This Christmas I reflect with Gratitude on:

This Christmas I reflect with gratitude on:

(In no particular order…)

My Grandma

My Grandma has a comforting presence to me, her energy is a Mother’s love. She’s never ceased being amazed by the blessings and wonders each day brings – whether it’s snapping green beans on the back porch for dinner, catching fireflies in summer, gathering in her den enjoying conversation, feeding the ducks at the pond, the red roses in her garden, a tea party, or a “big adventure” to an amusement park or historical spot. In her presence, my heart has always felt safe and engaged in the wonder of the present moment. I and the world – are wonderful just as we are.

My Grandma has a deep love of Christ. I’ve always noticed the rosaries, bibles, crosses, and images of Jesus and Mary when I visit her. She shared her faith in a gentle and natural way with me, bringing me to church with her when I was a little girl, and speaking openly about how God is her strength and comfort and has carried her through life.

However it was never any words or images of Christ or the cross alone that ever meant all that much to me as a child or as I grew. It was always her, her loving presence and how it made me feel, that stood out as a Heaven on Earth. When I saw a cross, an image of Mary, or Jesus – it was always her I thought of. Therefore, despite growing up in the passionately atheist home of my parents (think Christopher Hitchens) and considering myself an atheist since birth, the cross, Jesus, Mary – Christianity has always radiated to me with the beautiful sacredness of love.

Taken at Grandma’s

Dostoevsky

I was 19 or 20 when I first read Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov. The novel highlighted the clear split between my thinking mind and my feeling heart. My heart connected deeply with the character Alyosha, an aspiring monk, and his mentor, an elder monk named Zosima. I was inspired by the beauty of their wise words, steadfast kindness, and the compassionate stance they tried to take towards every person they met. They quickly became my heart’s favorite fictional characters of all time.

However my mind sided with a different character – Alyosha’s logic focused and atheist brother, Ivan. My mind stood in awe and approval of Ivan’s arguments against the goodness of God, his courageous dedication to brutal truths and logic, and his sharp intelligence. My mind viewed Ivan as having the wisdom and the strength to find the harsh path of reality/the truth and to take it. My mind understood Ivan’s philosophy, words, and actions weren’t very beautiful, but the truth is the truth was the philosophy Ivan and my mind endorsed.

However it seems Alyosha’s and Zosima’s philosophy of love struck something deeper inside of me. A decade later when my inner world went pitch black, the memory of the beauty of their faithful love and compassion was one of the few lights I could find in me. The memory was a blinking arrow directing me to the goodness, the beauty, and the power of Christ like love. That light inspired me to pick up Brothers Karamazov again and then pick up the Bible. It was one the the earliest steps I took on this journey back to self.

Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.

Father Zosima (Brothers Karamazov)

“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.” 

Father Zosima (Brothers Karamazov)

My Children

I decided in high school, if not middle school, that I wanted to be a stay at home mom. Being a mother, and being with my children full time their first years, has always felt like a calling to me. So when I had my first child, my son, and I was able to stay at home with him full time I was delighted. It all felt like a dream come true!

And it was a dream, but it was also real life. My first year of motherhood was a colossal adjustment. My son needed a lot of attention, and he knew how to make that need known. The family encouragement and support I had assumed I’d received never showed up. It was just me and my husband and a very fussy baby. That lack of support cut me deeply, and was the start of the painful opening of my eyes to my own childhood. I took great care of my son, but horrible care of myself. I feel shame admitting this, but the truth is resentment towards him started to grow in me. And then a dread I felt in my very soul hit me – as I realized though he could not actually hurt me I could, and likely would, hurt him (I do not mean physically, just emotionally or damaging his understanding of love ,himself, or trust, etc.) And I did not want that to happen! My heart saw the innocence of his little soul and it was a rare time where my mind and heart agreed – there was no doubt that this little baby was more pure and innocent than me.

