Loving or Coping?
`HOW are you doing?'' ``I'm coping.'' An all too familiar exchange. There's something about just ``coping'' that's a bit demeaning. When I hear people saying they're coping, I can't help thinking of someone treading water. Instead of moving in any definite direction, he's staying in place, just managing to keep afloat.
In choppy waters, surviving is certainly better than sinking. Even if we are staying in one place, at least in that position our head is above water. But there's more to swimming than just staying afloat, and more to living than coping from one day to the next.
True, some people may give the appearance of doing more than coping. But if the apparent superiority to circumstances masks isolation and lack of feeling, that's not really how we want to be. But on the other hand, we don't want to be among those who are reduced to just coping because they are exceptionally loving and responsive -- so responsive to others' needs, in fact, that their own energies are eaten up in the effort to keep pace with what appears to be required of them. People are continually making all sorts of demands on our time, on our energy, on our care and concern. When we are able, though perhaps barely able, to manage these demands, we say we are ``coping.''
The irony is that when we are coping because we are trying to be loving, we're often at our least lovable. Who is very lovable when he or she feels pushed and pulled, harassed and harried? But is the only answer to be less loving -- to pull back from others and live more for ourselves? Or is it to learn what love really is and demands -- to deepen our love and put it on a spiritual basis by getting our priorities straight?
Christ Jesus urged obedience to the two great commandments: ``Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind'' and ``Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.''1 So love for God and love for our neighbor go together, with love for God coming first.
Our love for God empowers and guides our love for those around us. Since God is Love, loving Him shows us how to love others in a way that reflects His own love. In the words of Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, ``Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way.''2
Letting the Love that is God lead the way, we find what love really is and requires. Only then do we know how to love in a way that truly matters, that never overwhelms us with demands.
This is how Jesus lived. No one loved God more or loved his neighbor more. Throughout his public ministry, Jesus had to deal with crowds pressing in on him for healing, with disciples who needed so much explained to them, with arrogant enemies blind to the love he showed them. But who thinks of Jesus as merely coping? No, the Gospels show us a life filled with the light and grace that come of loving God and reflecting His love.
True, we're not Jesus. Only Jesus is the Saviour. But we deny the full meaning of his mission, of his salvation, if we do not follow him as far as we can in understanding what Love, God, is and in living our lives in the light of this understanding. This is not just ``coping.'' It is exercising the dominion with which God has endowed His own likeness.
How the power of divine Love will appear specifically in our lives no one can say for another. But the ``good news'' of the gospel is that it does appear in practical ways that enrich rather than deplete us, so that the good we do for others really counts.
1Matthew 22:37, 39. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 454.