29 October 2008

Falling Short

Today's verse (see bottom of page) has particular meaning to me; how ironic that it would greet me here today (I have a set widget to provide it), like a taunt - although a well-earned one.

Ephesians 4:2-3 : Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

I spent the day with a person who was near impossible to tolerate. There was no malice in this person - a lot of good, in fact. But her social skills were so lacking that I found myself breathing deeply and biting my tongue . . .

I put myself in this position intentionally. She wanted to accompany me on a road trip, and I consented, knowing it would be difficult, but feeling that it was 1-an opportunity to practice some patience, which I lack severely, and some humility (it's too easy to feel superior to such a person) and 2-an opportunity to do a penance.

As I said, there is no malice in her. She is desperate to share herself, so desperate that during six hours of constant conversation she barely took a breath. I could count the times on one hand I was permitted to finish a sentence or thought. I half-listened to her prattle on about nothing, trying to learn something, trying to see Christ in her.

I am disappointed in my effort. I betrayed no outward hint of my frustration with her - I am sure of it. But inwardly I sighed and seethed and stifled laughter at her lack of discretion, propriety, and class. Not snapping at her, not hurting her, isn't enough. I should have been able to love her as God's child, to see a part of Jesus in her. I couldn't. I really have no idea how to begin, in a situation like that.

I think about the description of the "Illuminative Way" (see yesterday's post) and realize that in this, I cannot rely on my own tools and ambitions. I have nothing in me for this. Only God and the Holy Spirit can do this. I'm ashamed to learn that I fell so short of my own aspirations. . . that my pride runs deep, and worse that I am so lacking in Christian love.

The upside is that my challenge is crystal clear now: pray for help with these particular issues, and work hard on them. If I can't overcome this - if I can't begin to comprehend Christian love toward this person, the most harmless of all, how can I pretend to follow Christ's most basic commandments - that I love others as myself?

Others call me kind, and generous, and when they do I feel the color rise in my face - not from bashfulness (of which I possess little to none) but because of shame that they are wrong. My outward behavior is exemplary - I have trained myself to think of others' needs always, to treat every child of God with respect and kindness. But if I don't FEEL this respect, what is the kindness really worth? Surely I make their life on earth easier with a moment of kindness, but I that isn't enough. It isn't what Christ asked.

Lord, please forgive my shortcomings this day, which were many. Thank you for the challenge and lesson; surely you would sorely challenge only someone whose heart you wish to see grow. Thank you that she left my car in joy, feeling she had a wonderful day. Thank you that she, and anyone, thinks so highly of me - one who deserves the respect so little. Help me open my eyes and heart and know a path to loving others as I wish to be loved by others. Forgive the arrogance I have to judge anyone whom you have created and love. Please wrap my hard heart in your light, and help me learn a better way. Amen.

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