“Once in a while, it really hits people that they don’t have to experience life in the way they’ve been told to.” -Alan Knightly
I admit, my life has been easy by some peoples standards. I have never been without food, water, shelter, or an abundance of people who love and care for me.
I say that as a preface because what I want this post to reflect may come off as ungrateful to the people of my past. Trust me, I am not ungrateful. I am thankful beyond words for my life, even the valleys in recent years. They have shown me a great deal and I’m fearful for where I’d be without them.
Looking back, my life before college was extremely black and white. “This is wrong, this is right, that is bad, that is good”, etc. Maybe everyone gets to college and realizes that there is way, WAY more to life than we’ve been told, but I was floored. I expected the party scene, the grabby frat guys, and some odd balls. What I didn’t see coming was my love for all of them.
I showed up, dove into the navigators program (basically a college youth group), and thought continuing who I had been would make me happy. It didn’t. Granted, I was going through a major personal struggle my freshman year, but that aside, I still wasn’t happy. Not even close.
So I quit. I quit navigators. I quit eating. I quit praying. I quit going to class. I quit reading my Bible. I quit trying to keep in touch with friends and family. I was done pretending.
Well you guessed it, none of that made me happy either. In fact, it led me to a very dark place. A place I am still haunted by and sometimes struggle to stay away from. I stopped for a month. An entire month of hardly being able to get out of bed, turning my phone off for days so no one would bother me, and just being silent.
To this day, it still blows my mind how much I grew in that time. I didn’t know it then, but I was changing rapidly. Realizing that maybe what I had been taught was wrong. And that hurt. That is what put me in bed for four long weeks.
Loving people is not about inviting them to church, or youth camp, or giving them a Bible, or sending them to a food pantry. Loving people is about treating them like they are no different than you. Coming to that realization changed me radically. It is what we are ‘taught’ growing up, but is it really? Because what I recall is being rewarded for bringing people into my lifestyle and praised when they converted to be just like ‘us’. Sounds an awful lot like a cult to me…okay that was a little dramatic. But you get my point?!
Why is it so hard to love people for who they are? I have gay and lesbian friends that I love so dearly I could call them family. I have friends who drink to excess four out of the seven days of the week and I love them! I love my friends that sometime sleep with three different guys in a weekend.
On a less extreme (and slightly laughable) note, I overheard a sermon on TV last weekend talking about girls with several earrings in one ear and how “they don’t realize they don’t have to live like that.” Oh my WORD. I could’ve just grabbed him by the shoulders and shaken him. Do you not realize the majority of people didn’t grow up in a family with two parents who loved each other and a white picket fence in the suburbs and went to church twice a week and took mission trips and shit?! People have struggles! Whew I am fired up.
I am still unsure where my faith fits into all of this, however I do know the Bible is very clear about loving people. It hurts me to think of all the people being taught the same things I was. We are no different. I could point out what some would call ‘serious’ struggles in dozens of church members I grew up with. How is struggling inside the church walls ignored but outside it will send you straight to hell unless you repent? Hypocrisy is the word you’re looking for there by the way, you’re welcome.
Well I think I have successfully ranted my way into losing followers, so with this I leave you: love because the world is not black and white, it is saturated with color. It is beautiful.
Peace and love, Leah