The RUF Summer Bible Study has been going through the book of Ruth. In last Sunday’s discussion, we were talking about how to love other people well.
I do not love other people well at all. I really don’t. The entire evening was basically a slap in the face for me, because it’s something I know I struggle with, but I also tend to pride myself on it. I know I’m bad at loving people well, but it’s something I also seek to be really good at. When I realize that I fail in that area, it hurts. A lot. Because that is the one area that I really, really, really want to be good in. It’s something that I’m constantly striving to be better in. But I realize that I am such a hypocrite. I strive to be something that I can’t possibly be—perfectly loving.
I want to be a counselor. I want to help people. But how can I help people if I can’t even love my friends well?
I pride myself in being nonjudgmental. Yet I judge people all the time.
I strive towards being a good listener, and giving good advice, helping others through their difficult situations. Yet I often find myself talking way too much, and getting more advice than I give.
I try to be friendly towards others—yet my anxiety keeps me from reaching out to new people. I try and try to convince myself that it will be worth it—that I should just go over there and talk to them. But I can’t. I just can’t get myself to walk over to the lonely person in the corner, because why the hell would they want to talk to me?
I count on one hand the people I love decently, and even them I don’t love well. I just love them well enough.
Just like everything else in my life—I do the bare minimum, but not nearly close to what I should be doing.
I really don’t love people well.
We were talking about how Ruth sacrificed everything to follow Naomi—all because she loved her. Naomi loved her daughters in law enough to tell them to turn back, even though it would have made her life so much harder if they had both turned back. Both Ruth and Naomi sacrificed so much for each other.
What have I sacrificed for my friends? What things have I sacrificed for my loved ones?
Ruth loved with an unconditional love. She loved Naomi no matter what she said or did. She loved with a devoted love. She said that “may the Lord do so to me and more if anything but death parts me from you.”(Ruth 1:17)
How many times can I say that I love people with an unconditional love? I often love people only if they do certain things for me. And if they screw up—well goodbye.
I should be so much better than that. I know that I’m not nearly the type of friend I should be.
In Sunday School, we’ve been reading through a workbook on fear and anxiety. The chapter we’re going to be talking about this next Sunday is on the fear of man. AKA me. The chapter was so convicting, because it was just another reminder of how much I am afraid of other people, how much I seek approval from others, and how damaging that is for my friendships. I don’t love others well, because I’m too afraid to. My fear of others controls me.
Well that’s great.
For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been recently very deeply considering trying to go on after college and get a Masters in Counseling, so that I can help people. But how can I help people if I’m so desirous of approval that I can’t even say hello to the new kid in class? I can’t.
But how can I change?
See, the beautiful thing about this book we’ve been reading in Sunday School is, it gives hope. See, the book I’m reading, When I’m Afraid by Ed Welch, talks about how God loved me, even when I was his enemy. He saw me in all of my sin, and still loved me. Welch says that
“God took all the initiative. He loved you while you were an enemy of his. He loves you now not because you are great, but because he is love. Such love is unwavering and secure. The Cross of Jesus—the ultimate evidence of God’s love—establishes it…”
He loves us, not because of what we’ve done, but because he is love personified. Because he loved us, we can know that we have no reason to fear others. Because if the God of the universe loves me, how can I be worried about what other people think of me, and if I have the approval of some random person?
Ed Welch goes on to say that “your goal is to love other people more than you want to be loved by them.” So, when I’m worried about my approval ratings, I want to remember that I should be more worried about how well I’m loving others.
Let’s go back to Ruth for a second.
Ruth’s love was sacrificial, because of her loyalty. She was intensely loyal to Naomi, because she loved her. She was loyal to the point of sacrificing everything, her comfort, her security, her “approval ratings.” Ruth loved with a selfless love. That’s the kind of love I need to have for other people—a selfless, self-sacrificing, loyal love for others. Ruth is #goals. Seriously. Sometimes all you need to realize that you suck is a role model to show you how you should be. That would be Ruth—especially in this area of my life.
So, new goal: strive to be like Ruth. Strive to love others well. Also learn what loving people well is—I have a feeling that self-sacrifice and loyalty isn’t all there is to it.