Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. And now abide faith, hope love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13: 6-7, 13)
When I was a child, my family went to Mexico. Puerto Vallarta. Tropical breezes and sand. Pacific waves and warm sun. I went swimming in the ocean, careful of the larger than normal waves from a tropical storm some many miles offshore. Truth be told, the waves were colossal. And as a first-grader, this meant they were even bigger. I went into the water and soon ended under it. Head over heels, not knowing which way was up. I caught myself on the sandy bottom, quick to pop my head up for a quick breath and only to be bowled over by the next wall of water….
I eventually got out of that water, but it took some time. As I’ve thought over my past couple of months, I keep coming back to that trip to Mexico. Life recently has been a topsy-turvy mess. Soon after flying home from Kenya for a conference I spoke at in April, I found myself rushing my father-in-law to the hospital for what we thought was a heart attack. Instead, it was cancer. And right after that, a friend lost her daughter tragically.
Fear. Pain. Anxiety. Grief. Shock. Malaise. Sadness. I’ve lived in all of these feelings during these past several weeks. In my own life, I’ve had my shares of ups and downs in my life, but nothing like this. I’ve not been impacted by the realities of brokenness as deeply as this before. So, it’s lead to a bit of writer’s block. A bit of questioning. A bit of “Lord, what in the world is going on?”.
Counterreformer Ignatius of Loyola called believers to a view of life that would find God in all things, to see where He is working. These months have required working deeply for this in this place of darkness. Where is God working? How can he be in the midst of all the pain, fear, anxiety and grief?
Some years ago in college, I was part of a choral group that put on a yearly show called The Third Half. This third performance of the year was started many years previous because students wanted an official opportunity to perform musical pieces they themselves had chosen. This “third half” is much like Paul’s words above about love.
Love, anchored beside her sisters of hope and faith, is that third component of the stuff of Christian living that will remain in the end, and it is the most important. Love will be the principle that anchors me in the weeks ahead, of processing the shock of tragedy, and of chemotherapy appointments. Rooted in our Lord Jesus Christ, love is what can provide me with the ability to be patient and kind, when I don’t want to be—and can’t. Singer-songwriter, and part-time theologian, Rich Mullins sings about letting “love be the strength in your legs” because only then in “every footprint, will there be a drop of grace”.
I still don’t have all the answers on some of the events of these past few months. Nor do I expect that I will any time soon, if ever. But what I do know is that in the midst of the swirling tide of the ocean of my life, I am only, and have only, been sustained by a love that is much deeper than I recognize, more close than I can sense, and more ready to care than I can imagine.
Thanks be to God.