11/12/06

And the Greatest of These

And the greatest of these is love.

I've been thinking about faith, hope, and love. More accurately wondering why Paul deemed love the greatest. Then I thought about what Jesus said to his disciples about love, that laying down one's life for a friend is love at its best.

Love, in action, seems to go against the most human instinct for self-preservation. In fact, it flies in the face of every impulse to ensure that we get through life in tact and unharmed. Love is downright dangerous, harmful, and deadly. In fact, if it were a potion, there would be a skull and cross bones on the bottle.

I have lived to protect myself. When I find myself threatened, my security challenged, I go into self-preservation mode. I've done many wrong things to maintain the status quo in the security department. Not illegal things, though I'm sure I could be tempted, but wrong things nonetheless. I could elaborate but it would be boring. I am no more or less creative than my fellow self-preservationists.

I recently read an email from an doctor friend of mine in Iraq. He retold, in too-vivid detail, an experience where four soliders in a tank found themselves in a firestorm that left them trapped in an inferno. One soldier, in an effort to rescue one of his comrades, was serverely burned. He escaped with his life but the life he will live from here on out is fundamentally different than the one he had prior to being burned. I'm not referring to his future as a disabled person. I am talking about his life as someone who loved to the degree that Jesus described. Whatever his physical challenges may be, he faced and met a spiritual challenge that should earn him a place in heaven's hall of fame (if such a place exists and I think it should).

I do so many things each day in the name of love that really, when stripped to core motives, are more about self-preservation. I love because I want others to see me as loving. I love because it feels good. I love because love gets rewarded. I love because I don't want to be alone or shunned.

This confession doesn't make me feel proud or good. I find myself wanting to backspace-delete. Say it differently, offer an excuse, a rationalization, something. But if I can't love I should at least tell the truth.

I have been preoccupied of late with worry. Worries about my livlihood, future, ability to do my job, ability to keep my job in light of the pressures and demands it thrusts upon me daily. I wonder if I am not, in worrying obsessively, avoiding the next step in my own spiritual evolution which is to love with abandon - to give myself wholly to a work that touches loves while simultanesouly exposing every vulnerability I have.

I'm not yet sure what I am going to do - in part because I am not quite sure what I am really made of. I know myself inside and out but I don't know whether I will obey love's call and stay the course. I have the impulse to run and reinvent myself as someone who doesn't have to deal with being called. And, I have run before.

My mother used to say that nothing is permanent and that one can always make a change. That's partly true. Her meaning, as I understood it, was that is OK to try different things. But there are some things that can't be changed and trying new things won't make me less responsible to do something meaningful with my life - to leave the world a better place - even in some small way.

Some months ago, Warren Buffet, the world's second richest man behind Bill Gates, gave the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation almost his entire fortune. 30 billion dollars will help support the Gates' efforts to do what governments all over the world have not - to raise the poor and opressed out of misery.

I mark that in contrast to my own worries and I wonder if I could be any more poor in spirit.

I have a week to sort some things out. Mainly, I want to think less about work and all of the things I have to do (the endless list) and more about faith, hope and love.

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