I read a new definition for the word agape today. It spoke of a love that does not seek control, thanks or enjoyment- just loves. M.E. said it taught her “not only about forgiveness but about how to hope to give guidance without manipulation.”
This kind of love never excludes. She mentions the weak or old or enemy, but it went so much deeper for me. It was about control. It is easier for me to relinquish controlling those I do not like or spend time with by choice. It is far more difficult to imagine not controlling those dear to me.
I am a control freak by nature. I would make a horrible drug addict because I cannot stand the feeling that I have no control when I am on pain meds. I can only imagine it is like that a million times over to be a drug user or addict. Did you ever think you might find a situation where someone using drugs might be preferable? Well, there it is.
My need for control steps over into every area of my life. I want my kids to have perfect hair and skin or at least not to embarrass me in public… or what I imagine others might think about them and then me. How very selfish. How unloving. I want my husband to act and be a gentleman all the time, the perfect suitor. How very selfish and unloving. I want others to like me, to find me enchanting and funny, smart and witty, passionate and inspiring. How very un-agape of me. In those moments, it is about me. It is not as M.E. described at all. It is a love that seeks control, thanks or enjoyment at every turn and is exactly the opposite of the love that Christ seeks in us.
I cannot control those around me and if I were really honest deep down inside, I don’t want to because then I would know the results are false positives. I don’t want to control my God either, then I know that it is about me and the promise of forgiveness and salvation then rely on my works, my thoughts, my needs as opposed to the work of the Spirit and Christ on the cross.
I would lose so much in that control. I would lose a promise that I glimpse every so often. One that does not ignore my ineptitude or vile selfishness. Instead it is a promise that lives on in spite of these. That gives in spite of these. It forgives my controlling need and leaves a place for me that does not need me to be any of those things I want others to think about me.
As I ponder the lessons of my Pastoral Care class from June, I cannot help but apply them to this concept. As I seek to support, guide or honor those around me, I cannot in any way expect control. In fact, I will more than likely find myself regularly in the deep end with no sense of control whatsoever. It is there, in that murky cold and scary water that I will find myself the most accurate. How I respond then, how I give up the right to control and allow God to move and protect and save will be the life or death of me as a shepherd.
Right now though, it starts at home. With the little things. With the ones I love, but may not agape very well. Today, I learn to live in agape.