I am in love with love.
Starting off with the sole ambition to be a romance writer as a child, really gave me a predisposition to seek out all kinds of romanticized love.
At the beginning of my life, I picked up on God's love for people, in the prodigal son -- and mostly in the Book of Solomon.
I remember studying the people around me wondering why God loved people so much. Why were they the crowning glory of his creation?
When I was in the "slum" area of any city - I would watch the homeless who wore their brokeness so openly. What did God love about them?
The more I watched the more I understood. People - the entire human race - are truly the most beautiful, fascinating creatures.
I tried to imitate, and soon learned to relish being in a place of pure "love" - accepting and listening to others with out judgement - or as little as I can.
I think that is why I enjoy coaching so much. Each person is a story - each person is another puzzle piece to a larger story. People can make me feel, sad, angry, beautiful, ugly, warm, cold -- happy, inspired, and glad to be alive.
After Candace's murder - I became aware of my limitations. I had an anger - a growing intolerance of certain behavior - and therefore certain people.
The challenge was to conquer that... I had a compelling reason. Candace, herself, was my inspiration. She loved people. Her theme song was “Friends are Friends” forever.
I still believe that love is the most powerful force on this planet earth. Agape love - the love that is modeled after the intimacy of the divine, is a relational, unconditional love that exudes generosity, compassion, and understanding, - a love that hold to the common good for everyone. A love that promises to reach past chasm between heaven and earth, and allow the divine to touch the finger of every human being.
It is a love that values absolutely everyone and believes we are in the final end equal before our Creator.
I though my inclination to love others would see me through the relational challenges of having a murderer in my story, but it didn't.
At first it did - when we didn't know the full story. Right at the time of the murder, all we knew was that someone had taken her to the shed, tied her and left her to die in the plunging temperatures. I could be gracious.... there might have been a reason.
After we learned about the man's sexual history -- things began to change. The motive became more clear.
The preliminary hearing - seeing him -- hearing his story -- made it more and more difficult to feel love.
Slowly as more and more truth emerged in the trial about what happened in that shed... my attempt to love had to take on a new form - a new awareness... a new responsibility. What does one do with such a human being?
Love without some sense of responsibility is permissive and sentimental. But justice without love is harsh and can become retributive very quickly.
Slowly - I began to realize that forgiveness on a relational level is never easy. There is always a tension between the two - justice and love. Always!
What happens when we love a predator unconditionally? Does it mean we shut our eyes and let them walk free to prey on another child? If we do that - don't we become culpable to their crimes? Have we then betrayed our own children? Have we loved them? Who do we love?
Around the time as I was weighing this back and forth, a friend of mine told me that his wife was quite upset with the way he was handling his children. She was saying "Love first, justice second."
That statement resonated with me. When there is a tension, a parallel choice, we break it by choosing one over the other.
We need both -- but which one do we lead with.
To me forgiveness leads with love. It says to the delinquent - you are important - you are valuable, you are beautiful, but I cannot abide the hurt that you are inflicting on me or others.Something has to change. If not -- I might have to remove myself because I cannot be culpable to another person's crime. My own soul is too valuable for that.
Forgiveness is moral.... forgiveness is not permissive or unaware.
The difference is that the intention of forgiveness is not rejection. It seeks change. It guides us into uncomfortable conversations because it provides hope that we can all emerge from every confrontation better than when we went in.
Forgiveness is not afraid of the tension of love and justice - because it is the answer to fostering the co-existence of both. We need both.
Love first: justice second.
"Justice from Love, and Love from Justice" -- Bishop Carlos Belo