For reasons that I’m sure stem back to my family of origin, I used to be a sinner-phobe. I became wildly uncomfortable with friendships that involved people who didn't see exactly as I saw, or who made choices I couldn't understand. I surrounded myself with people who were practically just like me; good Mormon friends who never talked about anything REAL. And in the meantime I was completely denying myself any opportunity to understand what it really meant to love someone who wasn't a family member.
Then a friend of mine had an affair. There was a distinct moment when I was sitting in my car outside her house prepared to go inside and COMPEL her back to being just like me, when I had a strong impression to NOT do that.
Then my husband spiraled into his pornography addiction and I had to learn how to live with, be married to, and love a sinner. *Gasp*
Before actually having any people in my life who made spiritually debilitating decisions, it was so easy to sit in church and rattle off platitudes about “hate the sin, love the sinner.” Whereas in reality I found myself incapable of setting aside my fears, insecurities and self-righteousness to truly love "sinners" (read: people who aren't just like me). And I’m not just talking about adulterers and sex addicts. This naive and pious goody-goody had trouble accepting people and feeling genuine charity toward much less grievous offenders.
Then one weekend I met up with a group of women who were everything I was afraid of. They cussed and they used phrases like “blow-jobs.” They weren't virgins before marriage or they weren't sure they had testimonies at all. They turned my world upside down because they were the best friends I had ever had. Without any deliberate effort, my heart changed. Immediately I could love them, which opened my eyes to the possibility that I had never really known how to love.
And then it happened again, and again. At camps and events and through emails. My heart began brimming over with what I really believe is charity, for all different types of people. And it has been the most fulfilling experience of my life.
I recently finished the book The God Who Weeps. It was the second time I’d read the first four chapters, and they were a spiritual journey for me. But it was the first time I had read the fifth and final chapter. I finished it on an airplane, flying through the skies on my way to New York, and when I closed the book I wiped away tears of gratitude and insight.
T. and F. Givens laid out with perfect clarity why my relationships with my WOPA friends have changed my life. We are relational creatures. Our greatest happiness comes from meaningful friendships. When we are most loving, we make ourselves vulnerable to pain. Our faith is nothing when it doesn't motivate us to consider our obligations to our fellow humans.
“However rapturous or imperfect, fulsome or shattered, our knowledge of love has been, we sense it is the very basis and purpose of our existence.
What we may have thought was our private pathway to salvation, was intended all along as a collaborative enterprise, though we often miss the point.
When we find we have attained our authentic stature, and only in such authenticity, will we be free to engage in relationships with authentic others. As we engage in those relationships, we find once again that the perfect community of love enhances, rather than diminishes our differences. Love is what occurs in the face of difference, not sameness…
The divine nature of man, and the divine nature of God, are shown to be the same – they are rooted in the will to love, at the price of pain, but the certainty of joy.”