THE STORYBOARD CALLED LIFE

Love Stories – Chapter 12: Agape the 2nd

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Cover art by Katrina Nash of Yours Truly. Check out her work on Facebook and Instagram!

This is the eleventh post of the Love Stories series. The pilot is here, Chapter 1 here, 2 here, 3 here,  4 here, 5 is here. 6 here, 7 here, 8 here, 9 here, 10 here, and 11 aka the This is Love Competition winner here.

Sad / happy to tell you that we only have 1 week aka 1 post to go!


Agape

What agape isn’t

Hollow words or empty promises.

The partner that resents that you’re happy outside of them.

The partner that doesn’t trust you.

Being impatient, unkind, arrogant, rude, self-seeking, self-interested, and self-involved. Being easily angered, holding grudges, and happy in wrongdoing, suffering and injury. Giving up.

What agape is

The security of knowing where you stand and not having to question if you’re good enough.

Luke building a rain shelter for Rory’s graduation without showing Lorelai what he did.

Tevye’s wife answering him, “Do I love you? For twenty-five years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked the cow. After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?”

The people that petition and fight for causes that don’t affect them personally.

Valjean carrying Marius to safety, not asking for validation from Cosette.

Eliza Schuyler’s forgiveness.

The father of the prodigal son.

Agape love is shown by what it does, it is a determined act of the will, a joyful resolve to put the welfare of others above our own. Forgiveness, selflessness, unnoticed acts to bring joy, peace, and ease to the beloved.

But of course, love is not just actions, is it?

My Love Language is Words of Affirmation. While I feel really loved in acts of service, words stick. One unkind comment sticks more than ten loving ones. Sticks, stones and words can break bones (guys, I’m ok I’m just making a point lol). Imagine a father telling their (actually deep down intelligent) kid that they’re not smart, it affects them to a point that they don’t work hard at school and limit their future. Imagine a child that’s bullied because she’s “fat” and she becomes bulimic. Now, imagine a word of encouragement to a kid learning how to play the guitar, which leaders to them putting in the effort to improve. Imagine telling your child that their artwork is beautiful even if it really is just a mess of coloured texta and them becoming a renowned artist.

 

What’s wrong with the world, mama?

Sometimes I get really upset with the lack of compassion and love world. From violence to child abuse to stupid things like scams (honestly, how can people make a living from this). But the lack of love isn’t just shown in the unloving actions but in the unloving inaction.

Empathy levels have declined sharply over the past 40 years, and continue its downward trend with a sharp drop in the last 10 years. Our empathy is one thing that distinguishes us from animals and we’re losing it. It’s no surprise that the decline of empathy correlates with the increase of narcissism.

The diminishing empathy of the world could also be linked to our increased isolation despite our globalised world. Instead of kids playing with the neighbourhood kids in the afternoon, it’s comparing their happiness with their “friends” on social media (omg just watched Black Mirror – Nosedive, produced by Rashida Jones. DANG). Instead of intergenerational houses, it’s single person or couple housing.

In a fast-paced world, people are opting for ease, comfort and speed, removing things and people to focus on self and goals. I’m not immune to this phenomenon, my busy lifestyle is about me and my goals – working to build a career, studying to upskill, saving for my future. Building yourself to be a better person is a good thing, but let’s not forget other people in our circle and in our circle of influence. It isn’t 6 degrees of separation anymore, our hate tweet or with a kind word of affirmation or with your signature on that petition or with your donation for relief funds, or kind words of affirmation can have a direct connection to someone halfway across the world.

The ripples we make with our decisions are creating bigger waves than they ever have before. What kind of ripples are you sending into the sea?

 


No Greater Love

I was eight years old when I first encountered the tragic reality of poverty in the Philippines. As I visited small towns with my family, it became clear to me that not all human beings are given the same opportunities in life. There were children begging for food on highways, people sleeping on the streets and many selling what little they had to earn a few. It was not until later in life that I came to realise how much of an effect this experience had on me. At eight years old, my heart was imprinted with a desire to help make their lives different. I wanted to offer myself to these people because in them I saw dignity. This experience was the beginning of my journey to pursue a career that would give these people a voice in the world.

