The Rev. Paul Zahl observes that “sin” in today’s culture is the new “stress”. It isn’t so much that we are fatigued from overwork. We are energized to work long hours without complaint when we are doing something we are interested in and that we feel has value.
Rev. Zahl tells the story of a husband who always needed to take a nap upon arriving at his in-laws. It wasn’t that the man was working so hard, instead he always felt judged by his in-laws and his body’s reaction to the stress was to yawn and feel overwhelmingly fatigued. It was his body’s way of gasping for air, trying to get out from under the mantle of judgment.
Rev. Zahl points out that it isn’t our work or activities that cause us stress, but often the people in our life: the spouse that doesn’t love us anymore, the children that never call, the parents who can’t seem to give up control in the lives of their adult children.
When we are born, our ego has a desire to control our surroundings. We often exercise control by judging others.
Rev. Zahl asked: “Do you know how to hold onto your husband’s love?” “Quit criticizing him. It’s that simple. The only love that really matters is not the one that is earned, but the one that comes to us even when we are terrible. It is when we are treated well by another human being that it gives us the amazing ability to be kind. And that is a real freedom: when we can be kind to one another not because we want someone to love us, but because someone has loved us first. Although God loves us without restraint, most of us will experience His love through another human.”
“How can we move toward an inwardness of love that is renewing instead of exhausting?”
“We must believe two things:
- the universe is friendly and not malignant, and,
- we are really forgiven for our sins.”
Rev. Zahl’s comments made it clear that I’ve been searching for “love” all my life and been perpetually exhausted in the search. Believing that God loves me not for what I’ve done, but in spite of what I’ve done, has freed me to be able to love others without judgment or regret. It is renewing, not tiring.
Do you have a longing for a new life? Can you love others without criticism or regret?