The longer I sit with people, the more I am convinced that technique, skill, and insight alone cannot really transform without one key ingredient. It is simply love. Getting to the place of being simply loving, however, seems to be a complicated business. It requires that I know my heart, see my motivations, catch my judgments, and take some punches. This has been a particularly long week of punches and I’m tired. I feel the old self-protections lurking — anger is close, quick assertions are on the tip of my tongue. Yet God keeps bringing before me the faces of people who have truly loved me, even when I was not easy to love. Their kind of love was not with words, but more with a congruence — words, actions, and emotions all aligned to communicate that I was both fully seen yet loved and accepted.
Recently, one of these transformative people in my life ended his tenure in ministry. I had the privilege of sitting in the service when he preached his last sermon to his beloved congregation. I soon realized that he was charging us with what he deemed the crux of the believer’s life: how love is expressed by a Christian. One of the handwritten notes on my church bulletin from that service says, “To truly hate what is evil will move you toward people who have suffered from it.” He went on to describe Christians as emotional first responders – in what seems counterintuitive to our human nature, we are to run toward pain and chaos.
Strangely, this did not surprise me as much as it resonated. I realized that every day, in every session I conduct as a counselor, I am doing just that. And moreover, I could not have the security to run toward the pain was I not connected to the love that I’ve been shown that has slowly taught me that I am valued and cherished, not because I’m good or successful or making all the right decisions – simply because God is Love, and can’t help but extend that love to me.