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At 21, though my fervent passion for justice continued to grow, my understanding of love became distorted through experiences of broken relationships, sin, low self-esteem and heartache. I began to offer my love in order to receive recognition, acceptance and ultimately to be set apart. I became self-centered and without knowing it, tried to grasp love to fill my emptiness.  I served in youth ministry, and ironically, the more I served, the less I prayed. I know that God still worked with me despite this reality. Retrospectively, I see that I was mimicking worldly love, loving with the intent of earning love. Because of this, I realised that I did not fully love others in a way that God did.  I still truly wanted to bring justice into the world, but I did not have a complete understanding as to why because I did not understand His unconditional love.

Agape love and this love is not natural human love, a supernatural love known as God’s love. It is understood as the ultimate kind of love which seeks to love God and neighbour. It does not seek self gratification and does not expect reciprocity from  the other receiving our love. It is sacrificial and a denying of one’s self kind of love. It is love that transforms stone hearts into flesh and breathes life into others. It recognises human dignity in each person having been made in the image and likeness of God and because of this basic and profound truth, we are compelled to deny ourselves for other’s good. Agape love is radical.

For a long time, my brokenness and self centeredness prevented me from seeing and accepting God’s agape love for me. It took a long time  to accept that there was good in me worth dying on the cross for. I recently heard that unless we see beauty in ourselves, we will not be able to see beauty in the world. In a similar sense, if we do not see ourselves worthy of being saved, how can we also see that others are too? How could I fully see that the poor are also worthy to be redeemed?

I had an experience of the deep love of the Father, through His Mercy, at 22. It was Mercy which sought my good, not because God expected that I would love Him back, but because He saw and sees that I am worthy of being loved. Through my experiences of mercy, I recalled memories of the children I encountered in the Philippines and I realised the truth of my own poverty and emptiness. I was in need of agape love. With this came a new understanding of Jesus’ passion on the cross and His dying to Himself our sake. He had already poured out His agape love. When I finally allowed myself to receive this truth, it transformed me.

In the last year, praying about my vocation has opened my heart to desire to love the way God loves. I recall a moment in prayer, about a year after experiencing God’s Mercy, when this verse came to life for me.

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”

– John 15:13.

I realised then that this is the love I desired so deeply for my loved ones and for all of humanity, especially the physically and spiritually poor. To deny myself so that God can use me to love others began to be what I strived for. I have learned that love is not earned. I am loved not because of what I do, but because of who I am and because of who He is. As my spiritual journey matured, the more I came to know my own limitedness. What I offer to others is only a small portion of what God can offer us. Through prayer, God revealed to me that if I desired to bring His people to Him, I must deny myself and offer up my life. As the words poured itself into my heart that night in prayer, the Good Lord, began to challenge me where I was, asking whether or not I was actually completely living for Him and for His people in the most authentic way.

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In a time where we are tempted to be selfish and self seeking, we find more and more the yearning of man to be loved and especially to be in union with others, to be seen and to have their dignity upheld for who they are. We should begin with a desire to know and love God so that we can imitate that in our love for others. Agape love calls us to this deep union with God and His people. It called me and it calls you too – to lay down your life. For truly, it is through the genuine gift of self to God and others, in accordance with God’s will, do we experience that radical love that brings about the deepest peace.

 


Promise

I’m still learning how to love. But then again can you ever love perfectly? There will always be a part of me that’s selfish – still thinking about me and protecting myself, losing focus on you. I can’t promise you that I’ll be the best lover, but I promise you that I’ll keep learning. I can’t promise you that I won’t change or that our love will be the same. But I’m excited to love every version of you as every version of me. I promise to love you forever. And I promise to love you every day.

 


Though I Do Not Know the Way

“I will take the ring to Mordor. Though – I do not know the way.” It is with these words that we can see Frodo Baggins stepping up to undertake a Middle-Earth shattering journey in J.R.R. Tolkein’s legendary book: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Here, we can see an insufficient character, smaller than the others stepping up to undertake a mission that only the weak can bear.

