Love (Minus Me)
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind – and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus gave us a pretty simple summary of Moses’ Ten Commandments. And I realized — it all starts back home.
For the first time in my life, I find myself busy doing preparations as I gear up for a short-term mission trip this October to the nation of Sri Lanka. These past few weeks of preparing and raising funds for this outreach, I found myself uncomfortably confronted by a very disarming issue – my own selfishness, and how it’s keeping me from fulfilling the two greatest commandments in the world.
I can’t speak for everyone everywhere, but scattered in this world are people like me who are always “too busy” to be bothered for a favor. Too busy to give. Too busy to ask a word of “kamusta?” to old classmates, old friends, old relatives. People like me who firmly believe that my relationship with myself is the most deserving of my time. Anyone else is a subtraction. Anything else is less mileage. Anyone else would naturally mean less me – and often, I don’t like that.
Loving people can be such a draining thing. For those who do not, like other humans, derive energy from being around fellow humans, this task is terribly taxing and difficult. Affectionate gestures to me have been reduced to something like a “like” on Facebook, or a lazy reply on Messenger. If I don’t feel like striking up conversations on text, or worse, in real life, why should I force myself to? If I’m too tired to meet someone I haven’t talked to for a while for coffee, or know someone beyond their name or occupation – know what they’re up to, serve them, offer a prayer, listen to their problems, be nice to them even without any agenda, I will not be held accountable by anyone else, will I? I mean, smiling at the grumpy woman who wronged you at the MRT? Uttering a real prayer (and not just promising one) for a friend in need? Setting time aside just to be with your parents? Offering a word of encouragement to others even when you know you’re the one needing it badly? Choosing to overlook an offense? If it’s inconvenient to you, why would you even try?
After all, in this millennial generation, we are taught to live it easily – do whatever simply makes us happy, live independently, assert, celebrate, and gratify the “you.”
Why would you even try? You know you need more time for yourself. Your own burdens are already too great for you to carry. Anything else beyond you is too much.
Why would you even try?
You don’t know – and you’ll never really know until you do.
I realized this as I started doing something that completely eeks me out: raising the funds that are needed for this mission trip, which meant initiating interactions, reaching out to people, hoping they find it in their hearts to give – not even to me — for this mission. Even if I know I’m not doing this for me, I can’t help but be bothered that “me” – “I” have to be involved in it. I mean, what about my reputation? This is totally uncomfortable. Inconvenient. Even embarrassing. And I feel like bragging to God, as if I’m doing Him a favor by laying my precious pride on the line for this.
I tend to forget that God is rich – He is the owner of all things and He doesn’t need me HERE at all to fulfill His purpose in that nation. He doesn’t need my money. He doesn’t need my effort. I’m here because God wants something that He doesn’t need but still, He wants anyway: my heart. And not just mine, but also the hearts of the people we will be encountering, the hearts of the people I know, as they step out in faith to dedicate their time and hard-earned money for this mission. In no way do I see right now how what I’m doing (and am about to do) will play a part in turning anybody’s heart toward God at all. But what I personally know: my heart is the first to be changed by this.
I don’t know much about loving people – but I guess it looks something like being there for them, being felt by them, being kind and patient and generous to them, being available and present and conscious in your relationship with them even when it drains you. Even when it’s by no means convenient to you. Even when you won’t get anything for it. Even when it’s not even with the time, effort, and selflessness that truly loving will cost you.
God knew He had to work this specific thing in me before I “go out there” on my first mission trip, reaching out to and “showing God’s love” to others. Reflecting on how I could be living my life in so many self-serving ways, I learned that it will be hard to do something there that I am not already doing here. It all starts at home. And ends back home. How sad it must be for me to miss what’s most important. All is senseless if this experience doesn’t change who I truly am at the core. At home.
Loving changes you by its inconvenience, but it changes you for the better.