“Do you love me?”

woman and sheep beside body of water photo

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John 21: 15-19

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Listening to that band whose lyrics you most identify with while reflecting on life, relationships, and memories is dangerous game for a lonely person to play. But, we all get lonely and discouraged at times. Loneliness is a common human condition to experience. So, for all of the lonely people out there, here’s this…

How can one expect perfect love out of an imperfect life? No relationship is perfect. Things fall apart. How will you react when that happens?

It is easy to look for what one wants to see and search for what one wants to feel. But, love is less concerned with the selfishness of others and more concerned with getting over oneself through focusing on the needs of others. Love is more about giving than taking.

As humans we’re social animals and we’re often inpatient. We can be over-analytical or ignorant. We can be isolated or over-bearing. People were designed to observe one another in close relationship. Don’t worry about the future and all of its unknowns, and don’t complain about the superficial nature of society’s bureaucracies, politics, and pretensions.

Be who you are. Be your authentic self. At the same time seek to be as honest in your pursuit of positive change and righteousness as possible. Be patient with your inevitable mistakes.

There are simply some things that are not conducive to a healthy, fulfilling relationship, but try not to be offended forever. Hold people in your heart and hands as loosely or tightly as they desire. You will never own or possess them. They may very much become a part of you, but you will never make their decisions for them.

Your closest friends and family will define your life, for better or worse. Choose people who will love and cherish you as much as you love and cherish them. Make good decisions and anticipate good things. It is better to embrace the pain of broken love than to give up faith in its existence.

Hold true to yourself and your values. Don’t sacrifice your rationality along with your body. Hold onto your convictions and respect your boundaries and the boundaries of those around you. The walls and rules that we construct are meant to protect us, and ideally the mind will tear down those that shelter us from the true, good and pure things of life.

Treat yourself and others with honest skepticism and constructive scrutiny while also embracing compassion and forgiveness. Don’t neglect your need for discipline but don’t forget to grant yourself forgiveness. Do not give up the hope that you and others will change for the better. Distance yourself from unhealthy relationships, and hope for the best for yourself and others in the process.

Don’t fear love; respect it. Don’t shield yourself from love’s entanglements, but guard yourself and others from its dangers. Don’t forever fear unknowns. Conquer your fear of failure through learning to understand that which frightens you. Be reasonable and somewhat safe in the process.

You will fail time and again in order to succeed. Whether or not you are a relational vagabond, at least step carefully and choose you path intentionally while enjoying the adventures and journeys of life. Do your best to clear a better way for those who follow you.

It’s no wonder that sometimes the oldest of us have the most difficulty concentrating. All minds must reflect and reorganize. The older we get the more full our memory banks become. How are all of the elderly among us not constantly given to regretful or nostalgic musings?

Whatever level of appreciation or respect you have for John 21:15-19, there is an important fundamental concept to internalize. Are you lonely and/or discouraged? Are you asking someone, “Do you love me?”, or are you telling someone “…you know that I love you.”? Maybe the answer you are looking for is less about words and more about your actions.

I have a deeply Christian background that I’ve begun to distance myself from in the last few years, but I can’t escape who I was because who I was greatly influences who I am. When I become lonely and discouraged, Jesus’s questions and answers to Peter encourage me. When I become overwhelmed with unanswered questions and future unknowns… When feelings of loneliness and grief feel like unwanted guests overstaying their booking… The built-in moral compass of my Christian youth stirs me to think, sometimes aloud, “God if you’re there and you care, help me out… God if you’re real, be real to me.”

There’s no audible answer. There never has been. Always silence.

That may be a good thing, because if I ever heard an audible answer I’m not sure if I would happily listen or go see a counselor. But, the bottom line is that I realize I need help. I cannot do good things on my own.

Whether that helps comes only from the actions and ideas of others or also from a God working behind the scenes, I don’t know. But, when I do find a satisfactory answer to my questions it often comes in the form of an old familiar thought, returning like an estranged or forgotten friend you didn’t realize you longed for. “God, what do I do?… Right, I’ve had this conflict and resolution before. I knew that. I need to get over myself and press on towards my goals…”

Feed my sheep.

white sheep on farm

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