Saturday, November 23, 2013
I met a friend for tea last week to discuss some of my recent writing, and during a pause in the conversation she spontaneously turned to her laptop to pull up the wildly popular viral image of Pope Francis kissing and embracing a severely diseased man. She quickly finds it, then turns the screen towards me as she says, “Have you seen this?” Of course, I hadn’t, but when the photograph pops up, my insides start to spin in slow motion. The noise from the conversations around me recedes as if someone has turned the volume knob. Immediately, my chest is radiating heat and the upper half of my body feels like a flame is burning. A sharp lump forms in the base of my throat. My ears start to ring. I feel as if I have been quickly transported to an empty, silenced room where the only things that fill the space are this image, my heart, and me.
The next day, I was driving in my car with my two teenagers (and “their” music) when that same powerful visual came to mind. Instantly my eyes were flooded to the brim with tears, as much as my heart and mind were flooded with questions. What is this trying to say to me? What “something” inside of me has just been shoved? And what am I supposed to do with these feelings?
I knew I could not walk away from this experience. I had to explicate it, look for the implications of these incidences, the reason this image of Pope Francis embracing a fellow worshipper touched me in such a deep place.
This is my typical way of responding to weighty issues that cause a movement in my soul. Actually, sometimes the issue is not even weighty, but for some reason it stirs me, which then leads me to ask myself, “Why is this stirring me? Why did something so seemingly little move me so?”
I know I am not the only one moved emotionally by similar incidences.
Are these experiences somehow connected to our purpose? Down inside our soul, might there be a void craving and searching for an opportunity for our purpose to rise?
In the New Testament, it says, “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:12-13(The Message)
Extravagant love…the best way to love… the best for us to do as we walk through this journey we call life… this is our purpose.
We see this again when Paul writes in Ephesians 5:2, “Keep company with God and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us…Love like that.” I love that last line, "Love like that." In essence, Paul is saying, “You see how Jesus did it? Love like that.”
On our twentieth wedding anniversary, my late husband gave me a continuous string of fresh water pearls that was at least 30 inches long. I can wrap it around my neck three times, leave it long, or tie it in a knot, or any other creative way that hits me. I remember opening the package while we were seated at the restaurant and, as I pulled them out of the pouch, the pearls kept coming and coming and coming until my arm was straight above my head trying to hold them up in the air! The next day I was telling a good friend about the gift and she said with her southern drawl and a smile on her face, "I just love it when a man can love extravagantly!"
Extravagant means to exceed the limits of reason or necessity, profuse, lavish, lacking in moderation or restraint, excessive. Does our love look like this? Paul says, "Love like that." Pope Francis inspired us all as he demonstrated a love like that. It exceeded the limits of reason, he went beyond what was necessary, and it was lavish, with no restraint. He simply could have barely touched the top of his head or placed one hand on the man’s shoulder while genuflecting with the other. He chose extravagant love. Because he did, it was evident to all the consummate healing balm effect it had as they saw the man drop his head with a long awaited relief into the bosom of Pope Francis and bask in the touch, the compassion, and the extravagant love. The healing in this man’s heart and spirit was palpable to those watching.
This is what loving extravagantly can do. It heals. It causes situations to turn around. It lifts spirits. It turns our eyes to something greater than ourselves.
I yearn to be that conduit for extravagant love. This is the void. To have the courage, the boldness, the tenacity, to lean into life and humanity with a heart overflowing with compassion and mercy, to love without borders, towards all who are brought across my path. Living a life of extravagant love fills a void for both the giver as well as the receiver. It makes our life complete.
“Go after a life of love as if your life depended on it – because it does.”
1 Corinthians 14:1