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So here we are, 60 days into the New Year, and I’ve already broken my New Year’s resolution.

I can’t pinpoint the exact day it happened. It wasn’t as if I resolved to give up junk food, and then tore through a bag of Doritos while binge-watching Jane the Virgin one particular evening. 

As well, I can’t fault the resolution itself. Inspired as it was by Scripture, it had to be a solid resolution, right?

Love your neighbor as yourself.

In early January I made physical and mental lists of the names of people to love; people to whom I thought I needed to show more kindness and attention. My husband, my parents in Connecticut, my brother and sister-in-law in California, the pregnant woman next door, the friend whose fiftieth birthday party I missed...the list went on. And on.

The list was lengthy, and somehow, right after making it, I forgot about nearly everyone on it as I plowed through the first two months of 2020 trying to meet all my deadlines at work along with daily duties as my kids’ personal chef, chauffeur and laundress.

While I was disappointed in myself for neglecting my list, it was also clear that my expectations were a little high. Why in the world did I expect I could pour myself into so many others simultaneously while barely keeping my own life together?

Hoping to find an answer to this question in the Walking with Purpose Bible study, Keeping In Balance, I re-visited the page on the topic of Balancing Expectations titled, “My Expectations of Myself.” [1] On this page author Lisa Brenninkmeyer directs us to write down the expectations we have of ourselves; then circle the ones that matter to God. And that’s when I had an “aha” moment—there was not a lot that needed circling on my list.

Truth be told, I wanted to squeeze quality time with dozens of people into my schedule so that I could stop feeling guilty and start feeling like I accomplished things. And I don’t think that feeling victorious after checking names off a list mattered much to God.

The dinner in Manhattan that I’d been trying so hard to set up with that friend whose birthday I missed wasn’t for her. It was for me, so I could stop feeling bad about missing her birthday.

I had missed the mark, but last Saturday, I was given a second chance at the Sisters of Life Feminine Genius Brunch in Pearl River, New York. If you know me as the picky, junk food-binging, vegetarian that I am, you won’t be surprised to hear that I didn’t partake of the brunch. But I did drink lots of coffee, and I made new friends among the ladies seated at my table. And we all got to hear Sister Virginia Joy deliver an inspiring talk on The Beauty of the Feminine Heart. 

Sister said something that has stayed with me—spoken with more eloquence than how I’m about to retell it here, but it was something like this:

Let God’s grace touch others through you.

Sister Virginia Joy gave examples of women who did this, and those women weren’t moving mountains or launching nonprofits or feeding armies. One woman simply reached out on a crowded train and helped a stranger with her crying baby. 

That, my friends, is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

I think I’ve got it figured out now. I think the kind of love we’re talking about doesn’t live on a to-do list. It is spontaneous, joyful and unselfish. It is simply letting God’s grace flow through us to others.

Peace,

Jen Gilbart

[1] Lisa Brenninkmeyer, Keeping in Balance (October 2018), 46. 

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