Thankfully my son, and daughter who was born 2 years later, are the best teachers of love I have ever met. Their authenticity, wonder, innocence, and the endless grace they show me reminded my heart and mind of something I had unknowing lost long ago – the belief in unconditional love. Suddenly unconditional love which was the most good, and beautiful thing, was also a TRUTH. If it was possible, then that meant it was a goal I could strive for. And I wanted to give that so badly to my children. I started learning about and practicing loving unconditionally – and found that is is NOT easy work. Being their mother and growing in this role has been the most terrifying, challenging, and meaningful work I have ever done. It was the very start of this journey back to self.

“I love everything best”

My Son

Fred Rogers

Until I became a parent, I knew almost nothing about Fred Rogers, his philosophy, and his TV show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I discovered Fred Rogers though my son’s favorite PBS show Daniel Tiger. I loved how in Daniel Tiger emotions and relationships were the focus. I loved the shows continual emphasis on all emotions being natural and okay – emotions are not hurtful or bad it is how we express them that can be troublesome. The show focused on teaching kids how to appropriately express their emotions.

This mindset about emotions made perfect sense to me, though I knew that wasn’t the mindset I lived by. My instinct was to label much of the inner emotional world as “silly” or “wrong”. My instinct was invalidating emotions. And because of that I struggled to figure out what my own emotions were deep down and had never learned the skill of appropriately expressing them. So I sat right next to my son learning about emotions through Daniel Tiger.

At some point I learned that Daniel Tiger was based off of Fred Rogers’ philosophy and his show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. So I started watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood too. I found his gentle presence and childlike curiosity and joy for life very moving. He seemed to radiate love and safety to me. He would often look at the camera and say some version of “I like you just the way you are”. This stirred up a great deal of internal resistance in my mind. I would feel frustrated, and I observed my mind instinctually retorting “But then how will they/or I improve?”. Sometimes my frustration would boil over and I would even tell my husband “I don’t really agree with that sort of….unconditional praise” and fumble around as to why that was saying something like “this world and the people in it need serious improvement, sorry but we most definitely are NOT okay as we are, and people need to hear and accept that truth and get to work being better.”

But alongside my inner resistance, I couldn’t help but notice part of me was actually very receptive to his message and felt touched by it. A soft and vulnerable part of me, I wasn’t used to seeing, was being brought to the surface by the very words that frustrated the thinking side of me. Sometimes even tears would well up in my eyes at his words of unconditional love and acceptance. I believed him! I believed that he, this stranger, would love me exactly as I was right then, despite everything I’ve done or will do. He would see me, he would listen to me, and he would LOVE me. That belief in the possibility of unconditional love was a powerful and stabilizing force to me. I aspired to be more like him myself, I wanted others (especially my children) to believe in and feel that beautiful love from me. Which sounds a lot life his message that I was likable just the way I was – inspired me to……”improve”. (I’m teasing my mind here, but I have come to learn the somewhat non instinctual truth that – Love not criticism leads to improvement.)

Fred Rogers singing “It’s You I Like” and saying this after “And that’s true. And you’ll find that the people who love you best, are the one’s you learn the most from. And the more they teach you and the more you learn the better feeling you’ll have about yourself and the world we live in”
Fred Rogers singing “There Are Many Ways To Say I Love You”…Followed by these words “As you grow I trust that you are finding many more ways to show and tell people that you love them. Those are the most important things that you’ll ever ever learn to do. Because loving people and animals and the world we all live in is the most important part of being alive.”

My Husband

This year has been a tough one for our marriage – lots of life changes and inner realizations and very little quality alone time together. At points it has felt like our marriage was a chapter in our lives, and it was quickly coming to a close. So it might be surprising for my husband to see himself on this list, but on reflection he shouldn’t be surprised.

In the second half of this year my inner struggles came more clearly to the surface than they ever have in my life. Waves of every emotion I’ve ever felt came out and it changed on a weekly basis. It was messy. Yet, somehow, he never judged me. He’s tried to be there for me even when I pulled away from him and expressed doubt about our marriage surviving this inner change in me. His focused seemed always on getting me back on solid footing. He reassured me he loved me and wanted to see me happy and healthy no matter what that meant for us. His focus wasn’t on what he had to gain or lose – it was my wellbeing. That is unconditional love, and it’s been a beautiful and inspiring thing to see.

