New Year, Better Love
It’s pretty easy to find an image, article, or witty meme to express just how heinous this year, the now undoubtedly historic 2020, has been. A good writer would provide a good recap here, make a few tasteful jokes about it all, relate a little bit, then make a perfect-10 landing with a very wordy form of we’re all in this together. But, I’m not a good writer. I’m a storyteller.
While we have been focused on our woes, God has been topping off cups that have been long overdue for hefty refills. In our autonomy and sentience, we make it easy to forget about the lilies of the field – the needs and desires being fulfilled in spite of the rat race we insist on running, desperately toiling to satisfy ourselves in business, home, and community when satisfaction is not, has never been, nor will it ever be our job. That’s God’s business – providing for, guiding, and thoroughly loving His creations. And so, it was. While we were scrambling trying to figure out how to adapt to the good, bad, ugly, and wild aspects of this year, God seemed to up His relationship game, and if we are paying attention, we will notice the overflowing cups of love and grace, literally, all over the place.
Psalm 145:16 boasts that God opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing. No exceptions are listed.
So, when the Puckett household had a rather messy entanglement with the Coronavirus, the last thing expected was the destruction of a friendship over ethics. The fears surrounding this virus (and other things, of course) have brought out some very interesting character details in people we thought we knew, and I have to be honest when I say that I wasn’t even ready for some of my own, the worst of which was completely cutting off someone who loved me because I felt like my boundaries were disrespected. It was rude, and it hurt her badly. To even greater shame, this went on for several weeks with God disturbing me about it before I decided to gather my spine and call in an attempt to be understood and validated (Really, Adi?).
I didn’t even call this person to better understand her, and it’s a little sickening thinking about that detail as I’m writing this. I called her with my desire to be justified in my ugly behavior. Yuck!
This poor woman’s heart poured out over the phone in the form of tears and a desperation for us to not lose one another. I have to praise God for her tears in spite of the pain she was experiencing, because it pierced my heart, and suddenly, the desire to be understood disappeared in the shadow of a greater desire for my friend to not be hurting. Hearing her apologizing for something she was completely unaware of was almost too much because that feeling is an all too familiar one. So, I made myself listen to that suffering, watch the real-life train wreck my hands caused, and I then wished silently that I could take her place. Her broken heart broke my heart and God slipped into that crack and immediately aligned my desire with His own desire which was to rightly love my friend. Period.
This is the moment in which God revealed that the real problem was that in the years we have known each other, our relationship was simply not close enough for us to have avoided the errors that had been made. When I spoke this, she quickly admitted to not understanding how vastly different we are, and in that lack of awareness, decisions were made that had hurt me in ways she never would have expected. And in truth, her decisions had been quite harmless, but I had allowed my programmed defense mechanisms to go before me instead of going in heart first. My dears, that is bad business all day long.
As we reached this clearing in the forest of malcontent, we determined to work harder toward a healthier friendship with one another, blessed each other, and called it a night. Of course, like usual, as I drifted off to sleep, God’s word fell into my spirit:
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed“.James 5:16
I called her again the next day with a suggestion; that we enter into a private Bible study together. Lunch and Jesus, right?! I mean, what better way to really get to know someone – to establish a true, concrete relationship with one another – than to do so through the eyes and ears of God? In response to the suggestion, my dear friend was overjoyed and we both committed right away, kicking off the study that very week. Since then, every Wednesday with the exception of Christmas Eve, we have met in my kitchen over lunch with our Bibles, books, tears, laughter, struggles, desires, encouragements, and loving chastisements.
The things we have learned about each other could not have come about any other way than through the prism of God’s enduring love and desire that we have good relationships on this earth with one another. I only thought I loved her before, but now I just adore her and never want there to be a time when I can’t call her up to be goofy or bawl my eyes over silly human stuff. And I never again want her to feel like my love for her is conditional. The very idea that I did that to her still makes me cry, and I don’t want God to ever let me forget the view of her from His heart. His commandments for us to love Him and to love one another are not mere suggestions. They are the two most important ingredients to our abilities to persevere through this life with hope, grace, and unity – not just for our own sake, but for that of others and Jesus Christ.
I recall this story in this year of my life because it was full of lessons that must be shared. I need to share that God is bigger than politics, viruses, skin color, upbringing, socioeconomic status, or any other petty thing we could ever cook up to separate ourselves from one another out of fear, personal convictions, or whatever excuse we come up when we fail to love rightly. And let there be no doubt: Next to the greatness of God, every bit of the nastiness within our human condition is petty, and pettiness is not in the makeup of an ambassador of Christ – or simply a decent adult human being, for that matter.
So, as we careen, at break-neck speed, into 2021, I would like to encourage all of us to love harder than we ever have before – to rebuke pettiness in the name of Jesus so that in every interaction with those in our lives, we choose love EVERY time without exception. On my own mission to love rightly, I resolve never to consider myself infallible as if by virtue of this mission I am above anyone else in my treading of the same ground as everyone else, but to instead strive every day to check my gut (the goofy defense mechanisms I’ve had to live on but no longer need…get it?) against the word of God, and only that. I resolve to listen better, to look deeper, and to hold tighter to Jesus so that I don’t get lost in my own garbage. My dears, I desire the same things for you.
May your new year be full of lessons from the Lord in all things love, in all things grace, and in all things unified for the sake of Him who loves us from the depths of the earth to the limitless expanse of the Heavens! May your choice be joy in all circumstances, no matter how bad, because the source of that joy is Jesus, for Wonderful is His name!! I pray that the Lord enriches our relationships with Him and with others no matter how much it seems the world is burning down around our ears. I pray that He gives us resolutions of purpose, substance, and endurance so that our next steps forward will leave imprints of triumph, victory, and everlasting hope. Amen!
Here’s to a willfully happy and graciously blessed 2021. God bless you all.