“Love is arguably the most powerful word in man’s vocabulary. The feelings that warrant those four letters have given birth to both the most wonderful and most horrific acts that time has ever seen. The very substance of that term is what the empty heart longs to be filled with. In the absence of true love, my friends, one will never know ‘unfeigned happiness’ and without love, an individual is saved from devastating pain. Songs have sung of its sweetness; the pages of books have recorded its essence; movies have re-enacted its magic; poems have whispered its deepest mystery. We can all say the word—for it is not hard to pronounce; you and I may experience it vicariously through the before-mentioned means; but how many of you reading this update can say with confidence, ‘I know what love is?'” (Taken and adapted from Bryan’s sermon on 1 John 4:10, titled, “Learning to Love.”)
“I’m going to present myself to the firing squad tonight,” said I [Bryan], in a moderate and somewhat sarcastic tone. With a puzzled, but serious look on his face, Adrian stepped close to the door, now able to see my otherwise-silhouetted face. Judging by the expression written on his countenance I was sure that he knew exactly what I was talking about, but nonetheless I repeated my earlier statement and clarified it. “I’m going to present myself to the firing squad tonight, and whatever happens happens. I know that Steve and Bill (names have been changed to respect privacy) have something against me and I’m going to come out tonight, approach them, and let them fire away.” Adrian was taking all of this in and no doubt turning it over in his mind, when I put a wrench in those brilliant gears of his by asking, “Are you with me?”
Through this very website the Lord has brought a wonderful and caring man of God into my life. Even from the first letter I received I could feel the warmth of his love radiate from each line of his print. As he wrote more and I read more, his compassion became inescapable. He told me of a period in his life when his pastor would take him along on his visitations, training him for the role that he would one day play. As he expressed the turmoil of soul, and the pain in his heart each time a wounded saint would tell of his/her darkest sins, I found myself wanting to feel this very pain. I want a heart that would truly ache over another’s despair; yes, I hunger for a soul so sensitive that it would mourn upon hearing of the distance that the child had run from its Father. I just want to learn to love. So I asked for his prayers in this area.
I made it to the execution site (a dayroom table) first and said to Steve, after shaking his hand, “Brother Steve, I want you to know that if I have done anything to offend you then I apologize, and ask for your forgiveness. But, I also need you to tell me what it is that I have done so that I will not repeat my actions in the future.” Steve went on to explain that he is only worried about looking at himself, and working on those problems. “Whew,” I thought to myself, “that was easy.” So, hoping that my next moment of vulnerability would go the same, I presented to Bill the same statement I had only seconds before said to Steve. However, and much to my disappointment. Bill wasn’t in the mood to look within himself and he began to fire away. In the hail of verbal gunfire Adrian arrived and suggested that we move away from the gathering crowd lest they get hit by a stray bullet.
Allow me to back-up. . .Before I arrived to the execution site, I stood at my cell door, waiting for it to open. Through the cold steel door I monitored the activity at ground zero. My heart was racing much faster than my overweight body could handle. I started to notice that Bryan was going to face the firing squad all by his brave self.
My door started to open—yet it did not open fast enough. As the gears struggled to open the door, I sucked in my gut and managed to squeeze out, hoping to shave a few seconds off my arrival time. As I quickly walked there, I noticed that members of the same political party were starting to gather. Not a good sign. One too many times I had witnessed similar gatherings–ending in a horrible mess. I quickly found an excuse to ask the participating parties for a change of venue. With some hesitation and a few unpleasant looks, I managed to move the royal rumble to another site—the table next to the first.
Bryan and I sat across from each other, as did Steve and Bill from themselves. As I looked into my friend and ministry partner’s eyes, I noticed that he sensed this was not going to start, nor finish, well.
After a few seconds (though it felt more like hours) of cease-fire. Bill shot a warning-shot that grazed Bryan’s ears. I sat quietly observing and counting the ammo fired. Bill had his information all wrong and was angry for no true reason. Bryan gently corrected Bill with facts that could be proven by simply looking at a single sheet of paper that freely hangs in the chapel’s window.