As I reflect upon the story of Frodo’s journey, I cannot help but think of my own vocational journey towards priesthood. Although I haven’t endured a treacherous journey avoiding orcs, meeting elves and encountering numerous dangers, the journey nonetheless has been an epic journey of a lifetime. My journey, like Frodo’s, is a journey of love. A journey from disbelief to belief, from darkness to light, from lukewarmness to a life emblazoned with the love of Christ.

My journey didn’t begin stepping up to greatness but with a question: “If you exist, can you help me?” This question arose out of a time of despair, my youngest sister (aged four at the time) was just diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) and I was desperate for answers to my existential questions. Everywhere I looked people had answers but they were lacking, to say the least. Some advocated science as the ‘be all and end all’ of my questioning. Others provided an over-spiritualised babble of the workings of karma and the circle of life but these were insufficient.

As an agnostic, I wasn’t sure where to turn next. Luckily, during this time, a deep yearning awoke within me, a yearning that would prove annoying and agitating. The only way I can describe this awakening of a deep yearning from within is to use a metaphor of the neighbour’s barking dog. Day after day, and night after night, the dog barks and barks, and barks! So much so that it drives you crazy! One could say that it was during this time that I was suffering a kind of spiritual dyslexia. It wasn’t a dog barking deep within me, it was God calling me from deep within. As soon as I could identify that it was God calling me towards himself, there was no longer an annoyance or agitation with this yearning, but merely a deep and abiding peace.

Although this occurred over the span of years, this encounter changed my life forever – I was baptised and began my journey of faith. It was at this point that I came to know that I am never alone, that each step of my journey God walks with me and loves me – unconditionally. It was this unconditional love that struck me. I was bemused by how God can love me despite my imperfections and sinfulness. Who is this God that loves me without condition? This was the focus of my prayer for a while and lead me to ask God my next question: “Who are you?” This, like any true romance, is the question of attraction. By spending time with God I got to know more about who God is. My heart began to swell.

The more I encountered Him and His abounding love the more I was willing to share it. I began practicing my faith more by being an Altar server and by attending weekday and Sunday Masses. I can say now with hindsight, that this time was where I fell in love with God. The more I got to know God, the more I loved Him. The more you fall in love with someone, the more you want to give them. I reached the point where I loved God so much that I wanted to give him everything. Although I wasn’t expecting what came next.

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I felt God calling me to be His priest. This came out of left field but I knew I had to take it seriously. After a substantial discernment period, of which was nearly a journey in itself, I was ready to say ‘Yes’ to the call. This ‘yes’ lead me to the seminary where I underwent formation for seven and a half years. It was within these years that my love of God never failed. Although community life, the pressures of studies and pastoral demands could be challenging from time to time, it nonetheless was a great time of grace and growth.

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As I was preparing for my ordination to the Diaconate another question surfaced: “How can I love you with everything that I am?” It was there that I realised that as I laid my life before the Altar at my ordination, my love had never been stronger. As I approach the Altar for my Ordination to the Priesthood this question still remains, but I have come to a deep place of peace that I can love God with everything that I am by inviting Him into every moment of my ministry. In the brightest days and the darkest nights, may God be my beloved and may I allow myself and others to be loved by Him. This journey of love might not be as epic as Frodo’s journey to destroy the Ring, but its destination is more beautiful and brighter than Tolkein could ever have imagined.

 


 

There was no specific moment when I knew she was the one. It was a feeling that developed throughout dating for over nine years. Being together since high school until now she’s definitely played a big role in making me into the man I am today. Her hard work to be where she is today is inspiring and she’s always supported me no matter what I was going through. We’d often talk about our plans for the future and it was very clear that we both wanted the same thing. My family has always loved her since the start which is very important to me and I just knew she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

ACCaptured by Jordan Anthony Films

 


 

Preview: 

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Check out the Season Finale of Love Stories, live on the Storyboard Called Life on Wednesday 19 July at 3 pm AEST

 

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Written by Candice

July 12, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Love Stories

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