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OKIE IN EXILE — An Early Ash Wednesday

Bobby Neal Winters
Morning Sun

A Facebook Friend of mine asked in her status for people to share their favorite verse from the Bible. I don’t think I have one. I am not sure why, but I will think about it. I did, however, have a verse that popped to my mind: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

It’s there in the second chapter of the Book of Genesis. I am far from the first to suggest this, but it does seem to capture Man in two parts that are held in cruciform tension:

Man is made of dirt;

Man has been filled with the spirit of God.

I need to be reminded of both of these from time to time. To be reminded of the first, I go with some friends of mine to Ash Wednesday Services at Our Lady of Lourdes. They meet at Oh dark thirty, and that is a time when you are very receptive to the dirt message.

There are times, however, when I need to be reminded of the second. This comes from two different directions. I need to know that I have been filled with the spirit of God, and I need to be reminded that you have been filled with the spirit of God. This is all part of the deal.

I am supposed to love you. Regardless.

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

Here Jesus was quoting ancient Jewish teaching. In the Sermon on the Mount he pushes it further: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

In my youth, I used to think this was a way He was telling us not to have enemies.

No, that is not the case.

You are going to have enemies. This is beyond your control. There will be people who will hold your existence in contempt. You are to love them.

At some point, I heard the voice of Inigo Montoya speaking to me, “I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”

Love is not a feeling. It is accompanied by many feelings, but it is not a feeling. It is something beyond. It is something we can do. It is something we may choose to do, but it is like math or chess or pushups or whatever, you have to work at it.

That person in front of you. The one you disagree with; the one who is working against everything you believe in; the one who challenges you: You are to love him.

As inhumanly difficult as that may be, that is the easy part. The hard part is how that love is to be manifested.

Giving them their way is not necessarily the answer. And quite frankly, it can’t be roadmapped out. But remembering that your love for them must be the center of it has to be the key.

Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like'' the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.