Tuesday, January 13, 2009

love and focus(es)

ever have the experience where things/ideas/concepts from a variety of places all seem to converge and be related? you find out what the word "paradigm" means, and suddenly you're hearing it everywhere, and everyone you know is suddenly using it like they've been doing so all along? you get a ford focus, and suddenly everyone else has one too?

happens to me every now and then, and one thread lately has been about the concept of giving and receiving love

first, as I mentioned in my last post, my cousin abby's thoughts on unconditional love.

second, again as mentioned in my last post, rob bell's dec. 7 talk "who doesn't want in on that?". actually, overall the sermon wasn't the best i've ever heard, but some of the middle-ish bits were quite insightful: (these are from my rough translation of minutes 23-39 or so)
paul is articulating the difference between a transactional and a trinitarian understanding of love. Transaction is about debt, and obligation, owing, and repaying. It is possible to have a transactional understanding of relationships in life. Everything is run with a score card. They did this to me, I do this to them. Understand God as a God of the transaction. God is a divine accountant. Has a really big scoreboard in the sky, and wrong things are written in the left-hand column, and if you do something good, there's a chance it might offset the left. But you never really know. The Diving Accountant you will find everywhere, and deeply impacts the way we see the world. Think about if somebody invites you over for dinner, and then it's 2 or 3 months and you still haven't invited them back over. You start feeling more and more guilty. How did their act of generousity turn into a feeling of guilt? And so we're trapped in the world of the transaction. For Paul, the universe is not a transactional reality. For him, it's trinitarian. Trinitarian thought is mind blowing, you see traces of it in Philippians. For Paul, God is different from the scoreboard in the sky. Paul is saying, "you know the story of Creation... when you said yes to the grace and peace of God expressed in Christ, the same nuclear energy that was unleashed in the creation of the solar system was unleashed inside of you". So when Paul talks about salvation, for him it's about a new creation starting in you. For Paul, God is one, but God is this community of Father, Son and Spirit. God is this communal loving relationship, endlessly self-giving and receiving. It's a dance. This is what's at the base of the cosmos. Not someone waiting to show you how you've screwed things up. So when the Philippians helped Paul in his time of need, they were entering into the life of this kind of God. A tangent: marriages are in trouble when they move from trinitarian to transaction. Trinitarian relationships are when you lose track of who's giving and who's receiving. He's endlessly looking for ways to meet her needs. She's endlessly looking for ways to meet his needs. He's not keeping track. She doesn't have a scoreboard. No sense of owing. The moment it moves from trinitarian to transaction, "what have you done for me lately, baby", the relationship is in trouble. The moment in faith communities we move from trinitarian to transactional, we are in trouble. When you move to trinitarian, it's not always exactly clear who's giving, and who's receiving. Let's go back to marriages: when you think of the best marriages, and going to one of them and saying, "that's amazing how you give", the response, will be "give?! I get more than I ever give". Enough with the primal anxiety of not knowing you how stand with God: grace, and peace. Grace and peace. What I gave to you God gave to me. You gave to me, I gave to God, God gave to you. Take a great friendship and try to map who owes who. It's impossible.
There are a billion people in the world who don't have access to clean drinking water. We recently sent a team over to Rwanda training people how to build and use water filters. Look at these pictures - who's giving, who's receiving? The people with the technology and money to fly? Who's giving? Who's receiving? Is that the smile of someone who says, "you owe me". Is that the smile of someone thinking, "oh man, am I going to owe this guy". People come home saying, "I received far more than I ever gave". When you are trapped in a transactional understanding of the universe, then you have to get credit for all the good you do. When you find yourself desperate for the strokes of others to acknowledge the good you've done, that happens when you're beholden to a transactional view. Grace is different. . When you step into a triune relationship of endlessly giving peace and harmony and sacrifice, you're caught up in such joy the last thing you're thinking about is, "what am I getting out of this?".
and third, a cs lewis quote. i believe this is from The Four Loves (but it's been a while since I copied it down).
"On the natural level, we are full of the hunger to be loved, the hunger to receive family affection, erotic love, and friendship. And it might be expected that we had similarly a hunger to receive Agape. But this is untrue. There is that in the heart of every man which resists and resents Agape from his fellow creatures or even from his creator. We naturally want to be desired, to be found delightful: to satisfy worthily some hunger in others. To receive a Love which is purely a gift, which bears witness solely to the lovingness of the giver and not at all to our loveliness, is a severe mortification. We desperately need to receive such love from God, and even from our fellow creatures. But we don't naturally want to. Our necessities and our wishes are in conflict.... No sooner do we believe that God loves us, than there is an impulse to believe that He does so Not because of what He is, but because of what we are: because we are intrinsically Lovable. It is so easy to admit, but so hard really to believe that we are mirrors whose brightness is wholly derived from the sun that shines on them. Surely we think we must have a little inherent luminosity of our own."
i suppose none of this is rocket science; it's not all that far off from words i've heard since childhood. but somehow they've been resonating with me lately. i realize sometimes that God's love really isn't based on my performance, and then i forget it again. i slip into a transactional view of the world - mostly feeling guilty about all i owe to all the generous people around me - and then remember love is about both giving AND receiving. is it not funny how you can know something, and not know it, at the same time? i get it with my head, but in everyday life i find it continually elusive.

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