I got up this a.m., read the newspaper and as usual given our political climate, was again dismayed by headlines about a friend whom I love and respect. Then I began reading the several online devotionals enjoyed each day, to include Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation: Knowing through Relationship. Be it habit or constructive discipline, I picked up where I last read in the scriptures, Psalms 104-107. Meanwhile, Coach, my daughter’s dog who quite often spends time with me, sat staring and whining…his desire was more to be chasing chipmunks in the woods than watching me imbibe scripture. He loves me and I love him.
Before exiting for the woods, I stepped to my personal place of prayer, carrying with me numerous thoughts about what love truly is and how deeply love reigns in my heart.
I love my neighbors but often forget their first names. I love those with whom I work and serve throughout the community, quite a diverse group of individuals with an array of belief systems.
I love each person differently; my wife different than my daughter; her new husband different from my parents, the love for each maturing as I age, and now quite different than when each relationship was first initiated.
When Coach and I returned from the woods, two chipmunk interventions later, the theme was still in my heart. What is this thing we call love and how is our capacity for love measured?
Scripture has it that love is the prerequisite for any claim toward knowing God:
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”1
Rohr, who may have sparked this soul searching inquiry, states a similar position:
“Unless you’re in right relationship with at least one other person on this earth, unless there is some place you can give and receive love, I don’t think you have any reason to think you are giving or receiving divine love either.”2
I had searched my heart while walking through the woods and am quite satisfied that love does exist there and in some part divine love, for what else would allow me to reach in hope across my own bias, simply to have loved; or feel pain, when others to whom I have little attachment are harmed or spoken against, let alone those whom I “love.”
My current read is a book entitled, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbran, centered on a former Olympian by the name of Louis Zamperini. The pain suffered and the resilience demonstrated by this POW is impossible to comprehend. The book perhaps has had some subliminal influence in my evaluations of just how much I am capable of love. He loved his nation, his comrades, his family back home and that love perhaps was foundational to his survival, though against all odds. Again, love has numerous definitions and degrees of depth. How deeply do I love others; is there some divine quotient to that love; is there more love possible toward others and if so how do I attain that love in my final years?
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son”3 …He became flesh, dwelt among us, received our bitter cup of religion, yet demonstrated the power of love to withstand brutality and even overcame death.
If a young man, known as a rough and rebellious teenager (Zamperini) can endure suffering similar to that of Christ and survive, that gives me hope as a mortal.
Perhaps Zamperini’s Olympian records took me to Hebrews 12:1-2: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame…”
If God so loved and Zamperini so endured for the sake of those he loved, I am without excuse.
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”4
1I Jn 4:8 NIV
2Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Good News According to Luke: Spiritual Reflections, p. 138.
3 John 3:16(a) KJV.
4Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit