"What happens when you have a client you don't like?"
I've had a few people ask me questions along those lines. The first time I was asked, I immediately said, "I love all my clients." It just popped right out. I was actually surprised to hear myself say that. After all, shouldn't there be some clients I don't like? But I thought about it, and I realized, it really is true. I love all my clients.
And so then I started wondering why. Why do I love these random people who've turned up on my doorstep?
It's not because all my clients and I are totally alike or because we agree on everything or because I think that everysinglethingtheydo is just perfect or because they obey my every command without question. (I don't give commands, btw. Some people think that's what counseling is for, but nope.)
Here's what I think the answer is: I love them, because I understand them.
Because I understand them--because I know their hearts deeply and have seen their pain and the way that they struggle and bear witness to their joys and triumphs--I love them.
It seems to be a completely automatic response: Understanding=Love.
It's a revelation to me that I don't have to conjure up love for people out of nowhere, or ignore a bunch of crap in order to love them.
I just have to understand them.
And when I understand them, I love them.
When I don't love people, then I'm starting to assume that the problem is a lack of understanding.
Sometimes, I don't understand enough for Love, so I work on understanding more.
Sometimes, that other person refuses to understand themselves, which causes all kinds of incongruence and defensive behaviors that make Love very difficult.
When a person refuses to understand herself, then she refuses to allow others to understand her, and Love gets locked out. That is a choice we can all make.
We can love people who refuse Love, but they won't experience it as Love. You know how much I love Narnia, and The Last Battle, and the story of the dwarves who "refused to be taken in"--who sat in front of a feast and thought it was old hay and donkey dung.
(Check out Day 22 in Comfort Ye My People. I talk about that story more there. Friday! On sale!)
In those cases, we grieve and love on. Love doesn't control. Love offers.
Our pastor talked yesterday about honesty, and how dishonesty is such a killer in the church.
So I've been thinking about why dishonesty is so awful. What does it really do that's so bad? Why can't we all just keep on pretending we're awesome and hope for the best?
I think the real problem is that dishonesty blocks understanding, which blocks Love. Without Love, we're not a Church. We're just a bunch of people wasting our time on Sunday morning when we could be out to brunch.
Honesty matters because honesty makes a way for understanding.
And understanding makes the way for Love.
That's how the River of Living Water flows through me and you and into the world.
I think this is why God loves the world, no matter what: He understands us all so intimately. He loves us first, before we are capable of receving that Love. And he will love us to the end, the Prodigal God watching down the road for us to turn Home. He knows us, and so he loves us.
For some of us, it's terrifying to think about truly understanding ourselves, much less letting someone else understand us. We would rather slash ourselves and everyone around us to death emotionally, rather than face up to the pain and shame that's inside us.
But in my experience,
Love is the inevitable outcome of understanding.
When we know, and allow ourselves to be known, there is an unfolding of Love within and between us that surpasses understanding.