What Love Lets

I met a 93-year old man who requested a bible. He moved so slowly trying to figure out where the book of Acts was and what chapter he left off reading. He mourned his age while being thankful for his health. He said, “hardly anything feels the same.” His wife had been 10 years deceased. He asked me if the 8 X 10 picture of her had followed him to the hospital and made it on the wall behind him. He later found out he had left it at home. I’ve scarcely met a man so in love. He told me that the 12 years prior to his wife’s passing she was confined to wheel chair after suffering a stroke. He cared for her changed her, and he’d have it all back again if God gave him the chance. They had been together 63 years; he wished he had more time with her.

The English poet Tony Harrison wrote a series of poems Long Distance 1 and 2 which recounts a man mourning his mother and father’s passing. His mother passes first, and the nature of the poems focusses on his father’s life without his wife, how his routines didn’t change and how he played the game of pretending she was around in order to maintain a sense of normalcy in old age.  It reminds me how hard letting go of things we love or think we love is. But there is a part of love that must make room for letting the beloved leave or go because I believe it is the test of determining if love is real. Love is what’s left after you let go.

The prodigal son, the Song of Solomon, the Gospels. God in his design has somehow wanted to demonstrate the power of love despite distance. In each of those stories and lives there is a separation and a love that endures despite separation. There is a certain love sickness that keeps us yearning for the B/beloved and somehow that affliction reminds us that it’s real. Love is painful in this life because it is costly. Love is costly because it requires forgiveness and forgiveness necessitates that something prior or presently is lost or forfeited to maintain relationship. Yet that loss is not to be feared for the sake of the gain of reciprocated love.

I don’t often cry in pastoral settings, but I couldn’t shake that the only two things this man wanted at 93 was his Bible and his wife. He made me feel that if those were the only two things in the world he had with him, it would be more than enough. It makes me more certain that despite all the other things we might have, none of it is enough without love.

To Be A Dad One Day

If I had kids, I see them now.

                My little girl is sensitive and playful, not sensitive as in easily hurt, sensitive as in curious and attentive to the emotions around her and her own. She approaches the world with an intuitive regard for good without suspicion. She likes people and giving compliments. She also likes getting compliments. She’s a little competitive and has these moments when too much newness at once makes her shy. Because of her mom she prefers the familiar. Because of me she is willing to go on adventure, but she asks a lot of questions first and during. Afterward she assumes everyone wants to hear about her adventures and sometimes forgets that the person she tells wasn’t there with her. She carries you with her everywhere. When she meets someone new, it’s as if she is reminding herself in the days that follow that this person will always somehow be a part of her life. As she gets older, she asks more questions about why I love her mom so much; she would often echo, “that’s why I love momma to.”

                She likes to clap a lot during worship and likes rhythm, neither me nor her mom really have rhythm, but we are thinking about getting her drum lessons. She has a responsibility to people which she probably could not help but learn because that’s the way we are wired. She likes dogs more than cats no matter how much I try to convince her little mind that cats are great. She says dogs are more huggable. She likes to show affection through hugs, it makes her giggle. She agrees with her mom more than with me and she waivers in who she thinks is funnier. She looks forward to bed time because she believes Jesus gives her good dreams. Whenever she has a bad dream, she lays claim to our bed. For a while she would let us know, “Just for tonight.” And she means it.

                As a teenager, she grew with confidence, thank God, still curious, a little more adventurous, a little sterner and more determined. Her mom taught her that. We tried to teach her resilience and have. She holds fast to the stories of our family’s faith and even as a teenager she likes spending time with her grandparents. We are grateful for that. She likes being an older sister, both in looking out for her brother and giving advice. She also holds him accountable to showing up to her events.

                Her brother is smarter than me, so is she, but he enjoys being smart. He’s athletic or at least capable but he says it’s cooler to be a “nerd.” As a child he trusted us and still does but he didn’t ask for much. He was much more of a content child than me. He dresses nicer than me because of his mom. He’s polite with a dry sense of humor. As a child he was eager to do the activities I was involved in but had more affection for mom. Her balance was more beneficial to his personality. As he got older, he liked to weigh options and was less feelings driven, but mom taught him to understand and be attentive to how I am wired. She’s a great mom. As a result, my son is very aware. He regularly would ask how I feel about his decisions as a teenager more often than he would ask permission. To which he would always be surprised at the times I would say, “no you’re not doing that.” I learned to give him other options, especially when my no would disappoint him. I admire his independence even being a second child.  66454-fathers-sons-karan-johar-in-conversation-with-sadhguru

                He’s a connector. He calls his grandfather’s for advice, or to be entertained by my dad. He learns fast but also forgets fast. He’s not big into risks and as a kid liked to know how long things would take. He thinks about time too much in my opinion. We weren’t sure how being a middle child would change him. It didn’t really because he felt his younger sibling quite peculiar.

But I think we all did. Such a wonderful surprise in every possible way, making our family a lot less predictable. It’s kind of fun having a child who is unfiltered. I think with the third, we thought we were good parents only to find out again we had much to learn. Our third teaches us wisdom or rather very specific wisdom, that there is not a science, that some days there is total contentment to be left alone and then the next there is a mission from God level of urgency to love our neighbors, while some days refuge from the world is the most important thing on earth. Discerning yet disarming and so joyful. Not the favorite (because there can’t be) but insists on fascinating.

If I saw them now, or saw them more, I’d hold them here.