Pepito (The Fruit of the Spirit is . . . Love)

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day so I thought this weeks topic should be love. I decided to share an essay adapted from the Love chapter in Fruit Flies in Our Faith: Nurturing and Sharing the Fruit of the Spirit.

Let yourself be genuine, transparent and a bit vulnerable with people.

I have an old stuffed tiger named Pepito. My Aunt Norma bought him for my third birthday. (Yikes, he's getting old!) She let me choose and I spent a long time looking at all the animals. I refused her suggestions until I saw the tiger with the sad eyes. Aunt Norma liked the black panther better but couldn't talk me out of the tiger. He belonged with me. Pepito currently resides on our dresser (Rich gives him a poke now and then just to get me riled up. I think he's jealous).

Pepito's fur is all rubbed off (likeThe Velveteen Rabbit). His felt nose disappeared long ago, his head flops and his eyes hang loose. Letting me love him was risky business. I still reach for him when I'm sad or scared. I really do know he's a stuffed animal and, maybe it's silly, but he's a touchable example of God's grace to the little girl in me. Pepito is only real in my mind. His unconditional love and acceptance and grace imagined. But I believe God gave me that dear old tiger to give the security, love and grace I desperately needed until I realized it was God's love and grace all along.

* * *

Love requires letting people see the real you. The good and the not so good. You don't need to spill your guts with everyone you meet but being honest and transparent frees others to be real with you. It's such a relief to meet someone who admits they don't have it all together. None of us do but most of us are "pretty good" at looking "pretty good."

Now, I'll admit that if every time someone asked, "How are you doing?" we told them—at length—they would eventually quit asking. We don't need to over do it but hiding behind masks and pretending everything is great when it isn't isolates us from each other and the give and take of God's love and grace.

I've been privileged to attend the co-dependency class at Celebrate Recovery, a Christian twelve-step program. I needed to leave my masks at the door and enter in. The people I met were honest and open. The worship simple and sweet. The leadership accessible and caring. Tangible grace. I felt safe and able to accept grace and love from others and give grace and love in return.

Let's go on a "grace mission" in our corner of the world. Be willing to let the Holy Spirit take you outside your comfort zone. God doesn't like you camped there anyway. Be touchable. Be willing to be interrupted. Be available. Imitate Jesus' loving interaction with people, all the people, He puts in your path.

I pray God gives me the courage and heart to be a Pepito to the people in my life who need one.

. . . live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a  fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

Bless you and Happy Valentine's Day, Annie

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