Once upon a time, I was a cynical young adult who believed God was cruel.
It’s not a tough conclusion to arrive at if you look around at the world. After a few years of leading a life in which I did whatever I felt like, consequences be damned, I only felt more hollow and broken.
A series of events and painful growth eventually led me back to the Christian faith, a space which affords me the opportunity of endless hope and peace.
The most important lesson I learned through that period of growth was that empathy is essential in combating selfishness. I could find no purpose in a life lived solely for myself, and instead worked to open my heart to those around me.
It has never been an easy undertaking, nor will it ever be. Time and time again, I am wounded by the sufferings of those I care most deeply for. This is the burden of friendship, and it is a burden anyone who understands it feels privileged to carry.
In our day and age, the world, or at least the Internet, seems overcome by those armed with witticisms, memes, and searing sarcasm. We all have our defense mechanisms ready to unleash upon those who would disagree with us.
What if we let down our guard instead? What would it look like to open our hearts to those we interact with, on the Internet and in our real physical spaces?
There’s a scene from the British dramedy show Fleabag, in which the Priest, who has fallen in love with the titular character, speaks of love at the marriage of Fleabag’s father and godmother:
“It’s all any of us want, and it’s hell when we get there. So no wonder it’s something we don’t want to do on our own. I was taught if we’re born with love then life is about choosing the right place to put it. People talk about that a lot, feeling right, when it feels right it’s easy. But I’m not sure that’s true. It takes strength to know what’s right. And love isn’t something that weak people do. Being a romantic takes a hell of a lot of hope. I think what they mean is, when you find somebody that you love, it feels like hope.”
Obviously, he’s referring to romantic love, but this concept can be applied to brotherly love as well.
To care deeply for others throughout a lifetime requires a good bit of courage and hope. It takes a strong person to keep their their heart open and accept the burden of love. And it takes more than one person.
Make no mistake: if you are a Christian walking around behind a shield of cynicism and bitterness, you are not living out your faith.
We all must bear burdens in life, but we do have some say as to which ones we will carry. As Martin Luther King said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
I hope you choose to share in that burden of love, too.