He may not be artful in day to day expressions of love, but when times were tough (which is when love is truly tested) he’s displayed his unconditional love clearly. While others, who I thought loved me and would always be there to catch me, fled or at best stood by with criticism, doubts, frustration, invalidation, and wordy advice he reached out with the strongest arms of love he has to try to catch me. And his effort, simply seeing his effort, did steady me in my fall and guided me to softer spot to land. Unconditional love came from an expected source unexpectedly – I clearly have some reflecting to do.

WordPress Friends

At the beginning of my journey back to self I assumed the major changes happening in me were a uniquely “me” experience. It wasn’t until many months into my journey, maybe closer to a year, that I began to suspect I wasn’t alone in this journey. That what I was experiencing was a human experience – like the experience of falling in love, or the experience of missing someone, or the experience of tasting good food.

That’s when I started this blog. I wanted to document my evolving journey ( a human journey) in my sometimes beautiful, sometimes good, but always true inner world. And in this blog I have done that, but this blog has gifted me so much more than I ever expected. It connected me to you! So many people have reached out to share their own experiences and perspectives and what they’ve learned on their journeys in healing, motherhood, faith, creativity, love, and life. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to everyone who has taken time out of their lives to show kindness to me – an internet stranger. My WordPress friends have given me the beautiful gift of feeling seen, encouraged, relatable, understood, deserving of compassion and loved. This blog created to document my journey back to self has become an essential element in my journey back to self.

I will be forever thankful to each of these people who reminded my heart and mind of the truth and power that is Love. That is God.

I Find Love

I find love to be a complex thing 
Yes, even the love Christ brings 
He says he loves me 
But how could that be  
For most of me is faithfully unkind 
I guess he's simply paid me no mind
He replies what is me is past what is seen
I lie in unmanifestable dream - eternally clean
I've paused more, mined silences, surveyed what's within
I've never seen anything other than darkness and Him 

(December 2021)

Complete Love

Being before complete love
We have no fear
For to love completely
Is to know we are completely loved 
Safe
Secure 
Eternally

And we will turn
And reveal 
All
Before all
And find only...

We have no fear 
For to love completely 
Is to know you are completely loved
Safe 
Secure
Eternally 
You 

(May 2021)

Inspiration:

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19)

Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” Quotes

These quotes are from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov written in 1880. I first read The Brothers Karamazov for a school assignment. I absolutely loved the book. Though I could not clearly see the book’s message, I knew I found it beautiful. It always remained close to my heart; and I believe it was a large part of the light which helped me start this journey back to myself. I will be forever grateful Dostoevsky helped spread and keep alive these beautiful ideas.

“Strive to love your neighbor actively and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbor, then you will believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. This has been tried. This is certain.”

“Active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with the love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone watching. Indeed, it will go as far as the giving even of one’s life, provided it does not take long but is soon over, as on stage, and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and persistence, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science.”

“I believe that you are sincere and good at heart. If you do not attain happiness, always remember that you are on the right road, and try not to leave it. Above all, avoid falsehood, every kind of falsehood, especially falseness to yourself. Watch over your own deceitfulness and look into it every hour, every minute. Avoid being scornful, both to others and to yourself. What seems to you bad within you will grow purer from the very fact of your observing it in yourself. Avoid fear, too, though fear is only the consequence of every sort of falsehood. Never be frightened at your own faint-heartedness in attaining love…..But I predict that just when you see with horror that in spite of all your efforts you are getting farther from your goal instead of nearer to it – at that very moment I predict that you will reach it and behold clearly the miraculous power of the Lord who has been all the time loving and mysteriously guiding you.”

“At some thoughts one stands perplexed – especially at the sight of men’s sin – and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once and for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvelously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.”

