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


The Second Journey

20 04 2010

(Quotes in this blog-post are all from Brennan Manning’s book “The Ragamuffin Gospel”)

Sometimes you walk through a series of events and at the end of them all, or sometimes in the middle of them,  you know you have changed, or that you are changing. I realize it could be argued that everything changes us, everything steers us in a direction, but I think there comes a time of significant change, when we are “dragged away from chosen and cherished patterns” to face a new reality.

Brennan Manning, in his EXCELLENT book “The Ragamuffin Gospel” says that this often occurs between the age of 30 and 60 but I think for some it happens younger — especially if that person has walked through some kind of fire. At whatever age this happens, suddenly life comes into focus and it is your life, only different. Manning calls this our Second Journey.

“Second journeys usually end quietly with a new wisdom and a coming to a true sense of self that releases great power. The wisdom is that of an adult who has regained equilibrium, stabilized, and found fresh purpose and new dreams. It is a wisdom that gives some things up, lets some things die, and accepts human limitations. It is a wisdom that realizes: I cannot expect anyone to understand me fully. It is wisdom that admits the inevitability of old age and death.” (158)

I really identify with and love how Manning has described this.  It is a different kind of enlightenment then you hear about on Oprah – which is all about self-awareness – because, for the Christ-follower, this understanding is “often accompanied by a second call from the Lord Jesus. The second call invites us to a serious reflection on the nature and quality of our faith in the gospel of grace, our hope in the new and not yet, and our love for God and people.” (159)

When the Bible says that God takes everything and works everything out for good (Romans 8:28), I think that we see this when we begin our Second Journey; we hear Jesus saying, “I am with you, I am for you, I am in you. I expect more failure from you than you expect from yourself,” (168) and we finally begin to understand that. We finally begin to see that God really does use all the “random” events of our lives for His good and our good and they do become tools in His hands to reach out to others and draw them in to His love.

It is during the Second Journey that I think we finally begin to move away from our illusions (see my last post on the “Adidas Bag”) and see our family, friends, coworkers, neighbours and “enemies” more realistically and are able to truly forgive them “acknowledging with unexpected compassion that these people are neither angels nor devils but only human.” (159)

I think we can stand in the way of a Second Journey, or we can open ourselves up to it. I am watching myself in this regard.  I feel like I feel when I swim laps. I am not that great of a swimmer so I really have to think about what I am doing. Am I fighting the water or am I using it to carry me? Am I thinking about what my arms are  doing? Am I thinking about whether I am at the surface of the water or am I drooping down into the depths where there is unnecessary resistance? It is all about form.

I think the same could be said for my own Second Journey which I am awkwardly “swimming” through and what I am letting Jesus teach me. Am I fighting Him or am I letting Him carry me? Am I thinking about what I am doing? Am I thinking about whether I am where He wants me or if I am sinking to places where I am facing unnecessary resistance? It is also all about form.

— Teresa Klassen