I had a dream, under a cloud be-speckled blue sky
that we all joined hands with our nearby neighbors, to the right and to the left, whose opinions, possibly, probably, almost certainly, differ from our own. Me with thee and thee with thou until we reached the end of the lane, the boundaries of the neighborhood, the extent of the town, the limits of the principality, across the borders of countries, over the oceans, lakes and rivers until we encircled the world. We formed a human chain spanning races, nations, cultures, crossing opinion, without distinction ... gradually, incrementally, hardly noticeably; bridging every gap, grip by grip, person by person. No one concerned about contaminating viruses sticky fingers or dirt under the fingernails. So grateful were we for the touch of another human, we gave no thought to where the chain would lead, how or where it would link up with the other side on the other side because there would be no other side. Just the one continuous connection. Incremental effort, tugging us in each others' direction, extended arms encircling Mother Earth. She, who has the final word; Her Pull is the gravitational hug that grounds me, as the strength of connection tugs me toward you on my right and you on my left -- and you toward your neighbor, whose hands you hold for the sake of all life.
If we love with heart, soul and mind, is that enough? What about strength?
The Pharisees tested Jesus asking, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt 22: 36-40)
Heart, soul and mind may be turned to Him, but it takes strength to love your neighbor as yourself. Mental, physical and emotional fortitude are the work of a lifetime and the attention in every day. People are hard to understand, hard to reach and sometimes, very hard to empathize with. But the Lord, insists.
May you be strong enough to face the day, and may the day itself leave you stronger for tomorrow, for the love of yourself, in the service of your neighbor, by the grace of a merciful, all powerful and unimaginably strong God.
I’ve never been much good at pull ups. I find this true with lots of folks, especially women. We don’t have much upper body strength – or at least not enough to hoist our girth all the way up to pull our chins up and over that bar – so we wiggle and wriggle. Stress and strain. Struggling against ourselves and gravity.
We may jump up or have someone lift us, and then we see how long we can hold on. (That was standard for elementary PE for girls when I was young-er :)) This always felt kind of demoralizing – not that I needed a lift but that I just hung there, waiting to lose my grip and give in to the fall.
One solution was the low bar. I could easily pull myself up to that. Not much effort required. I started with arms mostly bent, muscles engaged, and simply finished the job. Somehow, staying there was easier, too, because I knew the ground was right there under me. Not a fall away.
But if your objective was a real pull up performed from the hanging position, the low bar didn’t help you. It didn’t strengthen you. It simply gave you the false impression you were stronger, until the high bar humbled you. That’s the thing about real life. It often pulls the firmament right out from under us and we’re left hanging on for dear life.
God has set us a very high bar. He has commanded us to love Him above all else with our whole selves: heart, strength and mind. But he has commanded one more thing: to love our neighbors as ourselves. The law and the prophets hang from these commandments. (Matthew 22: 34-40)
We hang from that very high bar if we seek to love God that way. We may feel the weight of the law pulling us to earth. But God does not leave us hanging. He gives us a strength training program. The exercise prescription: love your neighbor.
That’s hard work. We leap up and plummet. Leap up again. This time, lowering a bit more gracefully. Leap again and hold, hold, hold it there…as long as we can until our grip slips and we can’t hold on any more. Over and over we grab hold of the high bar and resist the pull of gravity with all our might. Each time we can hold on just a bit longer and resist a bit more. Gradually, we grow stronger.
This leaping and lowering, that’s what loving our neighbors does for us. God insists. It’s the simplest of personal training programs. The home version only requires one piece of equipment. God’s pull up bar, set to its proper height. His command:
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”~ Exodus 20: 3-6
Don’t ever lower that bar. God has plans to love a thousand generations through the love He grows in you. Thus, the second command. The one that has us engaging a personal trainer to give us just enough boost to reach the bar because that requires more strength than we now have. But we will, if we just keep at it.