You just have to make up your mind to love people. It’s a simple principle but it never came easy for me. My mom raised us all to suspect everyone’s motives and that most people were too stupid to bother with and my father used to say “It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there” which sounded funny to me until I grew up. Stirred together in a heart that was easily bruised I concluded that people were easier to just stay away from unless they had something I needed. I was a good cynic.
I think some people are just naturally loving, like Leo Buscaglia. He probably had a balanced mother. Huggers and nurturers…and I was as cuddly as a cactus. I was miserable my first five years as a Christian. I felt awkward, like I really didn’t belong and if people ever noticed me they’d say, “How did she get in here?” Finally, I realized that God Himself loved me, in fact He made me and the Bible says He “’sings over us with joy.” Really? It seemed too easy. Yet I found that my ability to love came from looking for Jesus, and finding Him in the midst of everything. It came from then doing the next thing, usually something practical and ordinary, often not understanding why. It came from just following the Master’s lead…step by step.
When I was in sixth grade, my parents signed me up for ball room dancing. If you ask me, that’s why we all rebelled in the sixties. It wasn’t the war, it was ball room dancing. I was at least a foot taller than every boy and they’d line us up in the gym, girls on one wall, boys across from us against the other. Then the signal would come from Mr. Jones, our instructor, for the boys to pick a partner and I still see them all coming towards us, a charge of goofy boys stuffed in jackets and ties, and the wave would split as they headed for the shorter girls. The white gloves on my hands felt like they were lined with Elmer’s glue. Finally, by default, a boy would pick me and to add to the horror Mr. Jones made them bow and ask, “May I have this dance?” which made them all look like they were just punched in the stomach and getting ready to throw up. Then we’d dance, with our clammy hands gingerly placed on each other, “step-one-two, step-one-two” and I’d stumble- blush -trip through a beautiful dance known as the waltz.
Years later I watched couples waltz and was mesmerized by the beauty and sync of their steps, their bodies gliding to the same rhythm, step-one-two, step-one-two and I’d laugh at the memory of Mr.Jones and his ballroom dancing class. I never did learn how to waltz. But sometimes I look at my relationship with Jesus this way. Only he didn’t see me as the tall, clumsy girl that was afraid of people, He didn’t pick me because there was no one left. He chose me because He loved me first. And with each step, He has taught me this dance called love.
I admit I have times when I still don’t like people. Too much of me gets in there, and I get confused and flustered and like the little kid who doesn’t want to play anymore, I retreat. But God Himself will bow down to me and say, “May I have this dance?” and I get up again, and love again as long as life lasts and the music plays. He will never grow weary and I have found if I let Him lead, I won’t either. Step-one-two, step-one-two…