“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”

“Life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we won’t see it, if we would, we should have heaven on earth the next day”

“Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”

The Inner Parent

(I wrote this about 2 weeks ago. I have written a few posts I haven’t shared. I am trying to share more freely. I believe it is good practice for me living as my true self.)

During this process of getting back in touch with myself and living the life I want, I started developing an “inner parent”. This was a figure I could seek out in times of high emotion for support. At first it was challenging for me to make this inner parent real enough in my imagination, it wasn’t natural. In trying to flesh out this inner parent I found filling them in with those who have inspired me helpful (for me this was mainly Jesus and the character Alyosha from Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov who was a character modeled after Jesus).

With time and practice my inner parent figure has become more solid and turning to the inner parent in times of high emotion feels more natural. My inner parent is kind, compassionate, gentle, wise, comforting, calm, strong, motivating, supportive and sees the real me and believes in my potential. They love me unconditionally. They believe I have a good and loving heart and good and loving intentions. They look at me with pride.

When I get in high emotions I know to go before this parent. They comfort me. And recently they seem to have taken on a new role. They guide me. I think the inner parent started guiding me because I started asking for their guidance not simply comfort. It’s not something I intentionally started to do with any expectation. It just naturally arose within the moments of high emotions before the inner parent. They seem to speak to me. And their guidance rings as true so deeply in my heart. They give me clarity and peace.

For example, This week I was feeling hurt, unseen, confused, and “useless” after a conversation with my husband. I often feel I bring my full and vulnerable self before others now, and expect that to be helpful to them in some way. Often however I feel the other person doesn’t see me. I feel they aren’t interested in me, and even worse that I bother them. After this difficult conversation I fled inwards, and once I was in a calmer state this is what my inner parent said:

“The gift you bring to the table is not being seen, it is seeing others”.

These words helped me so much. They helped me see more clearly why I felt so hurt. They helped me realize that though I have good intentions, my habitual path is often not the wisest one. They gently reminded me to refocus my energy into opening my eyes to others as opposed to using my energy to try to get others to open their eyes to me. The only person who needs to see the real me is myself, if I have that I have all I need. But if I can not see others or they do not feel seen by me, I have work to do.

After finding comfort and guidance with my inner parent, I approached my husband again. When I listened with open ears I could hear him better. I found he had a wonderful insight for me. He shared that when trying to see others it can be helpful to listen to more than just their words. He said there are many ways to communicate, though I am a verbal person and often express myself and my love through my words, maybe other people’s love is expressed in different ways. This rung as very true to me! I will practice listening to others with more than just my ears.

I wonder about the nature of this inner relationship. Who is the person that flees to the inner parent and who is the inner parent? Why does their presence with me bring such peace, why are their simple words so true and good? I suspect they speak what I already know but do not see.

It does not feel like the inner parent is a part of myself. It feels like they are a separate person within. Yet this whole dynamic strikes me as interesting because I have noticed that I can sometimes find and see the beauty and goodness in the external world, and in other people, yet I can not find or see the beauty and goodness within me. I do not understand why. I suspect the inner parent figure I can find and my inner goodness and beauty I can not find are connected.

“The Ballad of the Judas Tree” by Ruth Etchells

In Hell there grew a Judas Tree
Where Judas hanged and died
Because he could not bear to see
His master crucified
Our Lord descended into Hell
And found his Judas there
For ever hanging on the tree
Grown from his own despair
So Jesus cut his Judas down
And took him in his arms
“It was for this I came” he said
“And not to do you harm
My Father gave me twelve good men
And all of them I kept
Though one betrayed and one denied
Some fled and others slept
In three days’ time I must return
To make the others glad
But first I had to come to Hell
And share the death you had
My tree will grow in place of yours
Its roots lie here as well
There is no final victory
Without this soul from Hell”
So when we all condemned him
As of every traitor worst
Remember that of all his men
Our Lord forgave him first

-Ruth Etchells

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Love Your Enemies” Sermon

November 1957.

