Love is easy, but it's also tons of work
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
Love, when in it, is easy.
Don’t let anyone who just gets love try to teach you love. Either they don’t really get it, and they are living into the simple joy thinking it is love- you know, like the Whos from my Joy week, or they are some sort of love savant- and incapable of explaining what comes to them so naturally.
Still, love, when in it, is easy.
It’s just getting to it, and staying in it that’s hard.
There is a moment. A moment where love just works. Everything falls into place, and that moment is effortless. Then, like a surfer on a great wave, the wave begins to erode.
Love, while easy when in it, is work in every other way.
Don’t think because you have to build and create to make love work, that you are on the wrong path. Love is work. There is no path where love is all easy paths and smooth sailings. At some point, you will have to struggle. There is something that makes love different than any other type of struggle. A healthy love will make the struggle worthwhile when reached. Eventually, the struggle becomes part of being in love too.
Love cannot be achieved alone.
Even loving one’s self is a statement of how you choose to relate with those around you. Every act of love is a statement of your place in a community. When you choose to love someone and someone doesn’t return that love back, that is not love. Hope, peace and joy can all be individual experiences, but once you seek love, you are seeking it with a person or people. It cannot be forced. You can’t force someone to give the same amount of work you are giving. Once you force someone into such actions it’s no longer love, but obedience.
The key to God’s love is our willingness to be part of it.
God’s love is a chord. Like Karl Barth suggested, God’s love is for all time to all peoples. No matter who you are, or what you believe, God loves you.
That’s where the connection to Barth ends. I believe the chord can either be severed or held by us. That’s where our choice comes in. If we choose to hack that chord to bits, well, that’s a choice. If we choose to live in ignorance even though we know the chord is there, well, that’s a choice too. If we choose to love back, that’s a choice that will be work.
Not choosing to take that chord doesn’t mean you are excluded from some fancy club, and I now need to snub you. That’s not how this works. That’s between you and God and no one else. I won’t force you to do anything because that turns God’s love into obedience, and in that, it breaks.
God’s love is free to all, and that’s it.
God’s love is easy, but it’s also tons of work.
Reddit /r/Christianity drama
Complex Joy: I guess I'm the Grinch
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I’m at the point where syrupy faith is just too much. I’m immediately skeptical of worship that is all uplifting, marshmallowey, joy. That’s not how the world works, and in a world where it seems everyone is on an epic struggle-bus, it all seems rather fake too.
I think that’s why this year has been the most difficult to get into the “Christmas Spirit.” It feels fake. I can’t “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” Just, no. I can’t sing, “Joy to the World.” Let’s not. I just wanna survive everyone else’s frivolity, and move on.
In a very real way, this year, I’m connecting to the Grinch.
The Whos Earn Nothing
Have you ever realized the Whos in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” have no story arc at all? They gain nothing they didn’t already have at the beginning. They simply exist for the Grinch’s foil. The Whos have a naive joy, not grounded in anything at all. Meaningful joy will always be born from hope.
It’s like simple versus complex sugars. Just feeling happy is a simple joy. It’s like getting a piece of candy. It tastes good. You enjoy it while it lasts, but it doesn’t fill you.
Coming from grief and heartbreak with a hope given by God is different. When a person sees the first signs of that hope being fulfilled, it brings true joy. It’s a joy that looks strange because to everyone else it might not seem like something to be happy about. It’s like getting a bowl of pasta. It is filling and the energy lasts. The sugar is still there; it just has to be broken down first to get to it.
The Whos had simple joy. Not bad in small batches, but if it’s the only joy you get, eventually you don’t understand why it’s not filling you.
The Grinch earned a complex joy
This guy was living on a cold, dark, lonely mountain. No one cared about him. No one tried to engage him. More than that, the Whos simple joy was mentally hurting him.
Let me unpack that statement just a little. In a community, we want to believe if an action feels good it must be good. It creates this illusion that if the outsider would only see the system the same way the insider sees the system, they too would want to be part of it.
That phrase, “Taking candy from a baby.” It’s said because it implies doing something like that is easy. It’s not easy. The baby screams, cries and draws as much attention to him or herself as possible. Whenever that phrase is illustrated in a show or movie, you usually see the person quickly giving the candy back by the end of the scene. At the same time, who is giving candy to a baby?! To the baby, it seems amazing! How could all that sweet be bad? Only it is bad, especially for a baby, and in unfettered doses for everyone.
That’s the deception. Those partaking of simple joy at all hours all the time are gaining nothing of substance, but they don’t realize it because it’s all so sweet. Those who finally crashed from the immense joy-high, can actually realize how dangerous it all is, but it’s impossible to tell those who are still living the high. Those who have felt the joy-crash can actually be reliving it when they see others with that joy-high.
