Posted by: CeCe | May 3, 2013

Love is

I figured that I’d take a break from my criticism of Christians and Christianity, and the problems I have with the things that I’ve seen, and write about some of the people that, at least for me, have been a breath of fresh air.  It’s far too easy to focus on all of the negative aspects of not only humankind in general, but of my fellow Christians especially.  The truth of the matter is, I have known and do personally know some of the best humans on the planet, both Christian and non (sorry for lumping all you guys together, but it’s easier than typing out all the many religious backgrounds of my friends).  Normally I’d probably write about both my Christian and non-Christian friends, but I thought that since I’ve been über-critical of Christians lately, I’d focus on the former, rather than the latter.  I hope my atheist friends realize, however, that I do see and appreciate their kindnesses.

It’s my personal (and probably biased) opinion that these people exemplify everything that love is supposed to be.  Now I’m going to turn “Bible-thumper” for a minute and post some of my favorite Bible verses, which I think perfectly describe what love is supposed to be:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I have met people who embody these qualities so perfectly that they almost seem unreal, to the point where I look at them and I think to myself, Is this possible?  Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that.

The first person that I’d like to write about is a man that I met when my husband and I were stationed in Germany.  Franz Jansen was born around 1935 in Slovenia, and at one point during World War II he and his family were carted off to a concentration camp.  It’s very likely that, as a young child at that time, he would have died from either disease, starvation, or by execution fairly soon.  However, American soldiers came into the camp and liberated it, which saved his life.  Since that time, he’s made it his personal one-man mission to support American soldiers, which he illustrates through the signs that have overtaken his house, and which he proudly displays near the military base where we were stationed.  I had the extreme privilege of meeting this man on several different occasions, and always came away from the conversation feeling as though I had just spoken to an angel.  Knowing what I knew of his story, such as the time he spent in a concentration camp, and his battle with cancer that left him so ill and in severe pain, I was amazed by the things that he said to me.  In one conversation, he asked me questions about my husband, and I revealed that he had been ill (which led to his eventual discharge from the military, for those who don’t know).  At that time, I was terrified; we didn’t know what was wrong with him, and doctors were baffled as to what could have been causing his seizures.  His career in the military was uncertain, which meant that our very future was uncertain.  Herr Jansen must have seen this, although I believe I was very stoic when answering his questions.  Once I told him, he clasped both of my hands in his, and he said, “I’ll pray for you both.”

Now I know that sometimes when Christians say this, it’s their way of saying, “Well, I don’t really care, but I’ll pretend that I do”, or simply dismissing the person.  But he said it with such feeling, I knew that if God listens to anyone’s prayers, He would listen to Herr Jansen.  He went on to say, “I’ll pray for God to give you the strength and courage that you need to face your future.”  What struck me is that he spoke those words with such hope, conviction, and total unselfishness and disregard for his own health, that I had no doubt that he meant them from his very core.  When he said “I’ll pray for you”, it wasn’t in dismissal or a desire to feel as though he was doing something useful.  He truly believed that God would help me, and had enough compassion to advocate on my behalf.  And I believe that in him, I saw love in action.

There have been many others for me who exemplified what Christian love is supposed to be.  For example, when I started to really go through a hard time coming to grips with my lack of faith (which of course has since changed) and dealing with my anger at losing my father, there was a member of the church we attended who did not treat me like I was a child who didn’t know what death is, and who also didn’t treat me like I should have dealt with my grief as an adult should, even though the loss with which I was dealing was one that most don’t experience until they’re adults.  He’s since died from cancer, but his love, patience, and compassion helped bring me through a very difficult time in my life.  He had lost a child, so he knew what grief was, all too well.  His name was Harry Snyder.  I still think of him often, and remember how touched I was by the fact that when he spoke to me, he understood that I was mature for my age, but I still wasn’t an adult.  He was one of the few who knew exactly how to relate to me.  He was also a great supporter of my poetry; one year we were doing some fundraising for the youth group, and in an auction, he paid $50 to buy a poem of mine, and as I recall, he even displayed it in a frame on his mantle.  I’ve never forgotten that kindness.

There have been many of these over the years.  People who demonstrated compassion, forbearance, unadulterated love with absolutely no strings attached, who touched my life and my spirit in various ways.  I’ve been extremely blessed to have known them, even if the time I had with them was short. I also know many Christians like that now.  They should know who they are.   I hope they understand that most of my criticism of Christianity and Christians is not extended to them.  To me, those I’ve known, and currently know, who are like Harry and Franz exemplify what Christians are supposed to be.  Were/are they perfect?  No.  But they made/make an effort to understand others, and to be Christ as much as they knew/know how.  It’s something so small in the scheme of things, but I hope that they realize that for some people, it’s everything.  I see them, and I’m sure other people do too.

Do you have anyone in your life who has been like your own Franz or Harry?  Please feel free to tell me about it in a comment!

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