The transcript below is from: https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/ I removed parts of the transcript, which I felt weren’t crucial, to make it a slightly shorter read. I find this a beautiful and insightful description of the nature and power of love.

His sermon follows:

So I want to turn your attention to this subject: “Loving Your Enemies.” It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation: the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”

Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.

Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.

Now first let us deal with this question, which is the practical question: How do you go about loving your enemies? I think the first thing is this: In order to love your enemies, you must begin by analyzing self. And I’m sure that seems strange to you, that I start out telling you this morning that you love your enemies by beginning with a look at self. It seems to me that that is the first and foremost way to come to an adequate discovery to the how of this situation. Now, I’m aware of the fact that some people will not like you, not because of something you have done to them, but they just won’t like you. I’m quite aware of that. Some people aren’t going to like the way you walk; some people aren’t going to like the way you talk. Some people aren’t going to like you because you can do your job better than they can do theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because other people like you, and because you’re popular, and because you’re well-liked, they aren’t going to like you. Some people aren’t going to like you because your hair is a little shorter than theirs or your hair is a little longer than theirs. Some people aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little brighter than theirs; and others aren’t going to like you because your skin is a little darker than theirs. So that some people aren’t going to like you. They’re going to dislike you, not because of something that you’ve done to them, but because of various jealous reactions and other reactions that are so prevalent in human nature.

But after looking at these things and admitting these things, we must face the fact that an individual might dislike us because of something that we’ve done deep down in the past, some personality attribute that we possess, something that we’ve done deep down in the past and we’ve forgotten about it; but it was that something that aroused the hate response within the individual. That is why I say, begin with yourself. There might be something within you that arouses the tragic hate response in the other individual.

……….. King discusses political systems and how self analysis is helpful there too.

And this is what Jesus means when he said: “How is it that you can see the mote in your brother’s eye and not see the beam in your own eye?” Or to put it in Moffatt’s translation: “How is it that you see the splinter in your brother’s eye and fail to see the plank in your own eye?” And this is one of the tragedies of human nature. So we begin to love our enemies and love those persons that hate us whether in collective life or individual life by looking at ourselves.

A second thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and every time you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points. I’ve said to you on many occasions that each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality. We’re split up and divided against ourselves. And there is something of a civil war going on within all of our lives. There is a recalcitrant South of our soul revolting against the North of our soul. And there is this continual struggle within the very structure of every individual life. There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Ovid, the Latin poet, “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.” There is something within all of us that causes us to cry out with Plato that the human personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions. There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Goethe, “There is enough stuff in me to make both a gentleman and a rogue.” There is something within each of us that causes us to cry out with Apostle Paul: “I see and approve the better things of life, but the evil things I do.”

So somehow the “isness” of our present nature is out of harmony with the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts us. And this simply means this: That within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him in spite of. No matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never slough off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.

Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.

………………. King discusses the Greek language’s 3 types of Love (Eros, Philia, and Agape)

The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape, and agape is more than eros. Agape is more than philia. Agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.

And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, “Love your enemy.” And it’s significant that he does not say, “Like your enemy.” Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.” This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.

Now for the few moments left, let us move from the practical how to the theoretical why. It’s not only necessary to know how to go about loving your enemies, but also to go down into the question of why we should love our enemies. I think the first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.

I think I mentioned before that sometime ago my brother and I were driving one evening to Chattanooga, Tennessee, from Atlanta. He was driving the car. And for some reason the drivers were very discourteous that night. They didn’t dim their lights; hardly any driver that passed by dimmed his lights. And I remember very vividly, my brother A. D. looked over and in a tone of anger said: “I know what I’m going to do. The next car that comes along here and refuses to dim the lights, I’m going to fail to dim mine and pour them on in all of their power.” And I looked at him right quick and said: “Oh no, don’t do that. There’d be too much light on this highway, and it will end up in mutual destruction for all. Somebody got to have some sense on this highway.”

