But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:13 ~
Last week's affirmation was the first of a three-part series. It began with my recalling having read somewhere or been told by someone that, when I die, I will come face to face with God and that He will ask me three questions. I have given these three questions a great deal of thought, and in fact I think about them at some point almost every day. I don't think the questions will be posed as a pass-fail, congratulations-you're-in or sorry-but-you're-outta- here kind of test, but rather as part of a "welcome home" conversation between God and me, an "I'm-so- glad-you're-finally-here!-Tell-me-all-about-it!" chat, the kind of excited, breathless exchange one might have with a family member after returning from a lengthy trip to faraway lands.
The first question was "What did you learn?"
The second is "How much did you love?"
I think that what God will want to hear is whether I came to understand that love really is what this life is all about, that it's everything, pure and simple.
Pure and simple. Love everybody. Nothing complicated about it. Yeah, right.
Love is the most important lesson we are sent here to learn, and it is far and away the most difficult. I struggle with it every day, as I'm sure most people do. Let's be honest here. There are a lot of people who are downright difficult - if not impossible - to like, much less love. For example,
just yesterday my neighbor...
Well, let's just say it's a good thing I don't have to have this conversation with God today (at least I don't think I do; today's not over yet) because I clearly have a long way to go in learning about love. I guess I can only share how much I have loved to this point in my life; after that, I will tell you what I hope to be able to say to God when I graduate from this cosmic classroom and finally meet the Head Master.
Let's see. How to begin. How much have I loved so far?
I have loved my husband like one can only love one's truest, best friend, the better part of myself, mirror of my heart, the one who has given my life passion beyond romance, my partner on this journey, the witness to my life. But I guess I don't need to tell You, God. You know the rest, and readers (not to mention our kids)
might find it a little icky.
Speaking of kids, I have loved my children with an unconditional, fiercely protective, overwhelmingly joyful and sometimes deeply painful love that no one but a mother could understand. I would literally give my own life to save theirs. Oh, yeah. For a minute there, I forgot. That's how You love us. And You did that, didn't You?
I have loved my family and my friends, even though this one was really hard sometimes. I mean, do You remember that time my brother...oops. Sorry.
Look who I'm telling!
I have really, really tried to love everyone, God, but just yesterday, this woman at the post office...
Okay. Now you see how far I still have to go. Better skip right to what I hope will be my answers to the question "How much did you love?" by the time I am called upon to answer it. Here is what I believe He will want to hear:
I have loved my neighbor as myself, and I have learned that everyone is my neighbor. I have loved every person who has ever hurt me, and I have loved them hard, because You taught me that love in the face of anger and terror is the most powerful, unstoppable, undefinable force in the universe.
I have loved countless scroungy puppies and kittens and old, tired, sick dogs and cats and every precious creature that lives and breathes upon this earth. When I have witnessed cruelty to any living being, I have stepped up and done everything in my power to end it because that is love in action, and love without action to back it up is, well, not love.
I have loved this planet, our Mother Earth, that sustains us, and I've made every effort to learn how to care for her and live in a way that gives back to her more than I take.
I have loved this life You have given me and been blissfully and gratefully aware of every breath I have taken, every sunrise and sunset, every shooting star, every spring, summer, winter and fall, every, every, every...
I have loved my body because it is the temple of my spirit, the house I live in, my transportation and armor on this journey. I have given it nourishment, activity and rest and cared for it as I know You wanted me to. I have had to learn to love it although it causes me great grief and a lot of pain on any given day and just when my limits up of how much I can handle with my body I get slammed with something else. I mean seriously, who else do you know gets infected with Lyme's Disease, Fibromyalgia, debilitating disc disease and now Cancer. Am I still to believe that I can handle everything I am given? But I knew it was my temple and I had to take care of it, I started exercising, eating healthy, lost 150 pounds, all good stuff and still I struggle. But I try and take care of this temple the best I can.
I have loved the unlovely and the unlovable, the hated and the hateful. I have loved
with no second thoughts, no regrets.
Perhaps hardest of all, I have learned to love myself. You know what that's all about, Lord, so I guess I don't need to explain.
But You, God, You I have loved without measure, and my fervent prayer, now that I am at last in Your presence, is that I have lived my life as a small but worthy reflection of Your love for me.