Friday, March 23, 2012
The Trojan Heart
How does love come to the unloved?
Amidst all the noise written, sung and spoken about love, there must be some signal of truth. How does one who knows not love recognize love when it shows up?
Can an expression, supposedly of love, be anything other than a bribe? "I love you," the gift says. "Won't you love me in return?" The person stands behind the gift, hoping that this time the magic will be wrought and lifelong loneliness will be ended.
I opted out of all that. A bribe is a bribe. If it takes a fancy gift to get anything started, it will take fancier gifts to keep it going. I've seen the pattern. It enriches the de Beers diamond cartel but no other. The balance of obligations and responses befuddled everyone I saw caught in it.
And yet, God is love. How does that work? I know not God, I know not love; the equation is null.
The need is there, the request made. Save me. Do something before I go over the cliff. The physical will to live is stronger than my mind's will to end it.
So, God starts with what he has. In my case this is very little. God never complains, but simply sets out from the start. Teaching basic vocabulary, leading by example. What does love do? How does love act? Look at Jesus and see how he works with people, talks with them, shows them with tenderness and perfect accuracy what they are doing to themselves, and he just keeps walking. "Come and see."
Each step I take is difficult. I'm armored, through necessity. I've seen many examples in my life of how God can protect me, but still trust is hard to come up with. My memory is good and stores many examples of broken promises, easy words that mean nothing, living by assumption with no time to listen to me. That's probably why I turned to writing.
What does love expect? The list I'm offered is very long. Whom do I believe? Follow Jesus in obscurity to what I hope is... well, what? Love makes no demands of the beloved. Love invites: a touch, a whisper, a soft inviting glow, a scent...
...and sometimes love offers a gift. Something tangible that can be picked up with physical flesh-and-blood fingers. I walk along the beach and find a small stone containing a perfect heart. The heart-shaped piece is softer, more eroded that the surrounding sandstone by its many trips up and down the beach... waiting for a day when I will be open enough to see it.
What kind of bribe is this? What, God? You haven't done enough for me that now you have to complicate it with something obvious? Effusive, even? It is the third in a series! Do you think I'm stupid? Coarse? Insensitive? Can't take a hint? What more of a hint do I need beyond Jesus' voluntary sacrifice?
Anger builds. I will not be trifled with. I will not have my life, my will, bought off for some sea-washed trinket. I will not have the crash of my dreams and guidance, the complete upending of my very will, traded for cheap tricks.
Still, I picked up this gift. At the time, with some delight. Effusive? Over the top? No doubt, this being the third heart-shaped pebble I've found out here. And experience has softened my defenses, not through battering, but through constance, steadfastness. Steadiness. As if that "Come and see" really were pointing in a particular direction leading to beauty.
Anger makes not a mark upon God's direction. He waits, and eventually I come to my senses. Not through being overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit, nor forced to a re-evaluation, but by simple waiting. Literally, senses. I sense no manipulation from God. His gifts are, wondrously, simply, that: gifts.
A sharing of delight, an exchange of beauty, a direct statement of "Isn't this a neat place where such things can be made?" Any response I might make, from stony silence through quiet delight to ecstatic exclamations (or even just a little story) is my choice. My choice. The gift is that, a gift.
It is still from God's hand, and his touch cannot help but change the touched. I suspect that even a person's touch will change another person, but who has time for acts like that? A tiny stone heart contained in stone, wrapped in my hand, all of us rapt in God's attentive hand. The tiny heart is soft, intact, well protected. Gradually my stony will responds to the touch of this gift's honest giver.