A need to understand love has gripped me, and I’ve been pondering and praying and wrapping my brittle mind around the soft curves of love, and it’s cracking me in ways I don’t understand. The more I think, the deeper I go, the more it seems I have to learn. I have stood at the altar, my daughter a sacrifice, and I thought I had been stripped to the bone. Was my heart not exposed? But there are more layers still, and they’re still cracking and there’s hot lava somewhere deep inside that refuses to be held down forever. There is love in me that is deeper, stronger, hotter, and it frightens me to lose control. What is this?
We lost a close friend and trusted colleague this week, and Richard speaks of brotherly bonds forged in battle that have joined his heart with the heart of this lost friend. Death has separated them. But he compares it to other friendships, similarly forged, equally deep, that lie dormant due to reassigned battlefields. I try to understand. Death has separated us from one friend, and we are heartbroken. But distance and circumstance has separated us from the other… and we accept that?
What is love, and who is it meant to be for? Who is my neighbour? Do I love the people in front of me, or do I seek out the people I love?
This isolated, disconnected, shell of humanity that we’re pretending to live in this 2020 has clouded my head and I can’t remember intricate community as clearly as I need to. There is a gathering cloud of cinder in the air as rumbling hearts boil hot and dissatisfied in the disconnection. The cloud of confusion is heavy, sinking low enough to cover our children’s heads.
“Mom, I think Nate and I are drifting apart.” Little boys, friends from birth, brothers from soul-sister mothers, can feel it. Nate tells his mother the same thing. “I’m not sure if Rourke is still my friend.”
Dark clouds of Disconnect cloud our minds, and our hearts bubble with dissatisfaction.
But the lava deep within is hot with love, hot with passion, hot with humanity co-born in Father’s heart. And we can’t keep it down.
While I’m obsessing over what love is, and who it's for, and how to find this neighbour that I’m supposed to give it to, little signs are sent my way. A surprise bunch of flowers from a friend. A massage booked by my husband. A little chocolate from the massage therapist. A smile from a befriended car guard. A message asking how the sender can pray for us.
Who is my neighbour?
A darling daughter touches my back and I recoil in irritation. She’s asking gently if I’m okay. I’m not, but I brush her off, annoyed. Why?
I'm living in my head, in my thoughts - this cloudy place - and it’s ashy but it’s mine and it’s predictably ashy. Her touch is the intrusive touch of reality. It is a whispered, Come down.
Come down. Come down out of your head, out of your thoughts, out of the cinders up there. Touch earth. Turn around and touch the girl. Feel the material world. There are roses to smell, and a chocolate to eat, and a message or two to reply to.
Who is my neighbour? Jesus was asked the same question, and he answered: Neighbourly love is love that chooses. Love that seeks out. Love that sees need and crosses the street; love that kneels down and gets dirty. Love that spends itself and leaves, but only to get more and come back to give it. Neighbourly love touches the material world.
And the material world and the spiritual world are one and intertwined; supernatural is just natural extended into more of what’s real. Touch the girl, touch the world, smell the flowers, breath a prayer. This is real.
Who is my neighbour? The friend who brought me flowers and the man who loves me wholly, and the therapist who deals with me gently and the praying friend who remembered.
Who is my neighbour? It's the friend we lost that we'd have done anything for, and the friend we’re seldom in touch with that we would run to at a word.
Neighbourly love is love that chooses. Come down out of your head, out of the cinders and do the spiritual act of touching the material world.
And I reach out and call a drifting friend and we take a walk on the promenade where we are still allowed to. We rekindle dwindling promises and clouds clear as love is freed to flow.
Rourke sees Nate for a stolen moment at drive-through church and hearts touch where hands are not allowed. The boys share stories, and promises, and too-loud giggles, and as they’re tucked into bed that night, they report back real truth: “We’re all good, Mom… We’ve still got it!”