One of the people there shared how the saying, "Live and let live" impacted him when he first heard it. Someone asked him what he thought it meant - he said it meant to respect other people and let them be who they were.
"True," his mentor said. "But you skipped something."
"I did? What did I miss?"
"It says, 'Live.' THEN it says 'Let Live'. That's important. It means that you cannot allow other people to be who they are until you experience life on its own terms and really live, really be who you were meant to be."
That small story blew me away... because I had never considered - like him - the repercussions of that one word: Live.
Live. Be. Experience. Accept. Enjoy. Participate. Act. Feel. Laugh. Cry. Taste. Sing.
This is the kind of life to which I refer in the title of my blog (and my soon-to-be released book) - "Get Unwrapped!" Most (if not all) of you know that I got the title from the story of Lazarus who, after he was raised from the dead, was still wrapped in grave-clothes, the trappings of death, unable to move more than just hobbling or hopping toward the light of day. Jesus told the people around him, his friends and loved ones, to "unwrap (loose) him, and let him go." This is the process that has unfolded in my life in the last two years and is ongoing. It is a process that I describe fully in my book.
But it also has another, more modern meaning. "Getting unwrapped" can be thought of in terms of a gift one person gives to another. In this sense it is the gift of our true lives, our true identities, that God gives to us when we spring into being.
If a gift is left unopened, it can never be enjoyed by the recipient - nor can it be shared with other people if the recipient so desires. The good of it is trapped inside the wrappings and we are left wondering what is in there, perhaps (through the warnings or threats of others) fearing to open the exterior. In a very real sense, this kind of "living" - until experienced, cannot lead us to the place where we are comfortable enough inside our own skin to allow other people to be who they are inside of theirs.
It's a wild ride sometimes - and I won't lie - a lot of times it is incredibly difficult to stay honest with myself, to keep it real. I have had to surround myself with people who can and do gently point out to me when I am slipping back into my old lifestyle of trying to change others into what I would like them to be. Or judge them for their attitudes or their choices. I'm learning to be grateful, to ask myself the hard questions and to insist on never going back to the old way of thinking, because in that way of thinking is just existing, not living.
At times it has meant that I've lost contact with people who couldn't handle this new lifestyle - some of those have been painful, I will admit. However, I would not trade it and go back to the dichotomy of manipulating others and getting treated like a doormat, or being angry all the time and never feeling like I had the right to (as one person put it to me once) occupy space in the world. Or have feelings.
Best of all, I've found a new depth and a vibrant life of adventure in daily and intimate fellowship with a living, loving God. That's living!