Learning To Love It All

Many years ago, when attending Florida State University, I met with one of my favorite professors about a paper I was working on for his class on Modern American Literature.  

When I knocked on his office door, he ushered me in with joy, and gestured for me to sit opposite him as he resumed his post behind his severely cluttered desk.  

His office was a hodge-podge of books, random pieces of art, and an entire bookshelf dedicated to the author Joel Chandler-Harris, whose work my professor had studied extensively.  

I was absolutely smitten by everything I saw.  At the time, I was dreaming of being a professor one day, and I decided that if I did, my office would look exactly like the one I was sitting in. 

A sign on his desk caught my eye more than anything else.  It was a small wooden sign with what looked like hand-painted words that read:  Love It All. 

I asked my professor about the sign, and he smiled as he explained.  The trick of life, he told me, was to love all of it.  To love all that is good and all that isn't.  To love the beautiful moments and the moments that bring us to our knees in despair.  To love the losses and griefs as much as the triumphs.  

He told me that one statement had served as a constant reminder of how his whole life had been filled with grace, and it also encouraged him when grace felt like it wasn't immediately evident. 

I have never forgotten that conversation, and there have been moments since then when I've called my professor's sign to mind, especially when I was struggling to feel grace, experience hope, or feel any joy.  

It's not easy to say, "Love it all," when going through a challenging season.  In fact, it might be damn near impossible.  But I'm learning to trust that there will be days when I will look back on the moment I'm struggling to get through, and I will be able to say those three words with a sense of peace.  

The great theologian and author Dag Hammarskjold once wrote this powerful little poem:  
For all that has been. Thanks
For all that shall be. Yes. 

This is such a beautiful and challenging poem, isn't it?  It speaks to the challenge of looking back with gratitude and love on all that has been, even the parts of the past that we regret or are too painful to call to mind.  

It speaks to how "all that has been" is integral to who we are and who we are becoming. This should enable us to look back in gratitude over all that we've experienced--grateful for the lessons we've learned and the wisdom we've gained because of them.  

This may take some work on our part.  We may need to resolve issues, repair relationships, let the past go, and do what we must to find peace, wholeness, and health.  But when we can look back in love and gratitude, we will find the path to peace much more quickly.  

And this poem also speaks to how we need to live in hope for the future.  The ability to say "Yes" to new adventures, opportunities, challenges, and newness is vital to a flourishing life.  

Far too many of us are "Yes, but..." people.  We qualify our "Yes" by adding caution and trepidation rather than just stepping forward in faith, trusting that God has us no matter what.  

May it be so for you and me and for all of us.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us now and always. Amen.  



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