Madonna and Child, Exeter Cathedral

Madonna and Child, Exeter Cathedral

I’ve been thinking about love; about my inability to truly love; about my inability to really accept love. Somehow the two go together.

Look at Jesus. There was a man who truly loved, but we all know that. Yet he was also a man who knew how to be loved. By a woman who washed his feet with her tears and kisses and dried them with her hair; by Mary with her pound of precious ointment; by the women who ministered to him; and by the men, particularly the twelve, who loved him in their own macho, stumbling way.

Real love, it seems to me, involves seeing. Really seeing. Seeing reality. We must see the person who is actually there and not the person we want to be there. Even if they are the same person. Or seem to be. And that is really hard.

We have needs that our lover will meet. Except that the person who is actually there sometimes doesn’t. In fact, sometimes they miss a need again and again. And again. We do wonderful, loving things for them and wonder why they miss those too.

And in a thousand other ways, some big, some small, they fail to be the person we imagine them to be. And so we hurt. And get angry. Or resentful. It is not because they are not perfect—we don’t expect that. It is because the person they are is not the person we see.

We need to see this person who is there. We need to learn to lay aside our own needs and expectations and look, really look. To see their wounds and hurts and deal with them, even if they are not pretty.

Jesus told a story of a Judean man who was robbed and left for dead. A Pharisee and a Levite came past, but neither saw him, not really. They saw a bleeding, possibly dying, man alright—and knew that what he could do for them was to make them unclean, to disqualify them, for a while at least, from the work that defined them.

Then there was that other man, the Samaritan. He saw the man. Saw the blood, the wounds, the need. And he didn’t think of himself but simply went to work. To cleanse and bind and heal.

I suspect that if you had interrupted him and asked him what he thought this man could do for him, he would have looked at you very strangely. Probably wouldn’t really have understood the question. Or if he had, he might have rolled his eyes and muttered “nothing” as he went back to work.

And wasn’t he surprised, later, to discover that the man had given him the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

It is fear, of course, that stops us. Fear, that if I don’t watch out for my own needs then they might not get met. And they might not. It happens. It has happened to me. The one I expected to meet my needs didn’t. But then, they couldn’t, because they never really existed. They were a fantasy, a creation of my mind, my need, projected onto the real person who was there with me.

If I ever learn to see, to really see, will the person who is there then meet my needs? Maybe. Or maybe not. But perhaps it won’t matter so much. Because maybe I’ll see someone else there too, someone who can meet my needs. Even if, in the midst of my storms he seems to be asleep in the back of the boat.

Can I trust him? Can I not? Has he not demonstrated how much he loves me?

Oh, God, open my eyes so that I can see. So that I can love.

Because I am loved.


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2 Responses to “Love”

  1. Lilee Says:

    Beautifully written. It is hard to truly accept and to truly love. Above all else that is what I pray for, that God teaches me how to accept and love fully, completely and honestly so that I may love others as He loves us.

    • thoughtfulspirituality Says:

      Thank you. The more I live and learn, the more I see that love is at the very heart of the Gospel. It is the over-arching principle that trumps everything, including Law. That is why Jesus was compelled to heal people even on the Sabbath. Not that love is some vague feeling, or excuses anything. It must be true love, as God loves.

      May He bless you in your search, as I know He will.

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