It’s a kind of expected trope that as people grow older, they begin to be more like their parents. They might look more like them or talk more like them; they may start acting like them or doing the same things their parents might do; they may even start to develop a similar personality to them. I’ve found this phenomenon to be true of me too. As I’ve gotten older and (hopefully) more mature, I’ve started to act a little bit more like my heavenly Father.
I realized this last night as I went to bed. I was playing through the mental tape recorder of this year, stopping at interesting points, rewinding and fast-forwarding. The thing that I kept stopping and listening for was the general sentiment I’ve felt and heard all year, “you’re trying too hard”.
*Praise break: I just walked over from my desk to my chair with my laptop in hand. As I sat down to get situated with my laptop, it fell from my hands. Before it hit the ground, it was stopped by my feet and it nestled nicely onto the top of my feet. Thank God I don’t need to buy a new laptop! Back to your regularly scheduled programming*
The sentiment never comes out exactly that way. I can’t think of many people who have actually told me this year, “you’re trying too hard”, it’s just what I’ve felt from what people tell me. Instead it comes out as, “you treat me as more important than I am”, “your priorities are wrong”, “you’ll make friends anywhere you go, you’re only at Princeton once” among other things. All of these things sound true and so I usually believe them. But when I think of the hardest times I’ve had this year, they’ve always been after believing that I was just trying too hard.
So last night I was thinking, maybe I should just figure out how much other people care, and try to care that much? Basically, how about I just rein in my caring/loving. But that was the moment when I realized how life would be for me. In my life – and I’m sure this happens in the lives of other people as well – I’m just going to love some people more than they love me. More than that, I’m going to love some people more than they want to be loved by me. I thought that was a bad thing. I thought that meant I was trying too hard and not prioritizing the right things, but then I thought about my Dad and how he loves.
That’s kind of his thing. He loves us so much more than we deserve and sometimes even more than we want. And we never love him back enough. But he keeps doing it. We turn away, we get discouraged, we are unfaithful, we may even break his heart, but he still loves us. I’m not going to pretend that I love anyone that much. But I can say that my life seems like it will be much less of a struggle if I can keep that in mind.
It’s hard to be vulnerable, it’s hard to be faithful, it’s hard to give up anything and be told that you’ve actually given up too much. It’s hard to love well. I don’t think I always have this year. I know I haven’t. But I just can’t let myself believe that I’m trying too hard. I won’t. Is there really a limit to how much you should love someone else? Honestly? If there is, I want to hit it. And I want to hit it hard. Because honestly, I’d rather be told that I’m trying too hard, loving too much, messing up priorities, than hear that I just don’t try hard enough.
P.S. I don’t think everyone is called to college to just learn how to love people and build relationships. That seems pretty naive. I just don’t think I was called here to pursue academics in that way. That may sound dumb. I don’t know, I’ve never been that kid. At Princeton, I got some As, I got a few Cs, and I got mostly Bs. I learned some great things. But the people I’ve met mean far more to me than my grades, or classes, or future career. But I’ll save that for another post.