Though I have neglected my blog somewhat lately, I have not ceased for lengthy periods of time to consider my next topic. As I have suffered through untold adversity for the past two months due to the careless, unkind, and often cruel actions of purported "friends" who profess to carry the name of Christ, a myriad of topics has crossed my mind. I have considered forgiveness, the power of being wrong, speaking truth vs. speaking gossip, hypocrisy and faithfulness, and more. However, were I to discourse on any such topics, I believe that I would not really be digging at the root of the whole problem. Rather, I'd be cutting away at the branches and hoping the rest would simply reveal itself with it. Since that logic altogether does not make sense, then, I have decided that I must expound on charity-and not in the contexts I have previously. Instead, I have chosen to expand that generic topic into a specific musing of sorts, that of genuine charity in friendship. And although I deal with SSA (same-sex attraction), I am choosing not to tie it into this particular blog post. To those readers who are SSA, however, I will say this: Look for the application of this to your SSA, and you will find it.
To start things, I currently sing in a choir at the Ogden Institute called the Choralaires. Every now and then, we sing in a couple wards and it is called Choralaire Sunday. Although we do sing most of the meeting, we also assign speakers to invite the Spirit. Today, a person said the following quote by Marvin J. Ashton, an apostle in that time:
"The world is filled with too many of us who are inclined to indicate our love with an announcement or declaration. True love is a process. True love requires personal action. Love must be continuing to be real. Love takes time. Too often expediency, infatuation, stimulation, persuasion, or lust are mistaken for love. How hollow, how empty if our love is no deeper than the arousal of momentary feeling or the expression in words of what is no more lasting than the time it takes to speak them. A group of college students recently indicated to me their least favorite expression to come from us as the older set is, 'If there is ever anything I can do to help you, please let me know.' They, as do others, much prefer actions over conversation."
It appears then that true love is first, a process. That means that love cannot and will not be a one-time expression of any kind, no matter how sincere, eloquent, extravagant, or bold it is. True (meaning genuine and sincere, not referring to romance) love is something, as he explains in another part of the quote, that takes time. Expressing words of kindness, compassion, comfort, etc. during a friend's trials is fine and good-but what about when that friend asked you to be physically there for them at a pressing, inconvenient, or otherwise "bothersome" time, say, at their home? I find that we all are more than capable of making time for what matters most to us. It is really a matter of whether we are willing to make the effort, put our trust in God, and ask Him to make time for us when it seems like we cannot alone. Indeed, I think it is often foolish for us to assume that we can create such time.
Second, love requires personal action. John the Beloved taught that God is love, and as the perfect embodiment of love, He set the example of always doing something that either created or perfected love around Him- whether it was healing the sick and afflicted, comforting the sorrowful, strengthening the weak, visiting with those that were rejected and different, and so on. As His disciples, we follow in His footsteps with a hope that someday, we can achieve something near to who He is. Obedience in the gospel transforms us into a mirror reflection of Christ. The point, though is to look into that mirror as often as possible, so that we can remember who we are. Act-do not be acted upon when it comes to love in friendship.
Third, love in friendship, must be continuing to be real. As the scripture in Proverbs says, "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (Proverbs 17:17) Fair-weather friends, people who express love when it is easy, scheduled in, or convenient, are missing a key component to their love. I believe Paul expressed it best when he stated that charity "seeketh not her own"(1st Cor. 13:15). I believe what Elder Ashton meant here, from studying the context of the words, is simply that we must always be genuinely there for people in charitable, selfless service, as far as wisdom permits. In addition, I would interpret this to speak of honesty and healthy balance. I cannot rely on friendship for happiness, but I certainly can expect that it flourishes and grows as I do my part and the other person does his/hers. And concerning honesty, I hardly need to explain that friends are open and assertive with one another. If something is annoying, hurtful, burdensome, and whatever else, there's a responsibility there to speak up about it. Friendship, amid all the types of true love, is always real.
And fourth, love takes time. Not only does this refer to the generic process of loving others and building up that friendship, it also speaks of literal time. Spending time with a friend, whether in good times or bad, communicates a personalized and meaningful sense of attention. In an age of technology, social media, and texting, people have digitalized love. And in all reality, that is why the love of men is waxing cold, once such mediums of communication become overly indulged in. They have a marvelous place in our world-but there comes a point at which one really needs to evaluate their usage of such communication. Love certainly grows more meaningful, deep, intelligent, and connected when people love in person and express their thoughts over the phone, to include voice tone, inflection, volume, and so forth. I firmly believe that you get what you give in love and life-including time.
In conclusion, I would like to end with this quote by Neal A. Maxwell: "the only door out of the dungeon of self is the love of one's neighbor. How proud we ought to be, in a quiet way, that we are members of the church of the most selfless being who ever lived." I hope we all can ponder, in a few silent moments today, how we can express charity more meaningfully and genuinely in our friendships.