Today is my husband's birthday - the twenty-second one we've celebrated as a couple... and he's out of the country - a missionary on a missions trip to yet a different distant place with one of our girlies. He's far from perfect, but he's committed to his God, to me, our children, our family, friends literally scattered across the globe and to our community - and I'm so glad he's mine. But... if I wrote a sappy piece about love... it might embarrass him...
So, in keeping with this theme of love for the month of February, I'd like to consider a slightly different perspective as it has been pinging and ponging around in my soul of recent.
While their daddy's been gone, I've been trying to do some special things with our other children, including listening to books on CD (Anne of Green Gables) and revisiting a favorite television series (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman). We've all been loving it - I mean, who doesn't find "Anne with an e," at the very least, amusing and at least a little endearing. And, as far as family TV that provokes great discussion from curious little and not so little minds, Dr. Quinn is, perhaps, my favorite.
“There's such a lot of different Annes in me.
I sometimes think that is why I'm such a troublesome person.
If I was just the one Anne
it would be ever so much more comfortable,
but then it wouldn't be half so interesting.”
~Anne in LM Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables
I love this Anne quote because of its deeply profound veracity. Anne acknowledges the beauty that is her:
- she is not just intelligent... but insidiously impetuous
- she is not only imaginative... but also quixotic and impractical
- despite the fact that she could be incredibly irritating... the next moment, she'd be fabulously entertaining
- stubborn yet teachable and once "taught," she forgives wholeheartedly
- unpredictably predictable
- romantic yet extremely practical
- vainly egocentric while still open to perceive the beauty, not just in the natural world but in others all around her
Anne couldn't be summed up by a single word.
In fact, people defined by a single aspect become nothing more than caricatures.
Often comic, sometimes repulsive, usually stereotypical - a caricaturized version of someone is never flattering, even if the highlighted aspect is typically one we'd consider positive, simply because it leaves the person looking one dimensional.
As we discuss the different episodes in the Dr.Quinn series, my children are noticing this truth. A character that is heroic and awesome in one episode is surprisingly unlikable in the next - even the title character. It is pretty funny (unexpected, ironic and SO. VERY, REAL) when Hank, the owner of the saloon, suddenly demonstrates a generous spirit in contrast to Dr. Mike's pettiness and unforgiving spirit. But that's because every single being on thus earth is created in the image of God - and will sometimes reflect that breathtaking image. At the same time, every single person is also born with a sinful nature - and will, sadly more often than not, demonstrate that nature.
Just as Anne recognizes this multiplicity within herself... we must do the same, if we want to genuinely love people. Not only that, we must also recognize... and appreciate... its presence in those all around us. People are intricately complex, so loving them is messy.
Consider the following statement, offered not as a justification, but merely an observation: Some awful, atrocious sins are rooted in good impulses and beautiful ideas, but unrestrained (i.e. racism often grows out of a good desire to protect and care for "my own").
My challenge, and the one I've offered to my children, is to seek things to love in every person you meet. Don't allow yourself to caricaturize the souls God has placed in your community by only seeing those first few characteristics or dimensions that rise to the surface. Because love - the kind of love Jesus offers - looks deep and is willing to take a risk on what could be. I want Jesus to offer that same love to others through me.
Living within the confines of an expat (or smaller for whatever reason) community, this kind of love binds and strengthens members while attracting and welcoming newcomers. After all, it is a key mark of Jesus: "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)
As I've gotten older and braver, especially when it comes to loving those I don't find myself drawn to on first... second... or even forty-third impressions... I find myself agreeing more and more with that "Anne-girl" when she wonderingly remarks:
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think.
It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
~Anne in LM Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables