Contrary to popular belief, love is not a verb, and it isn’t a choice. If it’s true that love is unfailingly patient and kind, that it isn’t irritable or resentful, that it bears all things while still hanging on to hope, then I for one cannot yank on my bootstraps hard enough to pull myself up to love, not even for the family for whom my heart beats. No, Love is a person. A person we progressively become acquainted with, increasing our capacity for friendship and communion as we journey.
The good news is that whatever traits we have or lack, The Better Way is introduced as a level playing field. It is judicious to admire, desire and cultivate gifts of articulation, leadership, and intelligence (to name a few) but Love shows no partiality. He is near to any and all and Love is inimitable. Simple this may be, but living into it is hard-won.
The bad news is that it is possible to come all this way, to suffer my body to jetlag, to be so cold climbing into a deep-freeze would be an improvement, to be stroked by curious strangers, and still miss the mark. Love begets sacrifice but the sacrifice itself is not love. The fact is, I can hammer my gong and bang my cymbals together here in Asia as well as I can in North America or on any other continent, I’m sure.
It is reasonable to be irritated when the young teammate spins the lazy susan out from under my chopsticks, again. But I want my natural response not to be a huffy counter spin or cold correction. It is fitting to be grumpy and grieved when the time I so carefully set aside and protected is interrupted. It is right to despair when peace in my home is the exception, but it is wrong to give up hope, shrug my tension knotted shoulders and resign to, “I guess this is the way it goes this side of heaven.”
Because we are All God’s Children, we know what love is and have an appetite for giving and receiving it in many forms. Wholesome bursts and steady commitments should be noticed, savored and celebrated, and there is more.
When learning another language, sweet is the moment when we speak what we mean to say in the moment we mean to say it and seemingly without effort. In reality, the effort has already been made, the labor finished and we are operating in the principle of automaticity. One of these phrases that I have mastered in more ways than one is man man lai, which translates “proceed slowly” with a nod to the natural state in which we are prone to stumble. Though I stumble, gradually my automatic response to the feelings of irritability, grief, grumpiness, and despair can become authentically Love’s. How?
If Love is a person then I can practice Love’s presence. I am a slooowww study at this. But the truest thing about me and about you is our desire for Love. And to be quite honest and irreverent, for a while it felt like prayer failed me as a way to enter this presence. My mind is regularly too ignorant and weary to express my need or devotion, but my soul yearns to name the chaos of the deep. It turns out that there is something between my own consciousness and the too deep groanings, the voices of other pilgrims. Literally, I’ve been praying Puritan prayers as collected by Arthur Bennett in The Valley of Vision. And through these prayers some hard-won ground is traversed and I resolve to journey on. With these fellow pilgrims I know that One thing alone is needful, to love my Saviour. And I ask, Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.
When, how, where do you commune with Love? Do you have any prayers that help you? What hard-won ground are you traversing?