Authentic Love - October 16, 2022
Dr. John Dyben (00:00):
And the problem is that we are taught to do the opposite. And we are taught in society, and we’re taught in our families, and we’re taught in relithe gious community to do the opposite.
Hannah Hunter (00:16):
Hey, beautiful people. Welcome back to Sundays with the Gathering. I’m Hannah Hunter of the director of Digital Reach here at The Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. This week, we’re honored to have Dr. John Diamond, the Chief Clinical Officer at Hanley Center, bring us a message on the nature of love, the necessity of self love, and how the two play out in our daily lives.
Dr. John Dyben (00:35):
I think about, I was reflecting some time ago, I was in spiritual direction and I was, I stay in spiritual direction. I have people constantly challenging me to grow and to go deeper and to do that soul work that Pastor Mike is talking about. And I was thinking about my own journey, and I was thinking about my faith. And I had this picture in my mind. I thought of myself as a, a, a young, uh, theology student, a young college student studying theology and psychology and philosophy. And I was very, very sure of myself. I had lots of doubts, but I was very, very sure about what I believed. I was sure about my faith, and I thought of my faith as like this jar of pure oil. And and you could just, you could dive in and you could swim around and wherever you’d go, it’d be this, this pure oil.
I I was certain of it. I knew what everything meant. I had all the answers. And if I didn’t, well then they were unanswerable my jar. Uh, my faith was like this jar of pure oil. And I began to think about decade after decade after decade, uh, for those that don’t know me, I, I spend my life, you know, I I, the, the joke is really messed up. People either go into ministry or psychology, and so I did both. And so I tell people my dual diagnosis as I’m both clergy and clinician. And so I spent the past two decades of my life working in as a, a chaplain, as a spiritual care professional with, with people in, with severe addictions and, and mental health disorders and residential treatment. And over the years, little drops of vinegar have gotten into that oil and, and to where I find myself now with this, this jar that, that has a lot of really nice oil, but also has a lot of vinegar. And there is this part of me that wants to reject that vinegar to think there’s this part of me that thinks that was taught from a real young age that I need to, to be in that pure oil, that my faith needs to be exact and defined and right. And so my tendency is not to be honest with you or with me about the vinegar, it’s an a tendency to hide from where I have changed. And today, I, I come to you as a man who is beginning to learn
That sometimes what God is wanting to do in my life is shake up that jar and I end up with something that’s better than what would have been there before. And if you don’t get it, I’m talking about salad dressing. So a scripture today is one of my favorites. I think if they had microphones back in Jesus’ day, this would be a, a time where he would say what he had to say and that he would just drop the mic and walk away. But a scripture comes from Matthew, Matthew 22, Hearing that Jesus had silenced the sades, the Pharisees got together, one of them, an expert in the law tested him with this question, Teacher, which of these is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus replied, Does anybody never heard this? What he say? He said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your soul and your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments. This is the word of God for us, the people of God. So in my days of, of that pure oil faith of having all the answers, we were all 19 once. Well, some of us have yet to be 19, but when you get to be 19, you’ll have all the answers, especially if you’re studying theology and philosophy, you’ll have ’em all.
There were two very clear messages that Jesus was giving love, God and love others.
As my life went on and I experienced brokenness, and I experienced my, my own struggles, by the time I’d hit about 27, 28, I was a shell of a human being. I was morally bankrupt. I looked really good on the outside. Around that time, uh, I was working as a mental health professional. I was, uh, running programs for, for, uh, adolescents, uh, who, you know, residential treatment programs for adolescents, uh, for Boystown, this big organization. And, and for my age, I was pretty fancy hoy tody on the the outside. But on the inside about this point, I was, I was broken. I was, uh, in a failed marriage. I was struggling, uh, to to have any sense of identity. I was sure that God was around because I was sure he was done with me and really did not like me.
It was around this time that I eventually met a, a man who became a mentor of mine. And we were talking about this particular passage, and this man was a maronite Catholic priest and ever heard of a maronite, I’d never even heard of a maronite Catholic bri. It’s a, an eastern branch. So the Catholic church, he spoke seven languages and had two doctorates from the Vatican. I mean, he was, this guy was interesting. And he said, John, you, what about the third lesson? What about the third message? He said, No, no, no, there’s only two. Love God and love others said, He says, John, the, the passage. And what Jesus is saying is actually he’s painting a critical and important picture, and he’s painting a picture of the triune nature of true love, of God’s love. The three lessons are love God, love others, and love yourself was a challenge to me because I grew up believing that love of self, that to love or care about oneself was, was selfish, was not what God wanted.
