My Lenten Report Card

I’ve already had a setback in my Lenten resolve to “love and let God do the rest.” That didn’t take long. I was tested during an encounter with someone who it’s hard for me to love. It’s a real battle to let God’s goodness shine through me when I am with this person.  

The discouraging part is that this inability to love stems from things that happened in the past but the encounter triggered a painful walk down memory lane. I was shocked at how quickly I defaulted to old patterns of thinking. My Lenten exercise didn’t even enter my mind. At least not right away.

However, it didn’t take long before I realized what was happening. Just as I could almost feel my heart hardening there was an awareness that was new. A whisper reminding me of my end of the bargain.

So, I tried to love and I think if I had to grade myself, I’d give myself a C+. Room for improvement.

I still think God is pleased with our efforts, as feeble as they may seem. Just the fact that I recognized it and knew I needed to change was a step in the right direction. After all, loving is no small task, at least as I define it, which may be part of the problem. I’m confused about just what love is.

What exactly does it mean to love? What does this love look like? In Sacred Scripture we see the answer when Jesus is asked by one of the scribes “Which is the first of all the commandments?” His answer was “The first is this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Another simple way to define how to love your neighbor comes from Hillel, a rabbi in the time of Jesus who is quoted as saying: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.”

Do I like being judged for things I did years ago? Do I like feeling dismissed? Do I like feeling rejected? Then, in order for me to love my neighbor as myself, I have to stop those things.

With those who challenge us, I think loving is staying in the moment and appreciating what is happening now instead of ruminating on what happened then. Forcing ourselves to see Jesus’ face in the face of those we struggle with. Leaning on God to love through us.

I knew this was going to be harder than giving up chocolate, but I think I underestimated just how hard.

More updates to follow.

Learning to love,

Joan Carey, Firstfruits executive director, is an author and speaker with a passion for helping women grow in their relationships with God. Her Ponder This book contains a series of modern day parables sure to get you thinking about and seeing our extraordinary God in our ordinary experiences. Joan invites you to use resources on this website for daily reflection in your journey to grow in God's loving care for you.
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