Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gimme !!

If I had to sum it up in one word, I think that “Gimme” sums up the problem with much of mankind today. “Gimme! I want it, and I want it now! You Promised!” Those sound like the words of a spoiled child, or at the very least, one who has not learned the lessons being taught by his parents. They sound like a child acting very selfishly. Perhaps in response to his rants his parents will softly explain to him: “Honey, I know you want those things, but they’re not good for you.” But still he whines. He just doesn’t get it.

So what is a parent to do?

Yet still they sinned against Him;
They defied the Most High in the desert.
In their heart they put God to the test
By demanding the food they craved.

They said: “Is it possible for God …?”

When He heard this, the Lord was angry.

Psalm 78

We can see what God did in the desert, when the Jews whined: “Gimme.” He gave them manna, food from heaven, but then He slew the strongest among them. He always gave to them, but He also made sure that they learned the lessons He taught --- and they learned the hard way if necessary. They so easily forgot God’s goodness. They didn’t learn the lessons of His love, of how He freed them from bondage, and how He promised to always care for them. They confused the things He gave to them with things they demanded of Him. They confused His love with their selfishness. They took His love of them and turned it into their love of themselves. They didn’t understand that His love was an example, something for them to imitate, in His image. That: as He loved them, they should love one another.

I fear this is a lesson that so many of us don’t appear to be getting, again, today.

This whole message of love is such a confusing thing. I wrote recently in the post about Finding Bad News that my parish is having all-summer long Theology of the Body classes for teens. I think this is a most important thing, and expect that many of the talks and discussions will center around this thing called “love.” They need to, we ALL need to, understand it better. With a 50% divorce rate in this country, it is obvious that many, many people don’t understand, they don’t understand the example He gave for us to imitate. He came that we might love one another, not that we might love ourselves.

I fear that many marriages are based on the statement: “You love me.” You love me, and therefore you give me things that I want, and therefore I will marry you. If this is true, then marriage begins with a selfish motive, and a spouse like this will be surprised at some point to learn that this person who loves them cannot keep giving “things that I want” forever. This leads to those confused statements heard by divorce lawyers and marriage counselors: “I’m not happy,” as a reason for divorce. “They gave me everything I wanted before, but now they don’t.” “They changed.” Of course spouses change, BOTH spouses change, all people change. Even things you want or expect from them, in your selfish needs, change. But what really changed was that you were not getting everything you wanted from your spouse anymore. You didn’t get what you wanted when you yelled: “Gimme!”

God the Father, and then Jesus the Son, gave us lessons in love. As I wrote recently about Jesus, He came into this world and He could have had, no, He could have taken anything. He was God! But He took nothing of those things we think most important in this world, although He could have had anything. And He didn’t even take love from this world --- they crucified Him! Unlike the love many of us expect from our spouses, He could have demanded it. But He didn’t. He came to give love, and in fact, to give us literally everything --- eternal life. And that is the example He gave us to follow. Love is about giving, not receiving. It is not even reciprocal: I’ll love you if you love me. Love is without requirements of return, although return may be desired and very much appreciated. Love is to be freely given, by everyone, meaning that who we give love to may choose to return it.

But that is the lesson we are to be learning on this train of life, this growing in holiness we are to learn to do. Marriage and a spouse are special tools for learning to grow in love, and in holiness. But they are not the only way, for single people, divorced people, old people, and young people are to be learning how to grow in love, to grow in holiness, also. I have a close friend who lost his spouse a few years back, and his total life is now focused on his grief over his loss: “Why can’t I just go to be with her? I miss her so much.” He obviously learned much in his marriage about love, but unfortunately it appears he thought that the marriage was the end, not the growing in love. He’s forgotten the reminder: In heaven there will be no marriage. And so he’s stopped growing in love, growing in holiness. He found a focus in life that gave him much pleasure, but like all things of this earth, in heaven they will be of no importance. The greatest marriage, the most wonderful kids, the biggest house, the most money, the most adulation from all your admirers for what you have done on earth, none of that will matter in heaven except to the degree that those things helped you better prepare for heaven, helped you grow in holiness, helped you learn how to really love, everyone.

As members in the Body of Christ in heaven, we will be eternally giving to each other, and to God. We will be giving eternal love, in perfect happiness. And we need to learn how to do that while here on earth. Love is about giving, not receiving. The things we receive here on earth are just distractions, temptations really, from our lessons on giving.

And we need to learn these lessons, from our great, and loving, Teacher.

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