Monday, October 18, 2010

Sacrificial Love

I have never been a musically inclined person - but when I was a little girl I did have one singer that I went totally 8 year-old fangirl over - wore out the concert t-shirt and everything. And who was this big pop star? Why, Babbie Mason!

Ok, so I'm not really sure if she was super popular or if I just loved her - but a number of her songs regularly run on repeat through my head thanks to that phenomenon of things you memorize in childhood sticking with you for years.

The one in my head currently has been "Show Me How to Love"

It's just the chorus that made it through the past two decades in tact in my memory - but it always makes me think. The chorus says:

Show me how to love in the true meaning of the word. Teach me to sacrifice expecting nothing in return. I want to give my life away. Becoming more like you each and every day, my words are not enough, please show me how to love.

One thing I've realized as I've grown older and examined the way I've lived my life - mistakes I've made, how I act in relationships, etc - is that I didn't/don't have a healthy grasp on what it means to love sacrificially as a human. At times, it's still a struggle as I have to remind myself what it is and what it isn't.

I think I tended to think of sacrificial love as denying myself everything - - including my right to boundaries in relationships or my right to have an opinion, etc.  I recognize that as unhealthy, that sacrificial love does not equal being a doormat, and that that is not really love because it's not really doing anything for the person you are loving. 

However, my brain still gets stuck.

And I blame part of this sticking on another childhood experience - finding a poem called "Dying to Self" - I printed it out and hung it on my wall at home, at my locker at school. When I went off to college - that poem came with me.

Some of the lines include:

"When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don't sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ. . .

"When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take in all in patient, loving silence. . .

"When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, or any annoyance; when you stand face-to- face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility-and endure it as Jesus endured. . .

That is Dying to Self."
Now - I'm sure there are quite good points in the poem - but it makes me cringe now to read it, knowing how it's intent got twisted in my heart. In my mind somewhere - I came to the conclusion that sacrificial love meant being quite when you were hurt and praying for both the other person and for your own reaction.  And that eventually if you were really good at sacrificial love then you wouldn't even be hurt anymore - you'd skip that step in the emotion process and go straight to love.  On this side of that belief it scares me to examine it and the thought processes and realize how easy it is to twist the admonition to love sacrificially into something that makes people a doormat and susceptible to abuse by those would exploit it.

A better answer came from another childhood icon - Amy Carmichael.  I became interested in the life of Amy Carmichael as a child when the children's choir teacher told her story before practice one week. As a college student I stumbled upon one of her writings titled, "Calvary Love" (Please click to read it in its entirety)

I think it's similar to the "Dying to Self" poem in that it is talking about relationships with others in this world - but Carmichael does not leave any doubt that sacrificial love is strong and active and assertive.  In Calvary Love there is the assumption that sacrificial love at times means rebuking in love, speaking truth, and expecting high standards from others.

How do you define sacrificial love? How do you live out Sacrificial love as a human when our ultimate example is that of a perfect, sinless, Savior? 

I'd love for people to answer the questions just as a discussion because I'm a nerd and like stuff like that - but also because even thought it's something I'm aware of it's still a very real struggle in my life to love sacrificially in a healthy way - so I'd love some wisdom there.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking purely from my observation of the lives of Jesus and the Saints, I think both poems are excellent descriptions of sacrificial love. My perspective is that our responses and ways in which we demonstrate a love like Jesus displayed during his life is going to vary given the circumstances as well as our own dispositions and particular gifts/talents/role in the Church.

    Throughout history we have had no shortage of devout, holy people who have lived out a sacrificial love...but the way in which they went about it was uniquely their own. You have St. Augustine, a bold and assertive man who minced no words when defending the faith against heretics and schismatics. On the other end of the spectrum you have the mild and meek St. Therese, the Little Flower, who would rather remain silent and even physically flee from many unjust situations in which she was tempted to defend or explain herself than say something that could possibly disturb her peace later. But they were each fulfilling very different vocations, one being a Bishop of the Church and the other a cloistered Carmelite nun. :)

    I think, ultimately, to know and be at peace with how we should respond requires a great deal of humble prayer so that God can illuminate us with His wisdom and discernment. For me, just where I am right now, God is teaching me to live out sacrificial love more as described by the Dying to Self poem. Probably because that's always been the hardest thing for me...remaining silent and undisturbed when I've been wronged/I'm not the center of the universe. :p

    I still have so far to go.