Our dog Dasher is a rescue dog. We picked him up from a local shelter when he was approximately 1 ½ years old, having spent several of those months in the shelter. For the last five years, he has been a loved member of our family, quick to offer his affection to any who would stand still for the briefest moment. As a member of our family, we know what his last five years have been like. However, we have no way of knowing what that first part of his life entailed – was he loved, was he treated well, were there traumatic experiences that shaped him?
What we do know about his earliest days is that something happened to him to cause him to greatly fear thunderstorms. When the rains begin, he starts seeking comfort, whether that means jumping into someone’s lap or seeking to create a tiny and enclosed space where he can hide or frantically going between those options. Because we cannot fully communicate, he can’t tell us exactly what he is feeling, why he is feeling it, and what he would like us to do about it. We simply know that he is scared, and that sometimes in his panic, he disrupts our lives, knocks over or scratches stuff, and even occasionally scratches one of us. Throughout it all, we remind ourselves of two things: 1) he doesn’t want to be afraid; and 2) we love him.
My wife was 23 years old when I met her, and I was 25. Each of us had more than two decades of life experiences prior to meeting each other, experiences that continue to shape who we are to this day. Some of the rougher, less desirable parts of our personalities are the direct result of those experiences in our formative years. Occasionally, those rough parts rear up, causing pain and confusion. However, because we can and do communicate fully, we can talk about those moments, what we were feeling, why we were feeling them, and figure out what we should do about them. Throughout it all, we remind ourselves of two things: 1) neither of us wanted to be afraid (or angry, our jealous, or worried, or …….); and 2) we love each other.
In one instance, we can love even as we fully understand each other. In the other instance, we love even when we can’t fully understand each other. Fortunately, fully understanding someone isn’t a requirement for loving them. This isn’t to say that loving someone should lead us to try to understand them more completely. Rather, it is to say that when we cannot understand, grace and humility should lead the way.
It seems sometimes like the entire nation is angry, or afraid, or jealous, or worried, or any number of other emotions that then manifests in behavior that we may not fully understand. While it is good for us to try to figure out why we are feeling this way so that we can better understand and seek relief where possible, our lack of understanding shouldn’t stand in the way of seeking to improve the situation. People don’t want to be angry. People don’t want to be afraid. Understanding that simple point is a great place to start. Of course, loving each other as Christ exhorts us helps us as well. With those two simple points, we create an environment that promotes healing and promotes reconciliation. It sure seems to me that we could benefit from that today.
Peace and blessings – Pastor Aaron