And I saw myself in a not so pretty light. A month ago, I was in France. I walked ancient streets. I gazed at amazing mosaics of gilded, gigantic proportions. I wandered the corridors and aisles of cathedrals built before the Europeans came to North America. I looked at relics brought back from Crusades. I prayed before saints encased in glass crypts. I listened to the lilt of the French language, and surprisingly, understood more than I would have imagined. Writing of it cannot even begin to do justice to the sights, sounds, and feelings I experienced during my brief, first pilgrimage.
What really happened in my soul was almost too terrible to face, though. I was smacked in the head by the reality of what “love thy neighbor” means. I am not very good at it. I want to be better.
For the first time in a long time, if ever, I was in close proximity with a bunch of people that I did not know very well, if at all. Most were actually strangers. They were really nice people. Some of them, I really, really liked. Some of them were not quite my cup of tea. I had to listen to almost constant chatter, daily. I had to tolerate people’s ignorance. I had to be nice, patient, and more. I didn’t like it.
A little back story… I am a first born. A first born can spot a flaw at ten paces. These are not my words, but what I read in a study of birth order. I lived for three decades with a first born who is also a cynic. That’s a double whammy. Truthfully, we were both very judgy. I am not proud of this. When I left my past life, and began my present one, I worked very conscientiously to overcome that judgmental mentality. I thought I had it licked. I was wrong.
There I was, mentally annoyed by others’ humanity. But I thought, “What were all those Bible Studies’ discussions about? What were all those Homilies telling me? What were all those articles, books, devotions saying?” Well, they were saying way more than I was practicing in my head. They said, “Love thy neighbor, without exception.”
I have been home a month. I haven’t really had to be around people in such close proximity since, but I have looked hard and long in the mirror. While on my trip, I turned my thoughts and attitudes around as soon as I realized what was happening, and before I embarrassed myself. I continue to do so at home. My spiritual growth is progressing. I’ll probably be working on this aspect of spirituality my whole life. “Love thy neighbor” means caring for the people who are hard to care about. I am not very good at it. I want to be better.