Some days, many days actually, I think about how many people I will love when I get my life together. I can go and love the whole world for Christ, and I will go to all the places and share the love of Christ, and I will do as I am called to do and love the world, and every person in it. (When I use the term love in the post, I mean active love. The kind that works to make things better for the person receiving it. The kind that prays. The kind that is more than an emotion, it’s an action.)
Then many other days I think about how many people I cannot stand and do not want to be around and do not want to love and I think maybe my true calling is to be an emotionally distant hermit who also happens to be a successful nurse practitioner as a way to make a living, totally separate from the idea of wanting to actually help people anywhere. I can retire early, live on an island, own all the cats I want (so many cats), and have a house that no one could find me in due to the large size of it.
There isn’t really a middle ground with me. I either want to be the hero and love everyone and help everyone, or I want to be the uninvolved skeptic who ignores the world.
Yesterday I was driving with two of my favorite people, and a song title caught my attention. It was totally cheesy, but I realized that instead of overwhelming myself with plans of grand ways that I am going to love everyone, I should start loving one person at a time.
If all I can do with my day is get out of my room and love one person, even just one person, then I should do it. I don’t have to choose to either love everyone or no one. I don’t have to heal the whole world or leave the whole world hurting. In fact, I can’t heal the world. I can help, but I am not the Healer or the Savior. I can temporarily touch some, but I cannot eternally save any.
I am called to love specifically. I am called to love my enemies. I am called to love my neighbor. So that is what I will start doing.
Instead of desperately trying to be perfect and omnipresent in my love and falling so short of that it doesn’t help anybody, I need to be reasonably present and love in the moment. I need to love the people that I can while I still can.
Instead of living in my dreams of changing the world by actively loving masses of people I have never met yet, I need to start living in the present reality of loving people all around me. Those who are easy to love and those who are hard to love. I need to start praying for them, choosing them, working for them.
Perhaps one day I will live out the dream of making life better for people around the world. But how will I be able to do that if I can’t even practice that with a few people now?
When I start to focus on future ways I will love people I start to forget to love people now. It’s not a good arrangement for anyone. I end up treating people as less than they deserve, or in ways that I would not want to be treated. I become more impatient, I become more hateful towards the people that irritate me. It’s funny, because I get so caught up in the noble future I want to have where I sacrifice for the people I love and I learn how to help them that I end up doing a terrible job practicing that right now.
Don’t misunderstand me- it’s a good thing to plan for the future! It’s a good thing to find a career that you are excited about, or to find a place where you fit, and then to work for it. But just don’t make my mistake and forget to love people and life now too. People around you need your love as much as people you hope to help someday.
I can’t wait to be a nurse and to make a difference in the lives of families where quality healthcare is not as readily available. There are many ways that I can’t wait to help people. But while I academically prepare for that, I need to love now too.
My goal for now is to wake up and love my family and my coworkers and my friends. It is to love the people at school who drive me crazy, to love the former friends who hurt me, to love the customer who treats me like I’m stupid, or the man who cuts me off on the road and almost hits me. To love them individually, one at a time, giving grace to each one in the present moment. Because extending grace is one of the ways that love is lived out.
Thanks for reading!