Love Without Reward

Back in the days when I was a strange, humorless, hyper-sensitive, psychotically shy 8 year old with no friends, my mother offered me this time-worn advice: “if you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend.” Time must have really worn that advice out because in my experience, it’s is mostly a load. I didn’t start making friends until after I aquired the basics of humor from my math teacher’s “Insult a Day” book in 5th grade. If you want a friend being amusing goes a lot further than being kind, reliable and caring. But this idea of a quid-pro-quo between what one puts out into the world and what one can expect to receive back stuck with me. Unfortunately.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

We’re all taught that love is supposed to be selfless. And hopefully as we go along we are able and willing to behave lovingly without regard for reward or benefit to ourselves. But really, it’s only human to expect that eventually, at least some of it will come back around. Preferably this side of the grave. At the very least being a good, loving person ought to win you approval from the people around you, right? And some cash would be reasonable as well. It’s a kind of unconcious expectation that most of us have, I think. Continue reading

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First Sunday of Advent – Waiting

I’ve said before that the events which lead to my husband and my separation last year was so intense and sordid that it would have made a great episode of Dateline Special Edition. If only we had no shame and one of us were a homicidal maniac. But, since we enjoy healthy levels of shame and we didn’t devolve into poisoning one another (not that such a thing was never contemplated), it’s a story which will have to wait ’til the great by and by to be widely disseminated. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t really anything either of us did that pushed us over the edge. Rather, it was the way the response to events unfolded which undid us.

In his book, Passionate Marriage, Dr. David Schnarch says that couples are pretty much always working at about the same emotional level. It’s why they are able to bond to each other. Couples who are a mismatch in terms of emotional depth, maturity and functioning who somehow marry each other nearly always end up with a failed marriage within the first two years. What happened with us, and what I believe happens to many couple facing an intensely traumatic experience, was that as we coped (or didn’t cope) with what was going on, we were jolted into wildly different places emotionally speaking. Instead of being matched and basically moving forward and growing up emotionally in the normal push and pull ways that couples do, we were suddenly completely out-of-sync. And within two years, our marriage was kaput.

Of course, we’re back together now although I can’t begin to say that everything is fixed. Instead, we seem to have stumbled into a way forward which is familiar to any serious Christian: waiting. We’re just waiting. Waiting for the other to work through their issues. Waiting for greater empathy and understanding to form. Waiting for time to take away the sting of the past. Waiting.

Waiting on God and for God is a theme found all throughout scripture. Abram waited. Joseph waited. Moses waited. The psalmists waited. The prophets waited. Jesus waited. The women and the disciples waited. We still wait today through dry times and unanswered prayers and silence that as a psalmist said is like a dark cloud God wears about him. As Christians, these waiting times are frustrating. We know that somehow this waiting is for a reason. Usually. Maybe it’s for our benefit. Or maybe it’s because there’s a problem elsewhere that needs to be worked out. Which is part of the frustration – we don’t really know. Continue reading