Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It would be my mom's 92nd birthday...Lovingkindess

I've heard that used as one word. Is that a Christian thing? Lovingkindness?

Maybe I'm thinking about lovingkindness because my mother was full of lovingkindness, in spite of the fact that she was a terribly strict Christian mother, and she didn't have a lot of tolerance for sin. Still, she was kind. And today, if she were still alive, would be her ninety-second birthday.

From that reliable source, Wikipedia:
"Loving-kindness is a term used to describe a specific kind of love, initially coined as a translation of the Hebrew word chesed. Chesed is one of several Hebrew terms used to describe sentiments that modern English speakers may describe as love, charity, pity, mercy or kindness. Terms used to specify particular forms or expressions of love are often used by theologians and religious practitioners."

I guess that in the Bible, its use primarily refers to God, and not to people.

However, it's my theme of the week, I think.

Very strange things have happened in the last forty-eight hours. First, I have been working on my Kerry and Rafi novel--in which sixteen-year-old Kerry who is a Christian and from a very strict, moralistic Christian home, falls in love with Rafi who is the only Muslim in her high school.

Everybody loves Rafi in spite of prejudice that prevails anywhere in post 9-11 USA. He's handsome, athletic, likeable, smart, and is even elected student body president.

When he asks Kerry to prom, at first she can't even believe he means it. When she finally has the guts to ask him why he asked her, he says he noticed her because she "walks in kindness." She can't even figure out why he thinks that. She's just being herself. When he gives her a few examples, she's sort of flabbergasted, thinking she was just being a decent person in those instances. I'm trying to create a character who is naturally, but intentionally kind and yet the quality has a basis in being human--not in being religious (which rarely results in kindness in my opinion).

The religious struggle the young couple experiences, along with the prejudice of their families, is the crux of the story.

In the mean time, my agent has submitted my most recently completed novel Slider's Son to Zondervan, a Christian--and evangelical--publisher. Very interesting. I have been a little distressed about this, even though I'm anxious for the novel to find a home. I made contact with and had a delightful conversation with another Zondervan author who has had great success with the book they published. I was somewhat put at ease, am very grateful for the information she provided, but I'm still not entirely at ease about the idea of being published by Zondervan.

I don't really consider myself a Christian anymore. I don't believe that a loving Father who is full of lovingkindness could or would ever condemn one of his children to hell. Even Grant, the protagonist in Slider's Son, doesn't think God should send Big Joe--who has done some rather heinously cruel things--to hell after having been so miserable in life.

I don't believe that believing Jesus died on the cross to forgive and take away all my sins should be the answer to eternity's mysteries. I have made more mistakes in my life, some of them hurtful to other people, than lots of people. I don't want them washed away  like George W. Bush's cocaine use. I carry them with me. Not the guilt. I carry the understanding I got from them with me. I am no longer guilty, but the wisdom I gleaned from making big mistakes informs my life now and I don't want to repeat them. If they are forgiven and washed away, I don't have that knowledge in my soul. This lack of adhering to Jesus' forgiveness makes me, by all understandings of the faith I've seen, heard, and been taught--not a Christian.

I've never said this in writing in any public forum before, and it's a little scary, but I'm being honest. 

I do, however, strive to be as kind as I am humanly capable of being. I know how to forgive, and most of the time, I know how to not hold grudges, and how to be unconditionally accepting of other people. I fail. But I get up and keep trying. I want to be kind, and I don't want to judge. I overreact and I get angry, but I try to go back and be kind again or make amends. I can say honestly that I think I'm a kind person rather than that I try to be kind.

Today, I had coffee with a dear friend who is going through a tough life situation. She asked if she could ask me something...and what she wanted to know was how  I learned, or how I came to the point in my life where I could live in lovingkindness. I was taken aback. I was flattered and honored. I also found it serendipitous, considering all this thinking I've been doing about kindness this week. She sited the fact that I am friends with or kind to or at least on very good terms with both of my ex-husbands. Therein lies a disclaimer--I do have two  ex-husbands which itself speaks volumes about my deep lack of perfection. But the lovingkindness concept had come full circle this morning, and I knew I needed to write about it.

I'm reminded of Ben Franklin, who said, "if I could conceive that I had completely overcome [my pride], I should probably be proud of my humility." Kindness seems to follow the same vein--if we get proud of being kind, we probably aren't, so by writing this, I may have negated everything I worked for.

The glory or joy or relief of being a writer remains. In ways that I fail, perhaps my characters can triumph.


Kirstin Cronn-Mills said...

If you are following Jesus' ultimate commandment--loving your fellow human as you love yourself--I think the label "Christian" could apply, and you are definitely living the Golden Rule. But why label yourself, one way or the other?

No matter what, you are full of lovingkindness. : ) Beautiful post!

Kristin Dodge said...

Beautiful, just like you.

I find it interesting to see the labels, particularly because most of "loving-kindness" - in my experiences - has come from Eastern readings.

Your mom would be proud of you...

Rebecca (Becky) Fjelland Davis said...

Thanks, you two. You both just made me cry. Thanks. I think labels suck. I guess in my experience evangelical Christians are so quick to want to label themselves as "Christian," that departing from that box made me feel distinctly outside of it. I guess Christlike is a far better ideal to aspire to.

Love you both. Thanks for reading.