman cutting my son’s hair, are you oblivious to your negative tendencies? Or consider this: Are you speaking unkindly of someone else because you are angry with or resentful of this person and actually need to work on forgiveness?
Pay attention to your conversations this week. Before opening your mouth, first consider why you are eager to share. If sharing is motivated by pride, ego, maliciousness, payback or even boredom, don’t do it.
Shut up and move on to another subject.
Would you or your audience be embarrassed if the subject of your conversation overheard you talking about him or her? Would that individual be hurt or embarrassed?
If so, then keep your mouth shut.
Make the effort today (and every day for the rest of your life) to restrain from participating in gossip and slander. It is not what builds a spiritually healthy self and certainly not the definition of a follower of Christ.
Scripture to ponder:
Let there be no more resentment, no more anger or temper, no more violent self-assertiveness, no more slander and no more malicious remarks. Be kind to each other, be understanding. Be as ready to forgive others as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.
Ephesians 4:31-32, “The New Testament in Modern English”, J. B. Phillips, 1962 edition by HarperCollins
My name is Rebecca and I admit that I am powerless over anxiety.
My life has been ruled by it for as long as I can remember. It has negatively affected my relationships, my schooling, my job performance, and, without question, my health. There are times when I am paralyzed by it, unable to make decisions, be efficient or sometimes even to physically move. It can be a crippling dis-order, throwing all aspects of my life out of whack and into disarray. As I constantly remind myself, however, admitting that I am powerless is my first step toward recovery.
People who resist using the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous to find sobriety often immediately reject the first step, “We admitted we were powerless over alcoholism and that our lives had become unmanageable.”
What do you mean “powerless?” I’m not weak or helpless! That’s ridiculous. I just need a stronger will power to overcome my addiction. Admitting powerlessness is like surrendering to defeat. How am I supposed to create a sober life with that attitude? To hell with being powerless!
Yea…I get that. Claiming to be powerless is intimidating…scary…humbling. It may even cause one to feel more vulnerable. I know because often I get anxious (but, of course!) when thinking that anxiety could possibly disrupt and screw up my life forever.
But being “powerless” for me doesn’t imply I’m weak or helpless. It doesn’t mean I’m dis-empowered either. Claiming powerlessness means I’m admitting that I cannot rely solely on myself. I’ve not surrendered to defeat. Nor am I leaving it up to my willpower to help me just “get over” being anxious. When I admit that I am powerless my focus shifts away from a narcissistic self-reliance. I am forced instead to reach out beyond myself for help.
Comfort and support often comes in the form of turning to my Higher Power for guidance and strength. Seeking help means remembering the relief I get when I actually take the herb that eases my stress. In claiming powerlessness, I am confessing I need to reach out to friends, maintain my spiritual disciplines and experience, once again, the peace and hope in living by the Serenity Prayer.
I am EMPOWERED by admitting I am powerless.
In surrendering, I gain FREEDOM.
So… what’s causing your life to be unmanageable? What behavior or addiction needs to be purged from your life? Are you addicted to alcohol, food, drugs, or shopping? Are you addicted to being needed? Is your life driven or controlled by a destructive emotion like mine is?
I challenge you today to admit you need help. Stop thinking you can do it on your own.
I was not born a quite person. At all. My mother was told by a close friend that she’d never heard a baby (as in me) babble so much. In fact, I didn’t learn to shut-up until I was in college. (All those who know me can stop laughing now…I still have my days, I know.)
It was my friend, Ted, that gave me the gift of silence. Ted, who was a naturally quiet person, caught a ride with me to the SF Bay Area one school vacation. Poor guy—stuck alone in the car with motor mouth all those hours south and the same torturous hours back to college. It’s a wonder he didn’t seek out an alternate form of transportation for the return trip!
It was on the ride home that I began to hear and appreciate his quietness. And it was through his silence—and the comfort I found in our friendship—that I learned it was okay to shut up and be quiet. In doing just that, I began to understand that the void, the stillness, did not have to be filled with conversation or even music. It especially did not need to be replaced with my endless, monologic babble. (Thank you, Ted, for such a valuable lesson!)
Our world is even more noisy today than it was back then. I visit with far too many hospice people who are perfectly content to carry on a conversation with the t.v. blaring. Children and youth, I’ve noticed, have become especially accustomed to and are more at ease with having background noises in their daily living. Silence seems to be a thing to be avoided at all cost!
And what about you? When was the last time you were surrounded by silence…?
So here’s your Spiritual Prescription:
Turn it off!
Shut it down!
Embrace silence. Seek out and make room for it in your life.
Driving around town? Turn off the radio, unplug your I-Pod, or pop out your cassette or CD depending on the age of your vehicle. 😉
Home doing chores, making dinner, surfing the net? Resist the compulsion to add those background noises for the task at hand.
Living or working in an environment that’s noisy? Seek out places that support or are conducive to silence (the library, a place of worship, a meditation room, the great outdoors).
Do you have the desire to string endless sentences together because no one else is speaking? Please, give that up!
Do not be afraid of silence.
The times I have felt closest to the Holy, when I believe I heard that sacred voice speak, is when I was immersed in silence. I am beyond convinced that to grow deeper in our relationship with God and to grow spiritually, we mustbefriend stillness.
In doing so, we open ourselves to the possibilities of incredible revelations, desired transformations and those beloved, but unexpected ah-ha moments.