Hey hunnybuns! This is the concluding post to my new year’s resolution for 2019: to love others more affectionately. It’s a story of how I thought 2019 would be one of the most loving, fun years of my life but turned out to be a very painful one; of how I’d formed a certain understanding for expressions of love and how my year turned out completely differently.
2019 started out with a vision for a cosy, snug year, bundling up in the warmth of other people’s bosoms — enjoying hangouts, dinner parties, day trips, and trips abroad with intimate friends.
For those summer months, I was blessed to see that vision fulfilled, experiencing and giving love just the way I wanted.
As for the rest of the year, well, God sure taught me another side to loving others than what I’d considered.
By the end of the summer, the social circle in whom I’d taken refuge started to collapse. It started with small seeds of misunderstandings and grew to emotional outbursts, then betrayal and disunity, ultimately leading to division.
The same people I’d aimed to love to start the year would be totally estranged by year’s end.
As famous contemporary poet, K. Perry, puts it:
“I just can’t believe we went from strangers to lovers to strangers in a lifetime!”
My game-plan from the beginning of the year wasn’t working anymore. How could I execute that vision of a warm, cuddly wonderland with conflict amidst the relationships?
I couldn’t hug away the discord or battle the antagonism with words of affirmation or “serve” away people’s deeply rooted insecurities.
People’s brokenness was being projected onto other people’s brokenness. Sparks of insecurities were projected into pyres of anger, combusting into a huge flame, wiping out the loving relationship of an entire friendship circle.
I didn’t know what to do or how to bring it all back again. I just watched us all drift apart to the point as if those friendships had never even existed.
Understanding the Collapse
Around this time, I begrudgingly learned about the Enneagram and its personality types. Can you guess what mine is?
I started learning theories on how different people tick and how certain fears and desires fuel their actions. I learned how people render contrasting sides of their personalities depending on the state of their inner health.
I learned how to understand people who are the complete opposite of my personality. Those who act a certain way, and I just can’t understand; those who can push my buttons and rub me the wrong way, and how I can and still need to love them.
Sadly, it was all too late.
Due to these consequential events, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts all returned throughout the year. I hadn’t experienced these things for quite some time.
Tumultuous triggers that I couldn’t understand led me to start therapy, where I unearthed more things I had been evading.
I had to accept that I needed to start navigating through experiences of previous childhood trauma and sexual abuse.
And I had to process all of these in a changing and collapsing social environment.
So where was the love? Was that it? Were all my dreams in vain? Is that kind of friendship circle just not possible?
The Love of Christ
Looking back at my actually selfish, Christianese-disguised, and naively pious prayer goal for the year, I realise now what God was teaching me.
Yes, love can be warm, fun, and full of laughter. But Christ’s love is more than that.
Christ’s love was more than having fun and going to wedding feasts (John 2:1-12). It was more than hugging the sick and miraculously healing them in an instant.
Christ’s love was also sacrificial, understanding and loving people from many different backgrounds.
I can’t imagine what his circle of twelve looked like at the beginning with all those different personalities: working-class fishermen like Peter, James, and Andrew; Bartholomew, who some say was a member of a royal family; Matthew, a culturally portrayed stuck-up, arrogant, greedy tax collector; Judas, who Christ still chose to love and disciple despite his being the cause of the greatest pain and betrayal.
And of course there is the “Side B” world’s biggest physical touch star-child, John, another fisherman and self-appointed bro-bae who affectionately leaned into Christ’s chest (John 13:23).
I wonder how tumultuous that friendship circle was?!
Jesus invited these twelve into a relationship with him, understood them, and spoke in a language — and I would even say a love language — that they would understand.
He shared not only the joys but also the sorrows, and he worked with their different types of personalities. He was able to do all of that because he was rooted in the love of the Father (Mark 9:7).
Putting My Love Where My Mouth Is
Ironically in this day and age, being part of a people-group rallying and almost demanding the rest of the world to love and understand us, I never thought I’d place myself into a position to offer such love and understanding for other people.
To be the one who steps out of my own comfort zone and meets other people wherever they are. It was my turn to do the understanding and fill other people’s needs, especially the ones I really, really, really didn’t want to fill.
And so, the year of our Lord two thousand and nineteen was surely a year of more affectionate love, just not completely how I thought it would act out (Romans 12:9-21).
I learned how to love people in a deeper and more affectionate way, embracing friends and making them part of my chosen family, and also grievously letting go of some.
I started learning how to work with people I didn’t understand. I was able to forgive my family and the other people around me for the childhood trauma. I was able to forgive my abuser for robbing my innocence and misconstruing my perspective on many different things.
I, too, can love, because I was first loved (1 John 4:7-21).
Christ started to teach me how to love as he loved. It’s hard and not fun, but that’s what I have to start learning more about and applying into the next decade.
So, what should my goal be for 2020? Maybe to be straight? LOLJK.
Have you been on the receiving end of a collapse in love, relationships, and community, and how did you handle it? How can you love the people around you as Christ loved?
That must’ve been crazy living thru the collapse and see it happen real time and powerless to stop it. Did any relationships survive? Ya never know how strong bonds are till they get tested, and we kinda only get to what’s real thru hardship and pain. Your post got me wondering what friendships are gonna be like in heaven. I mean, will we have circles of friends or is everyone a bff? Thanks for your post Daniel, at the end you kinda sounded like a young Marshall.
Oooh, Young Marshall. A true compliment if ever there were one!
Thankfully some survived, and came out even stronger! Yeah so true what you said
That’s an interesting thought about friendships in heaven…
And thanks, I’ll take that young Marshall comment as a compliment! I’ve learned a lot from our short times together at the retreat in terms of communities, and trying to implement it in my own life.