That Kind Of Love

16 06 2010

“I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of the mouth, has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut that little nerve.

Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed, and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me.

Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry-mouth that I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks.

“Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.”

She nods, and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says. “It is kind of cute.”

All at once, I know who he is. I understand, and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth, and I [am] so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. “

– Richard Selzer (as quoted by Brennan Manning in the Ragamuffin Gospel, 104-105)

Every time I read that, I get that tight feeling in my chest and my eyes water up; I can’t help it. I have read that story a dozen times and it always does the same thing to me. That kind of love astounds me.

I recognize, in this reaction, that something is in me, magnetically drawn towards the idea of that kind of love. Explain to me, world, why is that? If I am just an evolutionary byproduct, why does something in me react when I see that kind of love in action? It makes no sense. The idea of that kind of love is so BIG and so beyond the natural that no one can explain it; it is spellbinding.

I am sitting here staring at the title and thinking about that kind of love. Have I ever experienced, among my fellow sojourners, that kind of love? The kind that loves my crooked mouth?

The Bible says that “…love covers over all wrongs” (Proverbs 10:12) but that can only be a supernatural kind of love because it certainly isn’t what I see around me. This kind of love goes beyond the “I love you” with a peck on my cheek. This love is a powerful mix of  lavish affection, unconditional forgiveness, and unquenchable belief. This love pursues and will not rest until it is with me. This love covers me; it pardons and looks past. This is the kind of love that looks me straight in the eyes and sees only me.

We were meant to be loved; we were actually created to be loved and to love back without any suspicion or bartering between us. I know this because when I am in the presence of a more pure love I see Truth. When it lands on me I know that all of what I am experiencing now is, as Philip Yancey says, “a rumor” hinting at what love was always supposed to be.

It is bittersweet: that kind of love is at once encouraging and discouraging; uplifting and burdonsome. It is so, because it is like a snowflake melting in your hand.

Jesus says, “come to me, all of you who are weary, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). When I read this, I realize I am weary from looking. I am weary from longing and it isn’t really “me,” the me that puts my shoes and jacket on every day and drives my car down the road to chase around. It is my soul, the part that wants to sit down and be refreshed by that love.

I am thirsty for it and the beautiful thing is I don’t need to hang around here waiting. I am invited to let my roots grow deep into that love now; and I am promised that it will renew me and make me strong. Not only that, but I will begin to understand “how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is and I will experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully (Ephesians 3:17 NLT).

— Teresa Klassen

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