I can spend two whole days in silence with God and still want to scream at my children the next day during school when they throw a tantrum over practicing the piano.
Loving others is hard.
This second greatest command is easy to say, yet ridiculously difficult to do.
It always seems to me that it should be easier than it is.
To be sure, loving a stranger might be difficult, giving of yourself to someone who habitually behaves horribly would be a challenge, but offering love to those dearest to you? It is a task that should be effortless.
It is not. It is a near impossibility to consistently love people day in and day out, no matter how much we adore them.
Why is this so difficult? Why is it so daunting a task to truly love another person?
I think it is because this kind of true other-love involves a death.
It involves a kind of death of our own self as we set aside ourselves, our desires and dreams, for the sake of the other.
No matter how hard we try, we resist this death: we fight back … We seek any convenient excuse to break off and give up the difficult task. ~ Thomas Merton in The Wisdom of the Desert
Just as our physical bodies fight to cling to life, our inner selves also repels any attempt at self-crucifixion.
Our only hope in this fight to obey this most necessary command is in surrender.
We cannot hope to succeed in the battle to die to self without the deliverance of the only One who has laid down his life of his own accord.
What is required as we learn to love is not a greater effort on our part to will our selves into obedience but a laying down of our works and a waiting on God.
We must become like Israel with the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s chariots coming up quickly behind them.
The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.
In the end, being able to love my children, the stranger we invite into our home, even the poorly behaved acquaintance, requires not that I try harder, screwing up my will in an attempt to force myself to behave in a loving way.
Being able to love others requires that I spend more time in silence with God, allowing him to change me into a person who can die to myself.
I must be silent and let God fight this battle for me.
Art credit: The Israelites Crossing the Red Sea by Juan de la Corte