Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Service of Love

On my way home I had a lot of time to think about a varied many things. One of those things was love. (Surprise, Surprise!) I have been reading excerpts from a book called, "Wounded by Love" a book about the life of Elder Porphyrious of Mount Athos. It is a sort of commentary, journal entry-style writings of his life and experiences. More to the point, it opens doors about love, it begins to lift the veil. I started to think about how love is not merely an emotion, because if it were simply how we felt, it would be fleeting and changeable. We know differently, love does not change, but we do and our emotions sway. If love were just an emotion, then it would be right up there with anger and jealousy, for example. What an awful thought, love as a simple passing emotion with no more substantiality than what it creates in that exact moment? Instead, I am thinking that since love, true love, not just the kind we fall in love with, is not a changeable feeling about things, it is more consumable than we realize. Love is so many things, but moveable is not one of them.
We are born into a family, out of relation we love each other in our disfunction, I do not think that we ever really stop no matter how hard we try, we might get hurt and things get in the way, but love does not stop. We grow up and we take what we have learned about love and apply it to real world situations, not all of them turn out so great, but we learn our limits, hopefully. It is how we approach this love that will be the deciding factor for us, is it simply an emotion, and just like an emotion, can we just get rid of it if we get tired enough of it and this person or situation? Or have we had a better example that is not so flighty and fickle? What are our examples, where do we learn love? Well, for most, it is the picture of our parents and family structure. Thankfully for me, my parents stayed married through all the rough patches. This shows me that love is patient and has plenty of endurance, love is not a mere feeling. But what sort of love can keep them together after all these years? A symbiotic coexistence that is inclusive of forgiveness, patience, self-sacrifice and faith. Some do not believe that faith makes much difference since we seem to do all the work between ourselves as it is, but you see, to some, faith is a simple emotion also. Perhaps it helps in our ability to relate if we both believe the same things, but where do our feelings really get us in the end? They are the spark that gets us going, but what really keeps things burning? It is our willingness to serve those we love, we would do 'anything' for them, so far as to die for them if need be, to take their place in any necessary hardship. So, why is it that we forget that love is a service for others, an obedience (OH NO! not THAT word!). We also have to remember that obedience is not always being told what to do, it is also realizing what we need to do in order to make things work better, to coexist. When we create a family with another person, with children or not, we are binding ourselves that in order to make this relationship work, we are willing to sacrifice and compromise, or else it will not work. Any person of experience can tell you that love is work, but why does that have to be a bad thing? Just because a larger chunk of us do not care for our employment, why must we apply that attitude to other areas of work, particularly our love? People are turned off by love because of the way it has made them feel, but if we serve love, we cannot really ever lose anything except ourselves in God because no one can take Him from us.
God asks us to love our neighbor, perhaps this does not mean, 'I like you', but, 'I will serve you as if you were Christ.' If our Lord and God and Saviour was standing in front of you, would you not ask what it is you can do for Him, to serve Him? If God is supposed to be everywhere, then why are we not asking Him this every day and with every breath and showing Him through our service for Him? If we are supposed to be made in His image, why do we not treat each other as if Christ were each of us? If we sin against God and we are in His image, does it not stand to reason that we sin against one another? This is why we ask one another forgiveness of sin, known or unknown, word or deed, mind or thought. "...Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." We are asking God to forgive us as we have also forgiven one another, so let it go into the wind, let Pride die in that moment to ask forgiveness in humility and receive forgiveness from our struggling fellow human family, as well as God. Prayer is also service because we must set ourselves aside and acknowledge others and ask God for help, not only for us, but for those for whom we care. Since we are fallible and God is our salvation and hope, through prayer we can work wonders in cooperation with God.
The greatest expression of love has been Christ's crucifixion, "for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.." (not ver batum, but close enough, perhaps in one translation), a sacrifice of love which IS love. On top of that, we have Mary who so loved God, she watched her Son be tortured, humiliated and crucified in order that He fulfill His promise. She knew that it would be an horrific event, but she also understood God's love for us through His sacrifice and and exhibited this through her own sacrifice. If we are called to be Christ-like, should it not be shown in our obedience, duty and service to God? Mary was deemed a worthy vessel to bear, raise and love Him, through her obedience and love for God. Christ calls us to service, to take up our cross and gives us His example to follow and so we must set down our shield of Pride and take up the sword of service, humility and righteousness. The saints of His Church have proved themselves worthy through their service and humility to God to not only inspire us, but show us that it is possible to be as Christ is because they accomplished that enormous task, with His help. The Bible says that we should believe, but what is belief without love and what is love without service and service without sacrifice? Our new commandment is to love one another as He has loved us, does that not mean to be crucified, if need be, for your neighbor whether we know or like them at all, believers or not? "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God IS a consuming fire. Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. "-Orthodox study Bible, Hebrews 12:28-13:2. In black and white. It is not so that people will see what we can do for them, or even what Christ can 'do' for them, but that we show them who He is through our actions that they may keep Him in their hearts, whether or not they can tell that is what is there. If I cannot talk, I can smile, if I have bread, I can share, if I have anything, I can give, for that is fleeting, but God is not. Our active participation in His life, service to His flock and creation, love for all He has given us and shown, the martyrdom of oneself through love for our spouse, family and neighbor should be a prime concern. Unfortunately I am a miserable failure in this, though I try...let's just say I have much room for improvement.
Now we get to the part where I try to discern what all this actually means for me in application and reality. Let's see, for love of my husband my service shall be to anticipate his needs before he says them...cook, clean and organize...raise our daughter in a fitting manner for a Christian to the best of my ability...stand for him (and Him) in all I him at the top of my list of priorities...listen to all his dreams and disappointments without with him and let him know I always will things for myself so I am a more cheerful giver of him in all he chooses to him the way he needs to be loved, not the way I want him express love. There are so many other things, but this is a good start. As for Katherine, my love shall serve her by doing things for her own her an example of what a woman should be, no matter how bloomin hard that the right thing, which usually means the hard thing...take her to church, for without the grace of God and His church, I have no hope of success, but guaranteed failure...Pray, Pray, Pray!...attempt to listen to God in His wisdom for guidance and opportunities to show her how to be a daughter to Him. I could go on, but I think that you get the point.
For now, it is sufficed to say, God is Love, Love is Service, Service is Sacrifice, Sacrifice is Selflessness (or as Katherine has just informed me, Sacrifice is Giant) and Selflessness is humility and humility is Christ, therein is our circle of self-realization
Please forgive me a sinner if I have offended in any way and pray for this unworthy servant of Christ our God.
Much love and service to everyone, until next time.


Martha said...

God forgives.....forgive me! Rob baked several loaves of wheat bread yesterday (yes, I was pleasantly surprised when I got home!!!) and we used your hotpad to hold the warm loaves, while we cut was perfect for this purpose!