The only problem with all this talk is that it makes one responsible for the information. Which is not really a 'problem'. It's kind of awesome. There is nothing cooler than figuring out what makes a person happy and doing it. What joy it brings! But I do find that loving others (that is what we're talking about here), as fulfilling as it is, can be hard work, regardless of the type of relationship (friend, family, boss, etc.). This is truest with people who are different than me (which is like everyone). And the different-er (yes, I said 'different-er'), the harder it is. Learning what makes them happy, what brings them joy, how to encourage them, love them, sometimes it's so opposite to what I know or need that it's almost like learning a foreign language.
And then there are questions rolling around in my head like...
How do I show love to people who live 6,000 miles away from me that I only see once every two years?
How do I show love to people who are in positions of authority that have caused hurt?
How do I show love to people in my immediate community, in the expat community, in my apartment complex, in my fellowship, in my city?
Learning to love and HOW to love others has been a theme for me this year. Removing myself and allowing Christ's love to flow through me... do you know how hard that is? <--Lame. But it's true. It's hard to get rid of me and my selfish kind of love and let His love take over. Because when I do that, it means I have to forgive more, let go more, understand more, ask for forgiveness more, do more. Loving others, I'm learning, is about giving up my rights- fairness, justice, opinions...sigh. Do you know how hard THAT is?
As I'm learning how to show love to those around me, I've started to do a few things. But it really only applies to my immediate community. I'm still trying to get the other stuff figured out (people who aren't in my immediate community, people who have hurt me, people who are harder to love, etc.). And this is not a comprehensive list. Nor am I doing all of these things well. I am barely scraping the top of the barrel of 'loving others as Christ loved us'. I am SO still learning and growing in this area. And will be for the rest of my life.
- Consistently pursuing people. Taking time to meet with them one-on-one. Or inviting them to hang out with the big group or smaller group. Mostly just including people who need to be included.
- Asking questions. And not "how are you doing" or "how was your day" kind of questions. Deep , personal questions, even the hard questions, with a lot of followup.
- Really listening to what people are saying. Sometimes that means reading between the words of what they're trying to say and listening to their heart. This takes practice, something I'm still really working on.
- Sharing where I'm at, what I'm struggling with. Pushing through the awkwardness of being vulnerable and just diving in. A little bit of realness goes a long way.
- Sending notes and cards and emails letting people know that they noticed, that they are important, that I'm praying for them, that I care about them, what they mean to me, what they've taught me. This is probably the hardest thing for me, but I'm learning that it is SUPER important to those around me.
- Praying for people about specific things on a consistent basis.
- Doing things for others- being the living, moving body of Christ to those around me. Fulfilling a need, both physical (running an errand for them) and emotional (letting them talk until the cows come home because they need someone to just listen to them and validate what they're saying). Although this is one of my 'love languages', it's one of the hardest things for me to do because of time. Or lack thereof. But it's also one of the things I find most fulfilling.