Somebody must have sense enough to dim the lights, and that is the trouble, isn’t it? That as all of the civilizations of the world move up the highway of history, so many civilizations, having looked at other civilizations that refused to dim the lights, and they decided to refuse to dim theirs. And Toynbee tells that out of the twenty-two civilizations that have risen up, all but about seven have found themselves in the junkheap of destruction. It is because civilizations fail to have sense enough to dim the lights. And if somebody doesn’t have sense enough to turn on the dim and beautiful and powerful lights of love in this world, the whole of our civilization will be plunged into the abyss of destruction. And we will all end up destroyed because nobody had any sense on the highway of history. Somewhere somebody must have some sense. Men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, toughness begets toughness. And it is all a descending spiral, ultimately ending in destruction for all and everybody. Somebody must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and the chain of evil in the universe. And you do that by love.

There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.

And this is why Jesus says hate, that you want to be integrated with yourself, and the way to be integrated with yourself is be sure that you meet every situation of life with an abounding love. Never hate, because it ends up in tragic, neurotic responses. Psychologists and psychiatrists are telling us today that the more we hate, the more we develop guilt feelings and we begin to subconsciously repress or consciously suppress certain emotions, and they all stack up in our subconscious selves and make for tragic, neurotic responses. And may this not be the neuroses of many individuals as they confront life that that is an element of hate there. And modern psychology is calling on us now to love. But long before modern psychology came into being, the world’s greatest psychologist who walked around the hills of Galilee told us to love. He looked at men and said: “Love your enemies; don’t hate anybody.” It’s not enough for us to hate your friends because—to to love your friends—because when you start hating anybody, it destroys the very center of your creative response to life and the universe; so love everybody. Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. “love your enemies.”

….King gives example of Abraham Lincoln and Stanton.

That’s it. There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.”

And oh this morning, as I think of the fact that our world is in transition now. Our whole world is facing a revolution. Our nation is facing a revolution, our nation. One of the things that concerns me most is that in the midst of the revolution of the world and the midst of the revolution of this nation, that we will discover the meaning of Jesus’ words. History unfortunately leaves some people oppressed and some people oppressors. And there are three ways that individuals who are oppressed can deal with their oppression. One of them is to rise up against their oppressors with physical violence and corroding hatred. But oh this isn’t the way. For the danger and the weakness of this method is its futility. Violence creates many more social problems than it solves. And I’ve said, in so many instances, that as the Negro, in particular, and colored peoples all over the world struggle for freedom, if they succumb to the temptation of using violence in their struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Violence isn’t the way.

Another way is to acquiesce and to give in, to resign yourself to the oppression. Some people do that. They discover the difficulties of the wilderness moving into the promised land, and they would rather go back to the despots of Egypt because it’s difficult to get in the promised land. And so they resign themselves to the fate of oppression; they somehow acquiesce to this thing. But that too isn’t the way because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.

But there is another way. And that is to organize mass non-violent resistance based on the principle of love. It seems to me that this is the only way as our eyes look to the future. As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that.

……Martin Luther King Jr. talks about military leaders realizing that love leads to more followers than force.

And our civilization must discover that. Individuals must discover that as they deal with other individuals. There is a little tree planted on a little hill and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came in this world. But never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history. Oh no, it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.

So this morning, as I look into your eyes, and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you, “I love you. I would rather die than hate you.” And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

I don’t have anything to add to those powerful words. I will share some of my thoughts and feelings when I first stumbled upon this sermon on Youtube. I was deeply moved. I hadn’t often (if ever) heard such a strong faith in and reasoned argument for the ultimate power of love. My whole self seemed to be in agreement that this sermon’s message was beautiful and the good. “Yes this path of radical love is beautiful and good. I love this!”. Yet similar to when I watched the Grace vs. Nature section from Tree of Life (I shared in past post), something inside of me rose up quickly to deny that I (or any human) could ever truly love their enemy. It was as if first there was a “Yes, yes, this is the Truth, the answer!” but quickly this more cynical voice arose and said “Sure, but how?” or “This isn’t possible” or became aggressive towards myself “You don’t/couldn’t live like this!” or maybe even doubted the speaker “I bet he doesn’t really feel/live like this.”.

