Keeping People at the Center

January 15, 2016 § 1 Comment

I don’t often bring up religious topics in public spaces because I am not one for1Cor4-8 proselytizing. As a third generation pastor’s kid, I have witnessed both brilliant and dismal preaching, and I actively try to distance myself from the latter as best as I humanly can. That being said, I have recently seen a major intersection of the way I live and my religious upbringing as a child of a New Testament, Gospel minister whose beliefs centered on Christ’s commandment of love.

During our courtship and our marriage, my wife had often brought to my attention how much she valued the biblical passage of First Corinthians, chapter 13, verses four through eight. If you don’t know the catalog number, I am sure many of you have seen the words on memes, artwork, and craft items as its first line is quite popular.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”

And yes, verses four through seven hang on a canvas leading up our stairs. Though I do not read the words every day, I pass by them and am subliminally reminded to carry with me a message of love. I carry that message up the stairs into  our private space, our bedroom and den. I carry that message with me each time I descend the stairs into the public space of kitchen, living, and dining areas as well as out into the world, both physically and digitally. A few months ago, we took everything off of the walls in our stairwell to have it repainted, and on the third of January, I finally rehung our painting on the stairs. It was then that I noticed how much I had missed it these past several months.

Maybe, I have subconsciously soaked in this message day in and day out. Maybe the timing of rehanging it this weekend is a signal for what is to come is 2016. Maybe the correlations are simply coincidental. Regardless, I have been reflecting on my actions and words as they pertain to this passage. Starting with my Twitter activity, I have found a few striking connections:

“[L]ove is kind.”

 “[Love] keeps no record of wrongs.”

“[Love] always trusts, always hopes.”

In my sporadic blogging, I tackle the importance of trusting first and the importance of the hope that idealism brings.

“[Love] does not dishonor others.”

My teaching has evolved into a strengths-based practice that honors the best in my students, not to placate or coddle them but to uplift them and encourage them so that I may get a glimpse at the best of who they are through our academic excursions.

Van Gogh - Love People

Some of these views have come to me over time while other have been much more recent; however, they have come to a head in the past 18 months or less. But on the third of January 2016 as I stood in my living room, holding my wife in my arms and reading those words aloud, a flood of connections sloshed around in my head. I don’t know if my pointing this out is boastful or self-seeking, contradicting everything I hope this post will say. Maybe, it is; maybe, it does.

Nevertheless, these reflections have forced me to bring to light the patterns I am seeing. Maybe, it is my attempt to rationalize my everyday actions. But maybe, the connection is more human than that. What if the point of love is not the emotion itself but the people. In a world where we love ice cream, money, shoes, entertainment, fame, accolades, et al, a love, deserved or especially undeserved, that is a love of and for people is the missing connection between us and the best versions of ourselves. Regardless of religious persuasion, I have yet to meet anyone who does not respect and/or admire the likes of Ghandi or Mother Theresa. For me, Mother Theresa is the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13;4-8. I cannot think of her without thinking of compassion, care, kindness, and the best of our humanity.

In our connected world, we have more access to knowledge than ever before in history; people share their views and speak their mind in what seems like an unceasingly manner; and predictions, prognostications, prophecies, or whatever label you wish to give them fill our news feeds. Yet, our most needed connection is not fulfilled through knowledge, words, or predictions. Our most needed connection is to the people around us physically and digitally because it is through our connection to them that we will receive the unfailing power of love.

Maybe, the timing of this post is most appropriate for a new year as many people open themselves to new ideas and new challenges this time of year. Maybe, I’m reading too much into it all. Then again, there may be more meaning in my belief that people are worth it than I originally imagined.

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