Years ago, I came across a book called Learning to Love People You Don’t Like. I didn’t read it, but I would imagine the principles it contained could be useful at times.
The reason I’m bringing it up today is I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that love is a choice. I’ve often heard it said that love is a verb, something we do instead of a warm, fuzzy feeling we experience. I have certainly experienced that truth at times when it was hard work to love someone who didn’t make the choice particularly easy. I don’t always succeed in choosing and walking in love, but I’m growing in that.
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about this concept of choosing love beyond its application to other people. I’m not ready to write another book just yet, but if I were to start one now, it would be a sequel to Live Your Story called Love Your Story. It’s only one letter different, but I’m realizing that small shift can be the difference between surviving this journey through life and thriving along the way.
There have been many parts of my story that I didn’t especially like as I lived them. But as the book title above suggests, choosing to love sometimes has little to do with liking. As much as I dislike the way this chapter of my story is ending, I know when viewed as part of the whole, it will be a pivotal point in the story God is writing.
I would like to write a different ending to this page, or perhaps to make the page turn more quickly to a more comfortable chapter, but I don’t get to control that. I would like for this to be an occasion where I could quickly turn the page and see the resolution of the events I find myself living, but alas, I can’t. I am left with the option to live each word of the story as it is written, waiting to see what will happen next.
The thing I can control at the moment is my response to current events. I may not like the page I’m on at present, but I can still choose to love my story instead of just living it. As I remember previous chapters, the pages which seemed hardest to live are the ones where I grew the most or became more rooted in my faith and identity in God. I choose to trust I will someday see these days of struggle as another chapter full of character development.
I don’t know what your story looks like today. Perhaps the chapter you’re in is full of joy and sunshine and flowers. Maybe it’s full of mundane details, and it seems the story has stalled. Or maybe it’s filled with darkness and clouds and sorrow. Most chapters in our stories have a mixture of all those things and more.
Whatever fills the pages of your story right now, you have a choice to love it and learn and get everything you can out of it. Or you can moan and complain, have a pity party, and think that joy can only be found once the next page turns.
I’ve spent too much time lately thinking longingly of previous pages of my story or wishing I could rewrite the current page. Those activities are counterproductive, and they’ve only served to make me miserable.
Yes, grief is important. It will take time to work through the emotions related to all that’s happened during the past months, and that’s okay. Sadness isn’t wrong when disappointment comes. However, it can’t be where we set up camp and live out our stories if we want to do more than just survive. To thrive and really have the abundant life God wants to give us, we have to make the choice to love our stories – complete with all their brokenness, sorrows, hopes and joys. The decision isn’t easy, but I am learning again that it is worth every effort it takes.