Steve and I were looking at each other eye-to-eye waiting to see who would make the first move. And because of my Simon Peter complex, I jumped in full throttle; Steve is not a man to stay quiet long, so I started asking him questions. One thing lead to another and Steve and I were firing away like madmen.
Bryan and Bill were still sorting fact from fiction, while Steve and I competed to see who had the largest guns. Sixty minutes later, Bryan, holding his wounds close, said he needed to go in and fulfill a prior commitment with his celly. So before he left, Bryan bravely stated that this whole matter was due to wrong facts in their information, and assumptions—the two fuels that flamed the pride within Bill and Steve.
Oh, but the fuel-hungry, fire-monster was not done. Soon after Bryan was secured in his cell, the monster jumped on me like white on rice. For another sixty minutes I received a “Shock-and-Awe” size attack. I had no choice but to dodge and cover.
Holding onto my shattered remains, I quickly visited Bryan’s cell door. I asked him if he would be staying in during tomorrow’s Dayroom time. At first he said no, that he needed to run-off his stress out on the yard. However, as I came a foot closer to his door, Bryan was able to see my wounded spirit and quickly—like the true friend he is—changed his plans and guaranteed me that he would stay in with me.
As I spiritually limped back to my own celly I did not expect what waited for me. Remember that I had asked to move tables due to too many ears listening in? Well, my celly took that very personally, not knowing that I was actually saving him from an ugly—UGLY!—situation.
As the gears of my cell door turned and squealed, I looked at my celly’s face hoping to find some brotherly comfort. What I found was an angry and confused man. Taking the little that he knew about the situation, he used that to fuel his own personal monster against Bryan and me. Catching me caring for my spiritual wounds, I tried my best to smother his fire by explaining the facts, without trying to start gossip. But that only made the situation worse!
At the peak of this small war, my celly put down his firepower and simply shut me out of his sight. Exhausted and stressed I climbed into my bunk and tried to sleep that day away. Eleven and a half hours later, with no sleep, I finally had the opportunity to speak to Bryan.
At Dayroom Bryan and I spoke about the issues and bounced ideas back and forth on how we should properly handle them. Bryan was sick and tired of being sick and tired. His resolve was to excommunicate Bill and Steve and let them drown in their own pride-filled pond. I was suggesting just the opposite: I wanted us to suck it up and forgive them, and simply move on with God’s work. We both had good reasons for our ideas, but we didn’t have the time to come to an agreement.
Days later Bryan and I found ourselves meeting with our Chaplain. We explained—in no detail—our problem and asked for pastoral counsel. The Chaplain stated that we had to forgive and forget. The next day Bryan had the opportunity to do just that. I, on the other hand, could not find the time to do likewise. Being a bit busy and living on the opposite side of the building, I had found it very hard to bump in to Steve and Bill. My part went undone.
Days passed and the Christmas Banquet had arrived. After a great, smooth-running, and glorious event, Bryan and I were feeling the weight slowly come off our shoulders (since we bore the success of this event on our shoulders.) As I became consumed in organizing the return of the men to their cells, I failed to notice that behind the backdrop of a smooth, calm shoreline, Bryan was busy trying to stay afloat in a rip current powered by Bill. With no time to spare, I needed Bryan and Bill to help the cleaning crew out, so I asked them to join me.
Forty-five minutes later, as Bryan, Bill, and I walked back to our housing block, the rip current started its deadly pull again. At first I was only being affected by the movement of the flow. However, Bryan was kicking and waving (spiritually,) trying to escape the trap that was set before him. Seconds before we would depart our separate ways, the rip current grabbed the bottom of my heel and sucked me right in. Bill had thrown me a hook and bait, and I bit on it so hard that it punctured me deeply, ripping every strand of humility that I had.
For the next week, I purposely gave the cold—and rude—shoulder to Bill. I would not speak, touch, or be in the same room with him. I now was the one telling Bryan that we should leave them to drown in their own pride-filled pond. And in turn, Bryan was the one telling me that forgiveness and forgetting was the only way to “love”.
LOVE! What did love have to do with all this? “Love” had been coming out of Bryan’s mouth for a couple of days. He would tell me how he had been working on a sermon based on I John 4:10 and how God was opening his eyes to the true meaning of “love”.
