I am slow to learn. I suppose this would be hard for anybody to learn, but for me it has been many, many years of God teaching me how to love in this way. In some measure, to love is to see the ugliest parts.
God has been expanding my notion of what it means to love for a long time now. It is not only a touchy feel-y warmth, nor is it only caring enough to speak truth, nor is it only the gift of being fully present. God has been trying to teach me that love is also being willing to see the ugliest parts, to see the sins of omission and commission, to see things unintended, things that have consequences not just for one self, but for others. To see the things that no one wants to see, the complications that seem too overwhelming, sometimes far to disgusting, or just seem plain hopeless. Seeing is not loving, but loving starts with seeing. If I see, then I can ask God to help me to see as he sees.
I am slow to learn because seeing this ugliness is too much for me, much too much. I’d rather be in “la la la” denial, though I know this just spins wheels and helps nobody, especially not me. I’d rather run to a place where I cannot see because to see is to have some measure of knowing, some measure of responsibility to be accountable. I don’t want to be responsible for someone else. I don’t want to be entangled in someone else’s mess, though this is exactly what Jesus did and does for me. I don’t want to face the emotions that result from truly seeing: discouragement, shock, disgust, anger, sometimes hate. There is something truly painful and overwhelming in seeing the ugly—though the seeds of these reactions would still be in me, perhaps more deeply entrenched in me, if I had not seen. My disgust, hate, etc are a part of my own ugliness, that Christ sees in loving me.
To love is to be willing to see things as they are, the worst parts that sometimes are only adequately described with multiple four-letter expletives. But to see these ugly parts is how Christ sees me. To see is the beginning of a true love, an unconditional love of another as I continue to submit my thoughts and feelings to God. To see is the beginning of asking God what he is already doing, how he is already active. The sick are the ones who need a doctor, says Jesus according to Matthew, Luke and Mark and to see the ugliest parts is to see where God the good doctor most wants to work, perhaps where he is most at work. Seeing brings hope to seemingly hopeless places: to see is to witness with another, to say to the other not necessarily with words: You are not alone. I see that too. To see with God’s heart is to say ideally: I see that too, and I love you still. You are not out of the bounds of God’s love, God’s power or activity. God is still working very much in you.
I say “ideally” because I am clearly not yet there. On many days I am not even warm, nor caring enough to speak truth, nor am I fully present, let alone willing to see the ugliest parts. I am slow to learn, but I want to. I want to, so help me God. God, help me. In your grace and mercy, help me.