Dear Friend,

Words can never fully express the experience I had last night at Take Back the Night’s coffee house. So many stories shared, emotions felt, and most wonderfully of all, so many people in support of each other. We all have stories. Stories of hope, despair, pain and joy, of times where we felt alone and separated from God, but also those moments where we could feel God’s love through the people around us.  This idea of having a story is so central and unifying to our lives as a Christian community. God is love and this love empowers us to love others.  I know that for me, having people who are willing to listen to MY story has been a vital part of my relationship with Christ.

It is amazing to me how God is able to interconnect relationships, they aren’t separated between Earth-Driven and Spirit-Inspired, they are both! My relationships with those around me are a part of my relationship with God and my relationship with Christ affects my relationship with those around me. I can’t love one and not the other, I have to love both. It is this cycle of love that keeps me inspired and motivated in trying to love people because I know that by loving those around me, no matter how hard it can be sometimes, I am also working on my relationship with God. It is, in many ways, my favorite spiritual discipline.

Lately, however, I’ve been struggling with this. Some times, some people irritate me more than usual for various reasons and I struggle to remain loving. This struggle is something we all have in common, the struggle to act beyond our anger. Anger is overwhelming. It consumes us and many times, in our anger, we forget to look at the other persons side of the story. Or, when we look at the other persons side, we use our bias to disprove their reasoning. At this point, our anger has become debilitating. It no longer matters who is right or wrong (if such distinctions can even be made) because knowing the answer won’t, in and of itself, solve the problem. In fact, at that point, determining that someone is right, and someone is wrong will most likely only make the problem worse. I know that once I reach this point what I usually need is to have an honest discussion with the other person about what I am feeling and why. This discussion isn’t about solving anything, but more about understanding where the other person is coming from and being able to explain your rational to them. After all they may not understand the true extent, or reasoning behind your frustration and you can’t work with each other to solve the problem if there is misunderstanding about what the problem even is.

This process, however, is not where I even meant to go with this rant, I was actually hoping to end up at this quote by Alice Miller that has been resonating with me. She says “If it’s very painful for you to criticize your friends- you’re safe in doing it. But if you take the slightest pleasure in it, that’s the time to hold your tongue.” What is so amazing about this quote is the irony that accompanied my finding of this. You see, in pure anger and frustration with a situation I went to one of my favorite sources for quotes ( wisdomquotes.com) and went to the friendship category to find a quote that showed just how “un-friend-like” I thought my friend was being and what did I find? a rebuke… yup it’s the third quote down (you can even check that.) I felt like an idiot to say the least, but it’s nice to know God places warnings in the places I go looking for trouble.

So I guess what I’m trying to get across midst the endless rambling I’ve just led you through is that God is awesome, he loves us, wants us to love others, and is there to help us when we forget about the loving others part, we just have to be willing to open our eyes.

Lots of Love, Mandi Jo