"...if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing."
Sacrifice makes no pretense of ease. Shedding not only excess, but perceived necessities, to ease the pain of needy people isn't exactly something we're all flocking to do. Because it is hard. It hurts. It unmasks the face of our own vulnerabilities and exposes to naked eye the fears we bury with fun and things.
But sacrifice is easier than martyrdom. No possession casts a shadow on the prospect of landing on a beach and facing the spear of a headhunter, willing, like Nate Saint, to give all that is yourself to break open astounding reality. Love is here. And you are found.
Still, martyrdom is a once and done deal. Heaps of courage and selflessness are required to die for Love, but might it take even mountainous heaps to live in it?
"Love is patient,
love is kind and is not jealous;
love does not brag and is not arrogant,
does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own,
is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things."
Every day. Scrubbing boots, talking through nightmares, saying "no" and holding accountable, giving hugs, applauding progress, teaching the same lessons over and over, and still occasionally (or sometimes for weeks at a time) receiving disrespect, name-calling, yelling, and punches. I end up rubbing my nose in the filthy rags that are all that remain of my own loving skills.
And I wonder how in the world any of my feeble efforts can make any shade of difference. Can the Love that knows no limits stretch around my world, when so much spills through the cracks of my brokenness?
But love is from God. And God is Love.
On the best morning of the past week, one of my teens walked, penguin-like and giggling, back to the office where I was finishing med pass. "Becky, what would you do if I always walked like this?"
"I'd still love you, silly!"
Back in the next room, she laughed to her sister, "I asked Becky what she'd do if I always walked like this. And she said, 'I'd still love you'."
Her sister's quick response stung my eyes with tears. "Becky will ALWAYS love you. Except when you swear. But she still LOVES you. She just tells you to stop."
It stole my breath. This unhesitation from the girl who made me bite my tongue and use every coping skill to not swear myself while I confronted her for things far less desirable than swearing? "Jesus, be here." That's what I'd asked, but I didn't know she'd seen anything more than me, not letting her do what she wanted. Me, clutching desperately to the very tail of my patience.
But she had seen Love.
Maybe my love isn't all I have to give. Maybe God is its source.
Maybe the source torrents out when my reservoir trickles dry.
Maybe, just maybe, this
"Love never fails."
[All quotes from 1 Corinthians 13]