What do we do when those we love act in ways that shock us?
How are we to respond when people in our lives repeatedly make decisions that bring pain and lead to negative consequences?
What does it mean to love but not agree with? To say, ‘I’ll be here for you, but that does not mean I’ll bail you out.”
I feel like the theme of my life right now is: we never get to write anyone off, but that doesn’t mean you are present in their lives. I don’t have to approve, condone, or encourage behaviors, attitudes, manipulations of scripture or reality that I feel are untrue. But that doesn’t mean I get to be self-righteous and write people off.
Take a step towards the middle. Stay open. That is the heart of love.
This is the wilderness where things are scary and costs are real. This is getting out of the bunkers of judgment or self-protection to still being open. This is not reacting tit-for-tat but asking, “What is love here?”
It’s interesting how things in our life overlap sometimes. I read Braving the Wilderness recently (such an amazing and timely book!) and now I am on The Reckless Way of Love for my quiet time. Reckless is a collection of writings by Dorothy Day, who is one of my personal heroes. She had such a quiet determination to love like Jesus, to see all people as His creation and not see herself above anyone. It’s humbling and convicting.
But she writes, “Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens. If we love enough, we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is that love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other.” (pg. 26)
I do not believe this is blind acceptance of what others do. I do not believe that means we keep getting run over again and again and again. It does not mean we stay in unhealthy relationships or don’t set boundaries. The way of love is not the life of a doormat.
As I have written before, we can listen and encourage, we can love and support, but that is not synonymous with stopping the storm or not letting people fall. Sometimes the greatest lessons we learn come out of our darkest moments. And sometimes the hardest thing we have to let those we love to is walk into the darkness they’ve created.
In the end, it is a question we must all answer for ourselves. “What is love here?” It is an answer we can only come to with a lot of prayer and a huge dose of humility.