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When I was brushing my teeth this morning, just like every other day, all of a sudden I had this life changing thought. The kind of thought that doesn’t make any tangible thing different, but changes how I perceive the things that are happening.
I’m kind of embarrassed to even write about it because I honestly don’t know how it took me this long to figure it out. Let’s see if I can make sense of it.
I learned a long time ago about unconditional love, loving someone without expecting anything in return. It is unselfish, purely for the other. A mother’s love is probably the best example of this – the way she gets up in the middle of the night to breastfeed the baby, never asking anything in return. That seems easy to understand. Doing things for your significant other out of love for them and not to try to get them to do something back for you. My ex-boyfriend told me that it felt like I gave him more than he was able to give me. I didn’t see it that way. I was doing things out of love for him because I could see how busy and overwhelmed he was with life. I wasn’t expecting anything in return.
Then there is service for people I’m not close with or do not even know. This is like serving at a soup kitchen or for me, moving to another country as a volunteer for a year and a half. I do this/did this, never expecting something in return from these people. It seemed free on my part.
But do you know what I realized this morning – I did these things expecting something in return from God. I saw it as a transaction. “Okay, God. I’ll get up super early on a Saturday to serve at the Catholic Worker. Maybe you’ll repay me with something that is on my life wish list.”
Whoa, humbling realization.
All these acts of service have had a string attached. They were conditional. What a juvenile way of looking at God’s love and workings in my life.
I know this is really weird to write in third person to myself, but I guess these are the little conversations I have with God.
“Erica, you’ve been missing it all along. I do give you something in return, but it doesn’t come AFTER as a payment. The gift is in the exact moment that you are doing it. It is a moment where you are free from yourself, you are not turned inward, or selfish. In these moments of service, you get to experience love, you get to be for another. You get to grow, open your heart. If you do these things only waiting for whatever present I’ll give you in the future, you entirely miss out on what is there for you to take.”
I had stayed up last night working on some videos for a women’s retreat. I was pretty grumpy about having to go sit at church for a run through all day. And I said to God, hey, I hope I get something for doing this awful thing. And I heard “you better pay attention today because the gift is actually in being there for other people and doing something for someone other than yourself.”
When I got back from Brazil, nothing really worked out as I had planned. I thought I would find a husband, a good job, be happy. So I got pretty upset with God. Over time I realized that I was wrong in looking at it that way and I’ve been able to trust in God’s timing. But today, almost 4 years since I got back from Brazil, I realized that He DID give me something!!!! He did! I just missed it because I was too busy thinking about the future. He gave me so many beautiful friends, a sense of purpose, immense love, thousands of lessons and growth. It just happened in the moment.
I hand painted 100 of these little cards before I left Brazil to give to my friends. Maybe just now I’m understanding it fully. It says, “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, “you owe me.” Look what happens with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky.” – Hafiz
God’s love is not transactional. I do not pay and he gives me something in return. Father Richard Rohr says that Christianity has become too transactional instead of transformational (read it here). God’s love is always there. God’s abundance is always there. I just have to have enough awareness to open my heart to it in all the things that I do. Rather than acting like a child who thinks she’ll get a piece of candy if she does something nice for someone else.
I’m dying to know your thoughts on this/experience with this.
And a side note. Did you see that we have a few new print in the shop?! Grab them here.