Relearning Love

Last weekend I took my kids to visit my parents for a few days. My dad wanted me to go to town with him and I almost declined because he still wears a N-95 mask into public places and it felt wrong if I didn’t use the same standard when I was going back to their house. I ended up wearing a mask to be with him, and in the 20 minute visit to Walmart, God reminded me of a lot.

I was reminded of growing up with a family member who had OCD. It wasn’t fun to conform to the standards of someone who suffered from anxiety and need to control their environment, especially when it meant controlling those around them. And yet, during the pandemic, that is what governments did to the masses. People were so infused with fear and anxiety that they were controlled by it. On top of that, there was fear of judgement. Putting on that little mask, I felt suffocated by the very real lack of oxygen, but also by the loss of freedom and of identity. During the pandemic we watched cities burn by rioters who were emboldened by a sense of anonymity~No one sees me. No one knows me. We saw suicide go through the roof~No one sees me. No one cares. We watched people lose motivation to go out to church, work, school, or town. Does anyone remember me? E-commerce made it easier to do everything from home.

For many, the sense that something bad may happen has lingered.

Even though most people have removed their outer mask, many emotional masks have remained in place… no one knows how they really feel, or even why, for that matter. I’ve been praying for understanding about some of my kiddos. Somewhere along the line they adopted this attitude of not liking eye contact or physical touch, and I have been racking my brains to figure out why. They didn’t used to be that way. We are in a ministry of serving others. Where did I go wrong? And then I realized. Instead of going everywhere together, as we always had, the pandemic meant I had to leave them at home for hours at a time (the oldest watching the youngest) while I shopped in places that frowned on children, gave me hostile looks for shopping to feed a family of 11, disinfected everything we touched, put up signs to direct traffic in stores, told us not to get near anyone, and made everyone wear masks. For three years my teens had to go into orthodontist appointments while parents were asked to wait in the car. Toddler screamed and tore at masks because she couldn’t see faces. Kids disconnected because they didn’t know who was okay with them saying hi and giving hugs and which loved ones were afraid of being touched. They felt rejected because even some family were afraid of being around them. They didn’t want to go where they had to hide their faces, where other people’s eyes looked bored, distracted, or hurried.

No eye contact. No physical touch. Why did I not see it before? On some level, they are still hurting and have put up walls.

Could I have done anything different? I don’t know. I can make them aware. When I brought it up, they said, “It makes sense.” If they think about it, they will understand start making the shift back to… what do you call it?

Connection. Genuine, unconditional love. Agape. Jesus said the world will know you are my disciples by your love. The Pandemic was the antithesis of “Go into all the world.” Instead, we were conditioned to hide from the world. We have been trained to show favoritism, but God shows none.

This week I picked up a little book at the thrift store, entitled “How to Make People Really Feel Loved… And Other Life-Giving Observations” by Charlie W. Shed (1996). It is a collection of short readings. I decided to add it to our family Bible reading each morning. I think we all need it. The very first story was about a man who said he was not well educated, but he made up for it by making others feel special.

“”It’s not easy,” he warned, “because you’ve got to break the habit of thinking of yourself first. But if you can turn your mind in this direction, you will discover there really is something special in every person. And the more you practice looking for the good in others, the more you will see it quick.”

Then he concluded his discourse with this gem:

“The secret is to find the good things and to give them back. I mean out loud, sincere, and very strong. If you will do this and keep on till it comes easy, then another beautiful thing happens. One day you’ll begin to really love people like the Bible says you should.””

Instead of expecting to begin seeing the good in others because you love the way you should, let God show you the good in others and love can begin to flow out of that. Hmmm. There’s a gem.

Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16:14

Photo credit to my daughter, Rebecca Masurka.

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