Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Greatest of These is Love.

This is a reflection I wrote for the weekly worship at Nationwide Children's Hospital.  I had originally tried writing it in a Word document and then realized that I write so much better when I pretend that I'm blogging it, so I wrote it in Blogger.  Therefore it makes sense to share it with you all. :)

1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I've been thinking lately about love as the deepest emotion that grows and multiplies into different facets of itself. This is quite useful when encountering people that might not seem like they are showing any type of love.  Which is odd, because if love isn't just a lovey-dovey paradise, what does love look like? Sometimes you have to look for the love that lies hidden behind the surface.
 Love looks like the indents that a father made when he punched his angry, grieving fists through a wall.
 Love looks like clenched, white knuckles in a mother's hand as she watches her child struggle to breathe.
Love is a nurse carefully placing a soft puppy in the arms of an injured and scared child.  Love is a teenage girl shouting insults from her hospital bed in a struggle for attention.
 We are all fighting for love, whether we need love for ourselves or are in a whirlwind of worry and fear for the people we adore.

It is easy to watch all of the pain in this world and want to shrink away from love.  Why connect with other people when there is the potential of anger that blinds us, grief that paralyzes us, and fear that spins our hearts much too fast?  The fear and agony of grief stings too much for us to bear, and we long to curl up in our comfort zone and hold fast to our wordly bearings.

Yet, we are entangled too closely to love to fully comprehend how much it saturates our being.  There is love in our ability to push back against it. To paraphrase Corinthians, when we were young, we reasoned in childish ways, and resisted the love that we were given. That resistance is not the end of the love that God gives.  This is because we are not the ones holding the true Light; God was, is, and will be the love that shines throughout our lives.

Using Paul's words, as we reason like children, the childish act that we fall into is denying the deep connection that we have with each other as sacred beings.  We spend time attempting to figure out life by gazing at ourselves in a mirror, though we are called to understand life and love by encountering each other face to face.  Together, we are whole in our brokenness.
When we bare ourselves, flaws and strengths all together, to one another and look truly into the pain and joy of another person, we learn once more how to love.  We practice this over and over again because we stumble and even flee from this mission.  In our struggle towards perfection, we forget that we are beautiful and whole, including our sins and sharp edges. The setbacks and misery that seem to crop up in this calling to love are just as much a part of this journey as the merciful and passionate moments.  God is holding us in love throughout all of our time in darkness, even when we feel most alone.  God is constantly pulling us towards one another, in order that we might grow with each other and be forever changed.
In this hospital, we are surrounded by new faces every day.  We could be a patient or a family member that spends a days or months here.  We could be a staff member who spends years here.  I am a student that will spend merely weeks here.  We all encounter an endless stream of faces, names, and unique stories that bring a new perspective to our lives.  I sit down with many different people who speak the truth of their experience and the weight of the details overwhelms me at points.

But each of these stories adds to the current of emotions that I see flowing through this hospital and beyond.  The faces blur, not because I remember them less, but because they are all jumbled together into a kaleidoscope of love.  Each day, we face each other with deep emotions and vulnerabilities: anger, fear, despair, joy, grief, and relief.  And the undercurrent of all these is love.

Today and every day we come to one another with love. Paul says that we find ourselves looking into a mirror dimly; we at first are searching out for our role in this world by focusing only on ourselves. The real treasure is turning from ourselves to look at another person's face. When we connect with another person, we are picking up the broken pieces of humanity and together creating a community.

 Love can show itself in many different ways; we are called to give Light to all of the  facets of love.  We are called to strip ourselves and embrace the emotions that we hide or run from.  When we strip ourselves down to the core of our being, we find Light.  God calls us to see the Light in ourselves and in others.  That Light includes the rawness and pain of exposure and grief.  We come into this hospital and see so many people each day.  New faces but the same emotions.  The same beautiful loving Light of God. We are called to recognize the Light in others and to be the embodiment of light for people in pain.

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