It's been four months since I've last written in this, good gravy! Over the summer, I went through a trial that consumed pretty much all my energy, reshaped my "outlook on life" (whatever that means), nearly destroyed and then wholly strengthened my faith, and influenced my writing style more than I can express. I'm writing a book about it right now -- not a novel, but a theological book (despite my distaste for the general concept of theological books). It's a huge project, and an even huger topic. You can ask me about it, if you want, but it's too much for me to try to write about in this post.
All this to say, that's why I haven't been writing in DW.
In part, what happened to me -- or rather, what I brought upon myself -- this summer has to do with Love -- how it works, how it is reconciled with the existence of Hell, and if anger has a place in Love. Last night, I learned something about Love, and I want to share it with you.
On Thursday nights, I am part of a Bible study with other college kids from my church. Every week, there's a different speaker.
In the past, I've heard two speakers that remind me a lot of each other, as far as appearance and speaking styles go. I'll call them Ron and John, because, you know, rhyming.
Anyways, "Ron" and "John" look almost exactly alike (at least, I think so). Their voices also sound the same, and they're both really animated speakers. Thus, I get the two mixed up. Ron is a great guy, but he and I have never really connected. Don't get me wrong, I respect him, but he hasn't really gone out of his way to get to know me. John, on the other hand, invests in my life. Whenever he sees me, he hugs me and wants to know about my life. He's the type of person who isn't afraid to say "I love you," and it isn't weird.
In short, I'm sure Ron cares about me to some extent, but he doesn't really show it, while John makes a point to make sure we know he loves us.
When I got to the Bible study and I saw the topic, I was like, "Meh, why does this really matter?" It was a theological concept that I'd never really found value in picking apart and understanding. I sat down, and the speaker -- who I thought was Ron -- started talking. I tried to listen, but I kept thinking, "Sure, but why does this even matter?"
Throughout the course of the talk, I figured out that it was actually John who was speaking, not Ron. The instant I realized it was John, the topic suddenly mattered. My thought process was, "I have so much respect and love for John as a person, so if he says this is important, then maybe it really is!" I instantly was more attuned to the topic, and I started caring about it. Why? Because it was John speaking, and if he believes the topic matters, then -- because of my great respect and love for him -- it probably does matter.
On the drive back home, it hit me. Why did I listen more to John than to Ron? Because I respect and love him more (forgive me for saying that, but...). And why do I respect and love him more? Because he's shown that he actually cares about my life.
Over the course of my first two semesters of college, and now this third one, I've had to have some really difficult conversations in which I explain why I believe what I believe about certain things. Why don't I party? Why don't I cuss? Why don't I sleep around? Why do I go to church? Why do I stand up for Jesus in class? Things like that. Sometimes, these conversations have been in direct conflict with the lifestyle of the person talking to me. For example, explaining why I'm waiting until marriage before I have sex, when the person I'm talking to doesn't abstain -- obviously, my beliefs are the total opposite of the way she lives her life.
But you know what? When I explain my beliefs, people listen and respect me, and sometimes, what I say even influences their own opinion on the subject at hand. Why is this? Is it because I'm really good at rhetoric? Is it because I've done my research? Is it because I'm eloquent? No, no, and definitely no.
My friend told me, "If _________ corrected me about (a certain aspect of his life), I'd get really angry. But I'd listen to you, because you're nice, and I know you love me."
Because he knows I love him.
So, here's the heart of what I'm trying to say: the likelihood of people paying attention to what you is so much less if you don't invest in the person's life, as opposed to if you actually show love to the people you disagree with. My friends know I'm an extremely conservative Christian. They know I am not okay with so many things they do. And yet, talking about our differences doesn't anger them; it makes them think.
And why is that?
Because they know I love them.
Your preaching, your theology, your rebuke, your beliefs aren't going to mean anything to anyone, if they don't first know how much you care.