But I began to think as a dad, and I wondered, so I now have four kids. Two are are adults and grown and out of the home, and, and, and two are at, at home still. And I wonder if one of my four kids came up to me and said, Dad, I really love you. You’re awesome. And you know what? I really love all the family. I love all my siblings. I love her. Yeah, I not really thrilled about myself, don’t want to take care of myself. Don’t, but, but I love everybody else. Would I be okay with that? The the reality is that Jesus paints a a picture of love as being triune, a as agape meaning not only love for others, not only love for God, but love for self as one of God’s kids. And so I began to, to journey with this, this idea that, that the love is, is triune. And, and so I began then to think about, okay, what is, what does it mean to love God? What does it mean to love others? And this new challenge of what does it mean to love myself? And the idea that when I don’t, when I neglect any one of those three, I am breaking this trium nature of love. And so it leads me to this question, what is love?
So we’re church folks and here in the us even even, and maybe Rod, even if you’re not church folks, you’ve probably been to a wedding. And so we all know where to go when the question of what is love comes up. Did anybody have an eighties song? Just what is love? Just go through your head. Sorry, if not, and so we all go to First Corinthians, right? And so I, if I want to, to think about how am I loving and how am I loving others and how am I loving self and how am I loving God? And what does that mean? We go to First Corinthians 13, right? And so we start, Love is patient.
I don’t know about you guys. I know Pastor Mike’s been in traffic for the past, uh, many, many, many hours. So I don’t even have to ask if patience has been tried. Love is kind. Okay, how do I be loving? How do we be kind in my relationship with God? We can do that through worship and through, and how am I, I kind to others, you know, I’m a pretty nice guy. I mean, genuinely, I’m a pretty nice guy. Those who know me agree. So in in my relationship with God and my relationship with with others, how am I kind with myself as a, as a chaplain and as a therapist, I’ve been a therapist for 25 years.
One of the questions that I ask others in that I ask myself constantly if I want to see, am I walking in this love? Am I moving in? This triune nature of love is not just how is my relationship with God. It’s not just how am I with others, but it’s also how do I treat myself, for example? And here’s a question for you to take on today. What do I say to myself when I make a mistake? <affirmative>. If I wanna gauge where I am spiritually, how healthy I am, if I wanna gauge how I am or I am not walking in love, I ask myself that question. What am I saying to myself? What’s my internal dialogue like when I make a mistake? For some it might be, ah, you made a mistake. It’s okay, you’re human. For some it might not be so nice.
So in, in looking at love and considering love, I wanna take just one aspect that goes beyond First Corinthians, and I wanna suggest that true love, God’s love A God bank in all of those areas is characterized by authenticity, being genuine, being real, being willing to be exposed. And the problem is that we are taught to do the opposite. And we are taught in society, and we’re taught in our families, and we’re taught in religious community to do the opposite to. And so when we think about being authentic, it sounds good, but, but it’s actually something that’s counterintuitive, and it fractures our ability to walk in the love that God calls us to, because authentic means that we, it goes far beyond just, I tell people what I’m thinking. For some people, that’s even a struggle for me. That’s a struggle sometimes. But authentic means that I can laugh and smile with you and, and I can be family with you, and I can also cry and I can stink, and I can hurt, and I can struggle, and I cannot be okay.
That’s when I’m genuine. Somebody, Randy harder texted me, sent me a text, and he asked me how I was doing, and I gave him an answer that only the musicians will get. I said, I’m a few cents off four 40 and right, So only the mu only a musician gets that, right? So four 40 is perfect, a it’s a perfect pitch. And, and as you, you get off pitch, you’re a few cents off. That’s where I’m at today. I’m, I’m not terrible. Then I gotta tell you, I’m not great. I’m gonna leave here and go visit one of my children who’s in a, a, a residential psychiatric program right now. I am. This past week, we lost our, our dishwasher and our washing machine and our water heater all in, in within a few days. Now, my tendency is to say, but oh, praise God. I mean, think compare that to the people who have lost their homes. And and that’s true and that’s real. And being genuine means that I can also say to you, it was kind of a pain in the, took us to lose all those things at once, especially while my daughter’s having surgery. So what does this mean? Does this mean that genuineness and authenticity means I
Tell everybody everything that’s bothering me in my life? Now, it actually goes a little bit deeper and a little further than that. The reality is that a healthy authenticity is difficult to achieve. It’s hard to figure out. It’s hard to, because we tend not even often to know ourselves. I I work with young people all the time who have, they’ll come in with tattoos that say to th own self be true, and they have no idea who their own self is or who to be true too. So what is this genuine authenticity? Well, the work
Of being authentic, the work of moving into love requires us to figure out what it is that keeps us from that. And so I wanna, I wanna leave all of us this week with some questions. You, anybody ever been in spiritual? I had a spiritual director. Been in spiritual direction. It’s a very interesting process. And as a therapist, I’m a lot more like a spiritual director than anything else. It’s, it is more about, it’s when somebody, it’s not when somebody gives you answers, but it’s this person who will constantly ask you questions. It’s really annoying when you want answers. But I, I would invite us to take time this week and, and think about these two questions. One is, what are the things that keep me from authenticity in my relationship with other people? Do I have people who I will, can bear myself to truly, or in my relationships with others? Do I tend to you be disingenuine? Did I tend to to have, uh, to pull away from things that are uncomfortable, but also in my relationship with myself? Are there times in my life, are there things in my life wounds that are unhealed? And if we start even to get near those wounds, I will shut down.
