“Be_________ so that you can be loveable.” We send this message to our children, our neighbors, the people we hire, our spouses, etc. Be a certain way so that I can love you, employ you, marry you, etc. That’s the criteria we use to make decisions. I will choose it if it conforms to what I like – whether it’s a dress, a neighborhood, a political party, a cookie, a friend. That’s not an unreasonable way to live, but what do I do with the things and people that don’t fit my criteria and expectations? Not seeing any value, we mostly just avoid those things and people, but if we can’t avoid them we usually label them “a problem.”
This is the way the world treats the poor, the disabled, the elderly, the stranger. Because they don’t fit our criteria, and we can’t avoid them, we’ve labeled them A Problem. But what if they are NOT a problem – but our perception of them is. What if they are the very vessels God is using to teach us about supernatural love. Through acceptance and presumed value, we can overcome separation and fear and love others not BECAUSE they are beautiful or special, but with a kind of love that MAKES them beautiful and special – a love that actually creates value.
Here is a beautiful story that helped me reframe my role as a caregiver for someone the world de-values and sees as “a problem.”
“A water bearer had two large vessels, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the vessels had a crack in it, while the other one was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. Each day, at the end of a long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked vessel arrived only half full.The perfect vessel was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked one was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. In its shame, it apologized to the water bearer. ‘Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work and you don’t get full value from your efforts,’ it said.
The bearer said to the vessel, ‘Did you notice that there are flowers only on your side of the path? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path. Every day, while we walk back, you water them and so I have beautiful flowers to decorate our table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.’”
We can love, accept and value others because He first loved, accepted and valued us. (What I believe 1 John 4:19 is saying.)