It is my pleasure to bring you this guest post by James Russell Lingerfelt, author of The Mason Jar in conjunction with LitFuse Publicity!
Without further ado, here's James.....
I didn’t really begin understanding what loss meant until I was around 26 years old. I was spending every summer working with humanitarian and microlending organizations in third world countries, and I just finished my last year of seminary in hopes of serving as a professor one day.
When all my fine knit theology and philosophy on life came crashing down, I also experienced my first heart break. During that time of healing, I penned my thoughts into a letter from a fictional character in my novel, The Mason Jar.
But before we read this letter, I’d like to begin with a few words. We can love, love, love but sometimes that love isn’t returned. That’s not our fault. To love or not to love is a choice. We chose to love. They chose not to. This does not mean we are unlovable or unworthy of love. We’re not idiots, fools, or weak for loving. Rather, we have courage. Because we chose to be vulnerable and self-sacrificing; a requirement for love. And when it was over, though the echoes of the painful experiences reverberate in the depths of our being, we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and we keep pressing onward.
I’ve made it a rule in my personal life to never apologize for loving people, even if that love is never returned. To be unloving is the other person’s problem, not mine. As my grandmother use to tell me, “At the end of your life, the only things you’ll regret are 1) not taking more risks and 2) not being more loving toward others.” She died at 94 years and those were some of her final thoughts. Powerful.
Now concerning the letter, I presented it through the mouth of an 80-year-old grandfather to his son, Clayton “Finn” Fincannon. After a relationship ends between he and his first love “Eden” during his senior year of college in California, Finn visits home in Tennessee. At night, beside a fire, Finn recounts the story to his grandfather. The next morning, Finn prepares to return to California to finish his last semester of college. The letter awaits him by the door. This comes from my novel, The Mason Jar.
I know right now, all that is visible is seen through the lenses of loss and pain. So, I’m not sure the words I say to you will resonate. But know that feelings just are. Experience them. Don’t deny them or push them away. If you do, it will come out through other avenues like short-tempers and sharp answers to friends and loved ones who don’t deserve to be mistreated.
We do not deny our experiences, good or bad. We must embrace them. They are a part of who we are. The point is to keep from dwelling on the past or holding on to the bad times. This way, we don’t lead ourselves into resentment, cynicism and bitterness. If we want to get angry and scream at God because we think it’s His fault, that’s okay. He can handle our anger. God might not appear to care, but He does. He promises us that. We can give up on Him and give into the bitterness, but how much better off will we be?
You might believe that you must stop loving Eden, but that’s not true. We can love even when we know that love will never be returned. We are allowed to love someone even if that person is gone. What we miss is their presence, but that doesn’t mean we must stop loving them. As Maclean wrote, it is those who we love the most who so often elude us. But we can still love them. We can love them completely, without complete understanding.
Loving is not the same as holding on because “holding on” implies that we hope the loved one will come to their senses and return. Love is an action based on free choice despite the consequences. Love only becomes painful when it demands something in return. And though it may take time, you will find joy in loving those who might not even be aware of your love.
We must love people enough to enrich our lives while we have them, but not give them so much power that they impoverish our lives when they are gone. Our grief and pain are directly proportional to our love. The depth and level of pain are proof that we loved. And anytime we choose to love anyone, there is the risk that such love will not be returned. Despite the lies you will tell yourself, life is more fulfilling and worthy of living if we love and lose than if we never love at all.
Understand, son, that we can only help those who have hit rock bottom when we ourselves have seen existence through that same lens. Therefore, you can use the pain you’ve experienced to ease the pain in others. This does not mean God purposefully inflicts pain or is the author of loss, nor does it mean that every time we experience loss or pain that God is behind the cause. But it does mean that God can take the bad things and turn them into beautiful things. But that takes time. It cannot happen overnight. There are always more questions than answers when it comes to life and the Infinite.
Remember we become what our minds dwell on. It’s proven in cognitive psychology that if we dwell on negative thoughts, we become negative people. “A man reaps what he sows.” If we live in the past, in a world that we cannot change, we only grow estranged from the present. We stop growing and decay. If the past brings good memories, let them brighten your present day, but do not long for their return or dwell on them. For it is the present day that must be taken care of if we are to expect to live fruitfully tomorrow.
Understanding our past helps us understand ourselves, but remember, we are shaped by our past – we are not bound by it.
I love you,
Wow...did this hit home for me today! Especially the second paragraph which I have in bold/italics. In fact, I asked God earlier this week for a sign about a situation in my life right now.
Funny how He answers.
James Russell Lingerfelt is the author of The Mason Jar and writes articles for The Huffington Post. James connects with readers at his blog, Love Story from the Male Perspective, and divides his time between Southern California and his family’s ranch in Alabama. Find him online: website, Twitter, Facebook.
The Mason Jar, a coming of age love story, was written to help readers find healing after broken and severed relationships.
The Mason Jar is available @ Amazon in Hardcover, Paperback and on Kindle and I've just added it to my wish list!
Well Friends, I hope you've enjoyed this guest post as much as I have. Check back weekly for more Thursday Thoughts, Saturday Spotlights and Tuesday Treasures!
Until next time...take care, God Bless and remember.... Let love be the driving force behind your every thought, word and deed!
Pamela S Thibodeaux
"Inspirational with an Edge!"