Love never gives up...

It isn't yet clear to me when it happened. Perhaps it has been part of that
evolutionary longing for intimacy with the holy that started to ripen within my soul at about 15. Maybe it has been both the gradual dawning that I have been embraced by grace throughout my 62 years as well as God's tender patience. It could be simply that from time to time I was able to see the unity within a lifetime of small epiphanies, I don't know. Maybe it is all of the above and probably much more, too. What I'm trying to say is that from time to time it seems as if I am awakened from the flurry of ordinary busyness so that I might notice in a new way where the Lord has taken me along the journey of life. 

Because the One who is Holy is patient, there have rarely been apocalyptic changes in my soul. St. Paul is clear: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. I like Peterson's reworking, too: 

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Incrementally, however, the lure and healing of the Lord has been at work within, making some of my rough places smooth and some of my hard places soft, changing me tenderly from the inside out. Over time, whether I have consciously been faithful or not, the way of Christ's compassion has been active - and what strikes me this Sabbath morning is how serene God has been while bringing hope, love and new perspective to birth within me whether I've realized it or not.

I was reading the NY Times, looking carefully at the movie reviews in the Arts and Leisure section, when I asked myself: when did I start to lose interest in the block busters? Used to be that I was obsessed with popular culture. When I was a child I could tell time by what TV program was blasting away. And I couldn't wait to get my hands on the latest record or fanzine of the moment. As time passed, I became a bit more discriminating when it came to the latest fad, but I was still starving for connection with something greater than myself so regularly jumped on board whatever was shaking as the current buzz. I can't tell you how important it used to be to see ALL the most popular movies  - and know all the trends in popular music - as early as possible. 

But not any more. I am uncertain when my interests changed but they are clearly different - and I am grateful. Frederick Buechner once observed that the patient commitment of God sometimes looks like "the unflagging luancy of the Lord (mixed with) the unending seaminess of man... and the meeting between them is always a matter of life or death and usually both." Something within must die so that something better can come to life. In Slow Church, the authors suggest that often "what sparks this change is when we become increasingly attentive not just to our end, but also to the means by which we could best reflect the love and peace of Jesus."

"Our tendency as Western churches is to shift, out of impatience, to the
logic of 'by any means necessary. (But) picking up our crosses and following Jesus is messy and painful and slow, so we (often) justify any action with the hope that it will lead us to the kingdom of God." And if not the kingdom, then something that is fun and engaging. But if we keep returning to the way of Jesus, resting and abiding in his love, all of a sudden we awaken to the fact that we have been changed from the inside out. What used to be important has, in fact, died so that more love and patience and beauty might grow in its place. Not completely - not without ups and downs - but authentically.

In Peterson's reworking of Matthew 11, Jesus says: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Without consciously taking time to rest and reflect on the way of Jesus, I start to unravel. But when I pause - and abide - even when such pauses are inconsistent, God's patient love bears fruit - the fruit St. Paul calls the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Back in the day, my man Lou Reed, expressed the angry side of this truth in his song: Star Man.

Another favorite, Cat Stevens, knew something of this challenge, too in his gospel-like lament: Miles from Nowhere. For decades I found myself drifting between these two songs.

And while I still love them both - and know they gave shape and form to my inner quest for decades - more often than not these days my life feels more like this... and I never quiet realized it was coming until it happened.


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