When I first encountered this sermon I had begun my journey/struggle back to myself, so the cynical voice inside me didn’t capture as much of my attention. It had always kept me from diving into the truth of the philosophy of love, but it didn’t seem to have that strength anymore. This sermon hit hard, that cynical voice was still there but the voice saying “Yes, yes, this is the Truth, the answer” was louder now and was able to outlive the cynical one. I was left seeing that I was not currently aware of a feeling of “loving my enemy” but that I wanted that feeling. I believed it was possible. I felt Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus had both discovered and lived, to a large extent, in the state of that radical love for all. I wondered what would it take for me to experience the love for all they had experienced and to live more in that state? But I had doubts, I worried that maybe it wasn’t possible for the average person to truly love their enemy or maybe it just wasn’t possible for someone like me. These worries gave me a sense of hopelessness and guilt. But another notion rose up around these feelings of worry and guilt, and it wondered “Was the hope and striving towards loving all, even if I was never able to experience it or live in it, in itself beautiful and good?”.

I knew I wanted to hear everything I could about this philosophy of love. I searched for more Martin Luther King Jr. sermon’s. I found his sermon “Unfulfilled Dreams” which helped me find my answer to whether my hope and striving towards love of all was enough or whether I must reach this goal of love of all. In his sermon “Unfulfilled Dreams” Martin Luther King Jr. says

“And then we come to that passage over in the eighth chapter of First Kings, which reads, “And it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the Lord God of Israel. And the Lord said unto David my father, ‘Whereas it was in thine heart to build an house unto my name, thou didst well that it was within thine heart.’” And that’s really what I want to talk about this morning: it is well that it was within thine heart. As if to say, “David, you will not be able to finish the temple. You will not be able to build it. But I just want to bless you, because it was within thine heart. Your dream will not be fulfilled. The majestic hopes that guided your days will not be carried out in terms of an actual temple coming into being that you were able to build. But I bless you, David, because it was within thine heart. You had the desire to do it; you had the intention to do it; you tried to do it; you started to do it. And I bless you for having the desire and the intention in your heart. It is well that it was within thine heart.”

These words from Martin Luther King Jr. allowed me to understand and accept that my hope and striving for love of all (even my enemies) was good and beautiful in itself, even if the goal was never realized/lived.

This peace with where I was at, not yet aware of “loving my enemy” but striving for that state of love, was powerful. It freed me from guilt, which allowed me to drop some of my old defenses. Rather quickly, with those ego self defenses down, I was able to see there was no hate for “my enemy” in my heart. I didn’t see love. But recognizing there was no hate was a powerful early step in this journey to reconnect to myself/my child self/my real self, that self that lives in a state of love for all and everything.

The Way of Grace and The Way of Nature

I saw Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life a couple of years ago. It spoke to me. But I didn’t understand how it related to real life, I felt something powerful was being expressed, something good and beautiful. But what truth did it have in it? I wasn’t sure.

In the midst of this journey/ growth/changing/returning to being comfortable with who I am, I searched for clips from the Tree of Life. There was a pull back to it since it had spoken to “I am” years before. I felt overwhelmed by this clip. It brought tears to my eyes. It was good, beautiful, and I felt a new sense of faith in it being TRUE. A new element of the experience was added. This increase in the truth experience, seemed to increase the sense of beauty and goodness too.

As time has passed, and I watch in now, the faith in the truth of it have increased to a recognition of sorts a “Yes, that describes it well”, a certainty. Parts of the clip (in particular the line “when all the world is shining around it, when love is smiling through all things” and her sense of faith and maybe even surrender in the line “I will be true to you, whatever comes”) which felt powerful to me a short time ago, where I guess a wish/remembering in my heart pulled me to a faith in that experience being possible/true, I now understand in a more experiential way. I want to rewatch this movie.