The Gift of Love
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 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 put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians, Chapter 13)
It is a funny thing the act of hearing. I have heard these words a multitude of times...so many times that they simply skated across my mind as though being churned out on the front covers of a floridly cursive Hallmark card.
Until I read them the other day.
And each word, phrase, image walked with slow weighty confidence into my heart and stayed there...present, real, and stark with truth and experience.
These lines come afresh in the midst of a recurring challenge in my life...how to love someone for whom I can do nothing that changes the circumstances of his life, how to love someone who has made choices informed by illness and seems to be living with less than the dignity I would wish for him.
There was no glittery penmanship this time...I heard it as a chapter of freedom...my own and the freedom of those who occupy my heart and surround me.
Love is big...large...encompassing...and filled with truth...whatever that truth might be. Love is not surprised at any aspect of truth but blooms most fully in its honest company, enduring all things, bearing all things, and hoping...
And there is no one all-inclusive connection between Love and its manifestation...It does not insist on its own way except insofar as it meets the other descriptors Paul uses and Jesus lived...patient, kind, humble... The loving act might be letting someone go their own way...it might be posing a challenge...it might be asking a question or sitting in silence...making dessert or washing dishes...
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face... I too am wounded and yet, I believe I am loved...that God bears with me and hopes, that God celebrates and challenges...that nothing can separate me from this encompassing love because I am known, I am accepted, and love never ends.
May this greatest gift be what inspires my words, my thoughts, my actions, my being...