Loving the Not-So-Easily Lovable
Editor’s note: On reading the below article I was reminded of two sermons by Robin Taylor on Love and Unforgiveness and its destructive force.
I have just returned from listening to a sermon on “Grace”. Oh my goodness! – how hard it is to rationalise ‘this mystical gift’ against ‘justice’ and the way so many of us are led to think today.
I thought immediately of my own lack of grace – of any ‘mystical gift’ having been bestowed upon me within the specific realms of loving a particular neighbour who lives very close by to where I do. I know I should love her, no matter what. But I find it so incredibly hard to love someone who chooses continually to view the world in a negative light; who remembers wrong-doings with far greater clarity and a vengeance – the unfortunate incidents which have occurred in her life. She is one who clings onto them ‘lest ye forget’, and when you wave and say ‘Hello!’ to her on a sunny Saturday afternoon, she merely ‘looks through you’ with a blank expression, though I know she has heard me.
The poor old woman is acknowledgeably a genetic wreck, having smoked her way into deep ‘old age’ long before her time, but also assisted by unfortunate genes which leave her looking far older than a woman 15 years her senior. I am certain that if she allowed herself to see a wee bit more ‘sunshine’ – that is, positivity – looking for the good in life, lifting herself up by reaching up as high as she could to pluck even one tiny ray from that great, generous, yellow ball in the sky – her heart would become instantly warmed; her appearance would soften and – of this I am absolutely certain – she would banish the loneliness that her disposition encourages. Other neighbours and beyond would seek more willingly to share time with her, listening to stories of her varied life which has really been touched by many blessings….. reaching back to her strong and healthy youth, which, by a large degree, she threw away. She may even venture to offer you a cup of tea when you pop in to visit her, whilst she sips at her own…..
Mabel is not an isolated case. There are lots of people out there who are not so easy to love. They close themselves off and shut the world out. It is difficult to approach them without feeling somewhat of an intruder in their dark, blurred and lonely lives that often have been self-created through a bad attitude towards accepting the very Gift of Life, even if it is not entirely bursting with vitality. I am certain that the opportunity nevertheless exists.
I think of my beautiful friend Jesamine, who, at 94, is a true example of ‘grace’. She is a quiet woman, an essential lady, of very ordinary means, possessing a quality that immediately attracts respect. She has lived a useful, fruitful life, embracing simplicity, and gratitude for what has been given to her. Her family adore her; she attracts people to her because of her gentle approach. You could even imagine her peeping up from under her sunhat to shade her eyes from that brilliant sunshine that finds its way into her heart. We sing together when I visit her – favourite old hymns that she has chosen – she has a sweet voice – and we pray together. I take her fragile hand, gnarled with age….a hand that has done a lifetime’s work of every nature (….if only hands could talk!).
She is an essentially quiet woman, similar to Mabel, but she is in no way brooding: she believes that Life is far too short to cling to the adverse elements that will inevitably beset every life well-lived. As soon as I arrive to visit her, her hospitable nature is at the fore: she offers me a cup of tea and insists on preparing it herself, even though she has difficulty moving without the aid of her ‘walker’, and only has 40% vision in one eye, the other now totally blind. I have no doubt that the sun finds its way into her heart almost every day of the year – even when it’s snowing outside, and there may be fewer folk for her to welcome in, even for just a couple of hours. I love Jesamine. Her memory will live in my heart forever. She is easy to love.
But one of the BIG challenges of life is learning to love someone like Mabel, which we are really commanded to do:
Going into a home, no matter what its condition – or what it may smell of; doing a bit of homebaking, wrapping it carefully and tying it up with a fresh piece of ribbon, or pretty cellophane that you may have saved from a bouquet of flowers which you bought, or were given; taking a magazine you know she will enjoy, if she is still able to read……. even if she casts it to one side; or taking left-over balls of wool which you may have, knowing she is a knitter and could possibly make use of them. Offering to wash her windows. And, the inevitable but always welcome, taking her a bowl of homemade soup – it must be homemade, even if it is from all your leftover vegies from the week!
You could even offer to put the kettle on, and share a cuppa with her – now that would be a first!….
Love – like ‘Grace’ – is something that one can only define by the way it moves unseen, and touches people’s lives by its profound effect. Loving the seemingly ‘unlovable’ is something we need to keep in the forefront of our minds, on a daily basis. We don’t have to move in and live with that person, much less try to convert them. But I do believe we are called to see them as another one of God’s essential creations, and however hard it may be to love them, just one small deed of kindness towards them – putting self behind for just an hour or two here and there – will help to keep the world turning around in the right direction.