Journey Toward Nonviolence 2: Learning the Limits of Our Love

I was sitting on the plane flying home from Philadelphia in January when I read these words by Mary Lou Williams: “The secret of life is to love everyone.” 

This is so simple and true, isn’t it? We say our faith is about loving God and loving others. We believe love compelled the God of the universe to meet us here in human skin. And I’ve been noticing that the more I grow in my capacity to love, the more I see new life birthed into every moment that love fills.

Love heals. It changes us. It unites. It offers hope. Love really is the secret of life.

But I’m not perfect at it. No one is. 

When I don’t love people, it’s because I’m trying to preserve and promote my own self. When I’m perplexed about how to love someone, it’s usually because I don’t trust God with them and with the outcome.

— 18 January 2009, My Year with Gandhi Journal

I can clearly recall moments when I haven’t loved well. When I’ve been irritated at the first person in line at the grocery store because they couldn’t remember their PIN number and kept on holding up the line. When someone I cared about was tired but I bulldozed into a conversation anyway because I had something I wanted to share. These are moments of caring more about myself and my own needs than about the other person.

Then there are times I’m not sure what it looks like to love someone well. It could be an estranged relationship. Or someone shut down toward the faith. I find that I don’t always know how to move toward these people in my life. This is because I’m mentally managing the situation too much, not yet trusting them or the outcome entirely into God’s hands, not yet loving them with a pure heart and zero agenda.

Love is the catalyzing force of the universe. And when we live inside this posture of love, everything else comes alive. But we’re continually bumping up against our learning curves.

What about you: What keeps you from loving well?