Moving on. The Grinch came from somewhere. There have been two movies that have tried to unpack it. No one has suggested that he might just be a Who who suffered a joy-crash. After all, from his mountain, he knows exactly what they do in their houses, almost like he lived there once. He can’t hear the constant singing because it’s a reminder, and eventually that reminder turns to annoyance, which turns to pain.
His hope is to destroy what pains him. His solution, while not a good one, is to take away all the things that remind him of his pain. He wants peace, and he’s willing to silence it all to get it. When his plan still ends in Whos singing joyfully, he suddenly realizes he could have real joy. With that, his real hope is fulfilled, he finds peace in his place, and realizes the true joy. That’s why his heart grows. All those pieces must come into place for the love to be found. It’s that complex joy that allows him to find community again.
It’s a process
I don’t think the Church is doing anyone favors by feeding her congregants simple joy week after week. The Church should be the home for the weak and wounded. It’s a place for all those who are living in the joy-crash. Instead, the Church has become the absolute last place for those people. We are ostracized to the mountain, being told we are choosing the mountain. For the newbies, we are like babies, unable to verbalize what is happening to us, and why we are being pushed away by those we thought loved us. For us seasoned Grinch’s- some of us tried to burn it all down. Some of us simply moved on. Others, like myself, are worried about new joy-crashes, and desire to help those who haven’t crashed, see those on Mount Crumpit.
It’s a process. This year, I’m surrounded by the joy-crash. Not my own. That’s over a decade old at this point. It’s all the ones who just thought they could go back, and are finding the simple joy doesn’t last the way it used to. I want to be the Grinch. I want to take the candy from the baby for the sake of the baby. I want to help others find a more complex joy that leads to real love. But, like I’ve already said- it’s a process.
Reddit /r/Christianity post drama
Peace, Be Still
-Pastor Melissa Fain-
I am not a person who likes to wait or be patient.
I take that back. I am a person who exercises a mountain of patience on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean I like it.
It reminds me of when I was late elementary school age. It was understood, if I put food on my plate, I had to eat it. With that understanding, I never put cooked veggies on my plate. I didn't want them, so it was an easy choice to not add it to my dinner. That was until my step mom saw I wasn't eating any veggies, and amended the house rule:
You have to eat everything on your plate, and that must include cooked veggies.
That's when my eating habits changed. Instead of eating little bits of everything, I ate what I hated first, and then the next hated, and so on and so forth, until I only had what I liked left.
Like I said about patience- I didn't like it, but I did it.
In my high school years I was always willing to share candy or treats . Just, don't ask for some if I had been eating it for a bit. Then you were asking for the best of the best, because I had already eaten the candy I didn't like first.
When it came to treats, I had to change my eating habits again in high school. I would put aside a couple of pieces I didn't like so I could offer them if someone asked.
If this is all beginning to sound a bit extra, you're right. I was extra. I didn't want to look like I wasn't generous. I didn't want to be stuck giving away all the good candy, when I had eaten all the bad pieces first. Let's be honest, it was my candy I was sharing. I was willing to change the rules as long as it didn't change my outcome. I got the good things I started with.
The Wait is on!
I noticed something very interesting during COVID restrictions.
People don't like space. Specifically, people don't like space when standing in lines. There's this anxiety that flairs up that makes the average human desire to draw closer to the person in front of them. It's like standing 6ft will make someone cut, and they'll lose their space.
I was in heaven during social distancing. I don't want to feel someone's breath on the back of my neck. It was good that people were far enough away that I couldn't smell them. Why are we wanting that back? I digress.
I think similar ideas exist with my candy and with standing in line. People in line earned their place in line, and there's this fear of having that work stolen. While I liked all the candy I had eaten, I earned the really good candy by saving it until last.
I mention these examples, because that's what makes peace so difficult. There are those who haven't had, and those who are about to earn. There are no good choices in that formula. Often times, those who are about to earn choose to withhold assistance because of that four letter word: FAIR.
Perhaps, if we are serious about peace, we should start talking about fairness in a new light.
Certain "lines" don't exist anymore. The rules are changing, and that doesn't negate those who put up with crap and feel it's there turn to take the lead. What we may call "cutting" by old standards, might have been a different "line" for that person.
Ultimately, the rules are made by those who have been "in line" the longest. It's nearly impossible to change a system willingly, when the people making the rules, just want equity for what they already paid.
Peace is always an option, but that doesn't make it an easy one.