It’s hard to not equate behavior to love.  I mean we live in a reward based society so naturally we apply that system to everything – including love.

I heard it a lot growing up in the church - around the people of God, the earthly interpretation of God on earth – “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  It’s great in theory, but I didn’t always see it played out.  There was a strange disconnect and huge dichotomy between what I heard and what I saw sometimes.
Smoking and drinking were “wrongs” in the church I grew up in.  So much so was that indoctrination that the first time, as a young kid, I saw someone smoking I knew based solely on their behavior that they were destined for hell.  God’s love could not tolerate those behaviors. Thankfully though, I figured out how wrong, off base and misguided the smoking and drinking or behavior based train of thought was fairly early in life.  God doesn’t see our wrongs, our short comings, but us.  Period.  He loves all the pieces, misguided, mixed up and a bit off parts that make us who we are.  He loves us where we are at that moment.  Right there is motivation and the healing we need to want to be less fragmented.

My favorite uncle on my mom's side lived in a suburb of Chicago when I was a kid.  He was a mix of high intelligence with multiple degrees, wild irreverence and charm, and a love of living life.  He smoked a pipe [to my mother's disdain] and drank alcohol [to her consternation also].

He was a bachelor for a time and when I would stay with him he would give up his bedroom to me and my sisters.  But, his messy ways meant that we would sleep in his unwashed sheets that were covered with dog hair.  There was nothing patterned or orderly in his house or world in comparison to how I was raised.  Because his method of living, approaching life was different, much of his life was considered wrong by the measuring stick I grew up with.  I saw past some of those deep imperfections.  I saw passion, depth, creativity and spark.  I couldn't throw away the good because of the bad I clearly saw in him.

It was that uncle who awakened in me the desire to be fully alive, to experience, to feel, to think, and to express.  He fanned those things from a spark to a fire over the years.  Affirming me through my life with written and verbal words of clarity on who he saw me to be, commissioning me to go and live, creatively giving gifts that were unique and personal.  His influence in my life and world stood in grand contrast to the ways of order, tasks and discipline first.  Even though he was a greatly flawed man who left a swath of pain in his family, there were good things in him.

People’s patterns or methods of operating in life were also things that determined whether love would be allotted.  If it did not make logical sense to some people, the church, the denomination, a community, it had to be wrong and therefore love could not be doled out.  It was as though being tolerant and accepting of things “perceived” to be wrong would be allowing and perpetuating that behavior.

And sin, well sin was a whole other subject matter itself.  There was a system for that too which involved much self-righteous finger wagging over sin’s outward manifestations.  Though so much of our sin is hidden and kept from others which doesn’t make it less than the noticeable or horrific, just hidden.
I saw a man in our church stand and declare his moral failing, his sin of adultery, to the entire church one Sunday morning.  Since I was a kid at the time I don't know whether he simply felt compelled to extrapolate his soul to his brothers and sisters in Christ or if he felt pressure to handle his sin this way from leaders in the church. One seemed like a good thing. The other, seemed wrong and forced. 
I wondered at that young age how many of those sitting in the pews listening to his confession had also sinned or were presently in sin?  What were they doing about confessing and what justified having to say your sins out loud – the perceived bigness of them by others, or by God?
I would some day find out myself what that felt like . . .


  1. Glad you transcended and stepped out of judgmental thinking at such a young age. I like how you did not "throw away the good because of the "bad"" concerning your uncle. Love how you write that that alone was an awakening to be fully alive. Recommend a certain movie - "Old Gringo" with Gregory Peck, Jane Fonda, and Jimmy Smits. I'm not a Christian; have had an extra-marital affair; and don't believe much at all in the Bible or the existence of hell - am "free" of several things from younger days. Nice write - and I hope you don't end up feeling guilty about writing it. Hope you stick to your awakened senses:) MI

  2. MI - not sure we transcend anything totally ever, but becoming aware is a bit part of it.... we are constanding "transcending", "processing".... journeying toward less crap in our heads and hearts. Well, I too have had an affair, but believe in the bible, hell, and the grace of God who created humans who are flawed. I've got no guilt for what I wrote. Should I:) lol! Hope to come to the end of my natural life continuing to be awakened!