God once gave us Ten Commandments to help teach us love.
They are not infallible indicators of love, for we can keep them and still not be loving, but they are infallible in one sense: if we are not keeping them then we clearly are not loving.
As we begin this New Year, I would like to offer 10 other commandments, 10 New Year’s resolutions, of a different genre. I call them 10 things we should try to befriend this year:
This year try to make friends . . .
- With your humanity . . .
To be human is to be fallible, wounded, dysfunctional, scarred, and living in a far from perfect world, family, church, body and history.
Don’t look for somebody to blame, to sue, to be angry at. This is the human condition. Make friends with it. Grief, not rage, is the proper response. Chaos, not blame, is what is at issue. An older generation called it “original sin.”
Don’t let the literature on dysfunctional families, valuable though it is, make you an enemy of your own condition—and of much of the world as well.
- With what is best in you . . .
Henri Nouwen recently said: “Here lies the great call to conversion: to look not with the eyes of my own low self-esteem, but with the eyes of God’s love.”
As long as we look out at the world and others through our wounds we will be full of self-pity, bitterness and jealousy. If, however, we can look out through the prism of what’s best in us, through the sense of gratitude for where we’ve been blessed, our jealousy will turn to appreciation and we will be astonished by other’s goodness.
- With those who love you . ..
John Powell once said that there are only two potential tragedies in life: To go through life without loving and not to express love and affection for those who love us. We need to make better friends with our friends. We need to express affection, appreciation, contrition, and love frequently and readily. Thank those who love you, tell those whom you love that you love them.
- With chastity . . .
So much of our pain and restlessness comes from our lack of chastity. So much of our dishonesty and subsequent hardness of heart comes from not admitting this. Those with the heart of a child and virgin enter the kingdom of God.
We have sophisticated ourselves into unhappiness. Make friends with chastity. Make a searing and honest confession some time this year.
- With your own body . . .
Do not be afraid of your own body, of its goodness, its sexuality, its pleasures, its tiredness and its limits. It’s the only one you’ve got in any case!
Be friends with it. Don’t punish it, don’t spoil it, don’t denigrate it. It’s a church and it’s the medium through which you love and communicate. Give it enough rest, exercise, respect and love.
- With the other gender . . .
Women are angry, men are grieving, everyone is uneasy and picking away at somebody. Gender issues are real—but their resolution lies in deep and mutual sympathy. Make friends with what seems threatening to you in the other gender.
- With your Father . . .
The deepest hunger in the world today is “father hunger.” Reconcile with your own father, with other fathers and with God the Father. It’s only your father’s blessing that can deconstrict your heart.
- With your own mortality . . .
Death comes to us all. Make friends with mortality, with aging, with wrinkles, with grey hair and with the fact that, as we age, we are asked to give our blessing and life to the young, let go and move on.
- With your sense of humor . . .
The fact that we can laugh, irrespective of whatever enslaves us, shows that we are somehow transcendent, above, all situations.
Our hearts and our souls can soar, through them we can fly above the things that bind us. Humor is a marvellous way of flying. Thomas More made a joke with the man who beheaded him. No prison could break him—and no prison will break us if we can continue to laugh.
- With your God . . .
God, as Julian of Norwich assures us, looks down on us with a face that is completely relaxed, smiling and beaming out a goodness that resounds like a marvellous symphony.
God also assures us that, present pain and sin notwithstanding, in the end, all will be well, and all will be well, and every manner of being will be well. We want to try to be better friends with that God.
In 1994, begin to befriend.