My One Word: Truth
Love…My journey with my one word began in 8th grade when, I’ll admit, I thought to use the novel concept to my own, rather than God’s advantage. Tell a hormone riddled girl that she gets to choose to change one thing about her life and you know what she’s going to choose. She won’t want to be more kind, patient, or forgiving. She won’t want to be more gracious or sweet. She’ll want a boyfriend ( Hey, that’s still a change, and still her life!) Devious little me sought to encapsulate this selfish desire in a totally innocuous religious exercise. Besides, since I was doing this as a church thing to be a better person, surely God would fulfill the little expectation I had stamped and chained all over my one word. I practically considered it a mutually agreed upon transaction– Okay, God, I’ll work on loving more and You just bring me the love of my life while I wait here). A word of warning: God already knows that it’s easy to love your best friend and your funny uncle and that sweet old neighbor who bakes you cookies every Sunday. He won’t ask you to love them. He’ll ask you to love the girl who swears up and down to you that she’s a better sister to your brother than you are. Or the well meaning grandma who tells you that your shirt makes you look pregnant. Or your middle school teacher who seems to be making up the rules as she goes along and definitely does not “love” you. It was with a sinking heart that I realized in January I probably wasn’t getting a boyfriend out of the deal, and that I’d probably been hoodwinked into this word so that I’d do a better job of loving my crabby, obviously biased junior high teacher. So I baked her a lasagna– then sulked when she didn’t appreciate my whole Sunday’s efforts. I folded my arms and sat back. Okay, God. I loved her. Now, what? He could tell I wasn’t getting the picture of this whole love thing. So he had her get even more nit picky, never call on me in class( though mine was the only hand raised high enough to touch the tower of Babel), and give me considerably harsher warnings than the rest of my classmates for talking in the back of the classroom. My good grades and hard work went unnoticed, and all little mishaps on my account were called attention to. One memorable day, she gave me a talking to during a class workday for turning in my homework on yellow paper, though it was done carefully, turned in early, and not preceded by instructions for what color paper to use. My efforts to love her became less and my efforts to impress her doubled. My hands strained ever higher in vain attempts to be called on. I remember thinking, grumpily, that she had an uncanny knack for calling on me only when I did not know the answer. It was about three weeks before I would leave middle school forever and rather than feeling any warmth towards my teacher I was seething with the injustice of it all. After school one day, I put on a smile that felt wrong on my face and made a desperate slingshot-in-the-dark effort at my one word. ” Mrs. York, you haven’t seemed yourself lately,” I told her. ” Is there anything I can pray for you about?” Looking back, I can say this comment was a prelude to the conversation I planned to have after, I assumed, she would make her cutting remark. ” See, God! Mrs. York really is unlovable! I baked lasagna and prayed; what else is there to do? Can I have a boyfriend now?” Instead, tears blossomed in the eyes of the icicle, something totally unexpected. Yes, actually, she told me. She lived alone with her precious dog, kids had gone– flown the coup, husband gone– flown as well. The dog was dying. I was wracked with sympathy. All these halfhearted efforts at love and I’d failed to see the real woman I was loving. I threw myself into prayers for her dog’s healing and her acceptance of the trials ahead. Months later, the dog did die after all, but I’d never seen my history teacher look so happy than during those last three weeks.( For those who are wondering, that summer I also learned that having a boyfriend in middle school really isn’t worth the trouble) My words since then have taken me on many more journeys and I can’t wait to start with truth. I want God to remind me who I am and help me speak truth to myself so that I can be real for others.