Learning to Love

Four-Directional Love

In the biblical story, the first task assigned to humans is to love and care for creation. We only care for that which we love. Later, the Law of Moses, the Torah, teaches us to love God, others, and ourselves with all our hearts, souls, bodies, and minds. Jesus famously reiterated those commands, saying that they encompass the totality of what God calls us to do.

Love God. 

Love creation. 

Love others. 

Love self. 

Four-directional love.

I have long struggled with loving myself. I was raised to believe that self-love was selfish and prideful. Pride is seeing myself as more than I am. Depression sees myself as less than I am. Humility sees myself as God sees me. Similarly, others are never all good or all bad. I am learning to see others as God sees them. I’m learning to see nature as God sees nature – beautiful and good. I’m learning to see God as God really is – exactly like Jesus – Perfect unconditional love. 

Based on the work of psychotherapist David Richo (https://davericho.com), I’m beginning to learn how to love deeply. His principles are quite biblical. 

I am learning to come to my time of prayer with God, to the natural world, to others, and to myself with unconditional presence, which includes:

  1. Attention: Being sensitive to the needs and desires of others, nature, God, and myself; to listen deeply. When feelings are listened to respectfully, understood, and empathized with, trust and safety result. I’m learning to listen to God. I’m learning to listen to nature. I’m learning to listen deeply to others. I’m learning to listen to the inner movements of my spirit. I’m starting to learn to not come at people (or God, or nature, or myself) with fear, worry, or defensiveness. 
  2. Acceptance: Receiving God, people, the natural world and myself respectfully – nonjudgmentally accepting them for who they are. I’m learning to offer approval, love unconditionally, and let people know I’m there for them and won’t give up on them. I’m learning to stop trying to make God over into what I want God to be. I’m beginning to learn to drink in the beauty and wonder of nature. I’m learning to offer unconditional acceptance to myself. I’m starting to learn to not come at people (or God, or nature) with the desire get something out of them.
  3. Appreciation: Expressing admiration of and gratitude for God, nature, others, and self – communicating delight in others, acknowledging their potential. I recently read a book by an atheist who said he couldn’t imagine why people believed in an egocentric god who needed everyone to praise him. God doesn’t need me to praise him. God doesn’t need anything. I express love for God in the form of praise and worship out of a heart overflowing with gratitude. I’m starting to learn to not come at people (or God, or nature, or myself) with my own opinions of how things ought to be. 
  4. Affection: Giving appropriate touch, kindliness, considerateness, thoughtfulness, playfulness, romance, nearness, presence, compassion, and empathy to others. I’m learning to be gentle with the natural world and with myself and to express affection for and to God (which feels very right in spite of not being very religious). I’m starting to learn to not come at people (or God, or nature, or myself) with a need to fix, change or regulate. 
  5. Allowing: Offering to others the freedom and flexibility to grow and develop without controlling or manipulating. God calls me to care for the natural world – carbon footprint, air and water pollution, recycling, etc. – not to control nature for my benefit. Others are not in my life for me to supervise. They are there for me to love. The religious leaders who seek to control minds and political parties are off-base. I’m learning to surf the waves of the Holy Spirit. I’m starting to learn to not come at people (or God, or nature, or myself) with denial, projection, fantasy, idealization, depreciation, or wishes that obscure reality.

Dr. Richo’s Five-A’s apply to every aspect of life. 

In my prayer life, I’m learning to listen deeply to God, to be present with God, and love God, rather than trying to get stuff.

In my relationships, I’m starting to learn to accept people as they are and communicate affection for others.

Regarding me (the one I have the hardest time loving), I’m just beginning to learn to see myself as God sees me.

And, as I walk, hike, stand, sit, and gaze at and in the natural world, I’m learning that I am a part of nature – one creature among many God says are good. 

About Dr. Larry Taylor

Radical Anabaptist, Jesus Freak, Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, spiritual director, life coach, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, writer, husband, father, grandfather, dog-sitter

Posted on July 17, 2020, in anabaptist, Bible, Bible Teaching, bodily resurrection, Christianity, creation, Jesus, Justice, Kingdom Life, kingdom of God, parables, Peace Shalom Hesed, Poetry, Prayer, The Cross, Worship. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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