It. It takes time and intentionality to think about this question of where am I struggling with authenticity? And then if authenticity is so hard, it if being in that genuine nature that can, can I can help me usher in that agape into my relationships with God and myself and with others. If, if that is so, so hard, why try, Why do it? What’s the payoff at the end of the day? I’ve come to over these years of, boy, time goes quick. My first half hour’s almost always gone, already gone as a, a therapist. The the most important question I ever ask anyone is this, What do you want?
And I said, I’m like a spiritual director. So I get really annoying because people mean, people will ask like, What do you mean what do I want? What do I want today? What do I want outta life? What do I, and I’ll just kind of be quiet and I’ll let them student it. What do I, what do I want? And here’s what I’ve learned over 20 years of doing this, is that pretty much every one of us is living life in one of two pursuits where he’s a living life in the pursuit of peace or, or living life in the pursuit of happiness. And they are wildly different things. Happiness, The word happy comes from this old English word. Hap literally means luck. Happy means I feel good based on my external experiences. Nothing wrong with happiness. If your kid comes to you and says, I just got a full ride to Harvard and Yale and I’ve gotta choose which one, and you won’t have to pay a penny, and I would feel happy, it’s okay.
The problem is that when we live our life in the pursuit of constantly either feeling happy or avoiding any negative feelings, we end up chasing our tail and making it impossible for us to live in genuineness and then, then to enter into that agape in our relationships. But we as a culture are really good at the pursuit of happiness. If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t feel good, reject it. The problem is that chasing of the tail. And so there, there’s another pursuit, and I call it the pursuit of peace. And I, I wanna encourage you to consider that, that in, in your life, you may actually, we may actually be pursuing happiness, when really what we desperately are called for is peace and peace. The best definition I can give is this, is when I can look you in the eyes. And I can tell you there are things right now in my life about which I am not happy. We all lost a, many of us lost a friend this week. In, in John. Many of us are, are hurting or missing people pieces. When I can say there are things in my life that I’m not happy about, but I am whole, I am anchored. The best picture I have is is this, this the, this picture of this, it’s a painting and it’s, it’s stormy and it’s nighttime and it’s just a howling, raging storm. But in, on a branch
Is a nest, and the nest is the bird, and the bird is okay. Peace is that ability to not hide from the storm, to not deny the storm, to not pretend it doesn’t exist, but to be whole and secure. And, and the process of getting there takes discipline. The discipline today, this week starts just with asking the questions, Where am I experiencing a lack of authenticity? Where do I hide from the reality of my experience in relationships? And God, what are you calling me to do about that? As you consider this week and you think about asking God to be present with you, to show you where do, do I need you to shed that, that light, encourage all of us also to remember that today, I, I bring only questions and I don’t bring you all this process of how to do it, but one of my other favorite stories in scripture is when there was a blind man, it’s in the Book of Mark. It says, They came to Bethesda and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. And here’s what Jesus did. You familiar with the story? As we close, I want to think about Jesus doing some weird stuff.
All the other times he said, Lare come forth, or he touched somebody and they were healed. Or he looked at the WA water and it turned to wine. Here he takes the guy by the hand and he leads him out of town. He then spits in his eye, it’s his hands, and he says, Can you see? And the man says, I see men like trees walking. I see people, they look like trees. Walking around. Jesus again, puts his hands on his eyes, and then the man can see fully you and me as individuals, as the body of Christ, as people, we are in process. We are seeing men like trees walking, and that’s okay. I think Jesus did this to remind us, you do not have to see fully today. Healing is a process, and he faithfully stays with us through Amen.
Hannah Hunter (24:18):
Hey, beautiful people. This is Hannah Hunter. I’m the director of Digital Reach here at The Gathering Place in Palm Beach Gardens. Thank you for joining us this week. We’d love getting to share our journey in Christ and community with you. And if you’re in the Palm Beach area, we’d love to get to connect with you in person at our Sunday Worship service at 1115. For more information about the Hanley Center, check out our show notes. And for more information about our community and faith, check out our website at theatheringplacefl.org. Thanks for listening.