Austin Bingham was a pastor for 2 years and now leads worship in the bible belt south of North Carolina.
Recently, I was speaking with a friend of mine about a new pet dog that she had just bought. She had invited me over one evening for coffee and as we were walking inside she decided to show me the dog pen. There in the middle of the pen was a beautiful young golden retriever. It peered back at us with a sparkle in its eyes and its tongue hanging out the side of its mouth.
I am sure you are familiar with this picture.
My friend continued on as we watched her new dog wander about the pen.”Isn’t he cute?” she exclaimed. “I just love him so much!” Suddenly, I began to notice something that I had never noticed before, something about what we mean when we say we “love” something. My friend had found something that she decided that she “loved,” brought it home and put it in a cage.
Why do we do that?
Why do we find something, say we love it, and then come home and put it in a cage? If we really loved it, wouldn’t we bring it home and set it free?
It was about this time that I realized that when we say we “love” something or somebody, we rarely actually mean that we love the thing or the person. I think what we actually mean is “I am infatuated with the way that you make me feel. I will keep you where I know I can always find you so I can have instant infatuation whenever I like.” It is completely self-serving. “I will keep you in this fence so when I get home from work everyday, you will make me happy.”
How Illuminating would it be to view our own relationships through a lens such as this one? How often do we find someone we like, bring them home, put them in a “cage” (home, apartment) and walk out the door every morning saying “I love you” and wonder all day why the relationship isn’t working?
I have had some time with drugs in my 26 years of living. I have gone through everything from personal interventions, to formal rehab to personal accountability to personal rehab, I have tried it all. Remarkably, I have had success with only one technique, complete and utter acceptance of myself and my circumstances in this present moment. When I have found the strength to lay it down, it was birthed from a moment of genuine compassion for myself and my situation just as it was, drugs and all. I have had many nights of self-loathing that only lead to more self-loathing, but only when I accepted myself and my situation did I find any relief.
I have discovered through my meditations, that us humans do a horrible job accepting ourselves and our situations as they are. We are constantly asking the question “what is wrong?” We are constantly seeing what needs to change in our situations rather than enjoying ourselves for the way that we are.
Ironically, Loving someone is doing just that. We Love when we accept ourselves and others as we are in the present moment. To reject the person is to ultimately say “you need to be different than you are right now to be right.” Do you see how clear this is?
If we could learn a radical acceptance, then it will matter little whether or not we are greeted by a dog, wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend when we get home. It won’t matter if you get greeted at all! Radical acceptance leads us to embrace our moments of solitude instead of pushing them away out of fear of “wrongness.” The truth is there is nothing wrong with solitude; there is only something wrong with your resistance to its inevitability.
The unfolding revelation of God and Life is an idea that we can only truly enjoy each other when we accept each other just as we are in the present. If we choose not to, then we will be too distracted with trying to change each other to truly be present at all. The truth is that we can only love someone to the capacity that we have learned to accept the present moment. Whatever else we are doing, no matter the outcome, is aimed towards personal gratification and is ultimately selfish.
So let us all come to know that the present moment is very good. Let us all come to see that we are all already perfect. Let us all begin to understand that happiness and spirituality are tucked away right here in this present moment. Let us all learn to embrace it.
And let us set the dogs free!