Blah, blah, blah; that is all I heard. Love this, love that…blah, blah. I did not want to hear about his newfound wisdom. No! I wanted war. I wanted revenge. I wanted to win! Little did I know that God was using Bryan to show him and me how a Father spanks His children.
It was Friday and I found myself listening to Bryan’s sermon. The Holy Spirit took hold of those words and spiritually bent me over His knees and spanked my spiritual behind. Every word of “love” that came from Bryan’s mouth was like another solid swat on my behind. As my pride slowly decreased, the guilt quickly increased. As a loving brother and friend, Bryan had tried to warn me that his sermon would be one God wanted me to hear. He tried to prepare me for it…now I see why.
As Bryan closed his sermon and I approached the pulpit to conclude the service, I had to confess to the congregation and ask for forgiveness and prayer. As one of the leaders in the Chapel, I had been acting and behaving like an immature child. Bryan’s sermon—through the guidance of the Holy Spirit—opened my eyes to help me see that I was not being the man and leader God wanted me to be.
Later, I found Bill and surprised him with a. hug and begged for his forgiveness. “Love” sure does help in difficult situations.
“…Love is giving all of yourself to another who doesn’t deserve it, and cannot return it as they currently are. Notice that our verse opens by declaring. This is love; but before it defines its previous statement our love (so called) towards God is disqualified. What this means, gentlemen, is that whatever it is that you are currently doing toward God is not fit to be defined as love. Mind you, that many of us here are putting forth a worthy effort, but when an example must be given; when perfection is paraded; and a model is to be followed; it is God’s love toward us that is presented,” (Taken from Bryan’s sermon on 1 John 4:10, titled, “Learning to Love.”)
Time makes the heart grow fonder. Whether it be days, weeks, or years, time slowly erodes and smoothes over life’s rough edges. It has been a month now since the first pains of our growing church made themselves known; and though the injury has come and gone, I am often reminded of the wound when the climate here goes cold. But I no longer harbor the disgust that I previously felt, and the details that used to eat me up inside seem less and less unpleasant every day. What once irritated is now irrelevant. But can this numbing amnesia be wholly attributed to time?
No, of course not. Brother Adrian has done a wonderful job in vaguely summing up the details of our growth spirt, and I must admit that he portrayed me in a much kinder light than I deserve. But time itself, or the leaving of things alone, did not remedy our pain. For if I would have had my way, then never would we have come to a happy ending. No, not unless Steve and Bill agreed that Adrian and I were right, and they themselves were 100% wrong. And believe me, dear reader, that Israel and Palestine have a greater chance at reaching a permanent peace agreement then the before-mentioned coming to pass. So, if not time, nor an admittance of guilt played a key role in our healing, then to what may we attribute this current resolve?
Love. Far too often I am reminded that you and I know not what to pray for. Sure, the asking of God to give us patience, tolerance, and the ability to love sound like noble requests indeed; i.e. until we grasp God’s methodology in granting these petitions. He teaches us patience by making us wait; tolerance by allowing others to constantly push our buttons; and love through the pain and betrayal of others. “I just want to learn to love” was my request, but never was I prepared for the means which He would use.
I don’t know, perchance I was expecting to get pierced by one of Cupid’s arrows; maybe God just has a pitcher of “love” lying around up there and would be obliged to pour a measure into this vacant heart of mine, or, better yet, I would just wake up one day all lovey-dovey. Well, as I have found out. God’s ideas and mine are worlds apart; and I have learned to love by those that are closest, hurting me the most. I have learned that it’s not always important for those that have done the offending to know and admit their wrongs. What counts is that we—that’s you and I—love even when we don’t want to love anymore. Oh, my dear friends, oftentimes it is the act of loving that hurts the most.
Nobody wins when love loses its way. Steve and Bill, as well as Adrian and I have all been hurt by these events, despite where the blame should be cast. However, I do see the four of us being made all the stronger in the long run. Unfortunately, though the schematics will change, this is a lesson that will be learned over and over again. But he who will love much will get hurt the most.
Until next time, Adrian and I will be learning to love; undoubtedly in the most painful of ways. And, of course, we’ll share these experiences with you…. straight from our cells.
(Hebrews 13:3 NLT)