LOVE

Photos by Jessica Bills

Photos by Jessica Bills

 

This was originally posted on Kylie's blog. Follow along with her blog for more posts about the Advent Season.

kylieshackelford.com


 

Yet another week has swiftly come and gone. The weeks and months have been blazing past me with concerning speed since the month of May. I blinked and it was September, opened my eyes again and it was December. It’s been flying but amidst the flight I am taking comfort in the repetition that Advent demands and am resting for this fleeting second in the fact that I get to light the candle of expectation and hope again tomorrow. That though this first holy week is behind us, we still get to expect and we still get to wait. With our eyes fixed on the truth of the good news, we carry our hope and our expectation into this second week taking another stoke in this great liturgy. We cut deeper into the practice of advent as we remember the very powerful truth that the most life-giving and satisfying aspect of human connection is a part of the Savior story too. Love. If love was removed from Creation, from the wilderness wanderings, from the silence, the Incarnation, if it was removed from the ministry, the journeys, and from the hands and the feet of the Church all else that we hold as believing ones would be shallow, meaningless, hollow, and void. But our story of hope is not shallow, its not meaningless, its not hollow, or void. We light the candle of love together as one church body across the globe, yet again, defying the darkness and illuminating an even more powerful, brighter flame.

This morning Dr. Jerry Root said something quite simple that caught my attention. He said, “In all of my life, I have never met a person who lives an honest life who doesn’t long to be loved.” He’s right, for the longing for love and belonging is universal to the whole of humanity, laced within us deeper than muscle and tissue. Love is not an action or an emotion that is signature to one particular demographic of people. It is all encompassing; undefined by culture, belief, upbringing, or socio-economical status. It’s in eye-contact – resting in that short and beautiful action of acknowledging and celebrating life with a stranger. It’s in the telling of stories, the breaking of bread, and the opening of doors. In the giving of gifts and in fits of unrequited laughter among friends. Love lies in sacrifice and in the tending of wounds. It boarders the hallways of hospitals, fills itself out in military uniforms, and files along the isles of food banks. It is tender and affectionate, noble and bold, but most of all it is not self-serving.

I am coming to recognize the unfortunate truth that our world is inhabited by tired, strung out people who are searching for meaning and fulfillment. We pine to belong and we’ll do anything to establish a place and a name for ourselves. We’ll be restless until we do. I am noticing that there is something that lies incomplete within us and our relationships that tends to lead us deeper into dissatisfaction and longing and I can’t help but wonder if a part of that missing thread could be perfect love. Because truth be told, we don’t love each other perfectly. I for one don’t love the people that I have been entrusted with perfectly. I can be terribly selfish and self-seeking and more times than not, I fail in relationship and let the people that I love the deepest down. I love out of the only heart and the only mind that I have and unfortunately, it’s a heart that is imperfect and is subject to destruction and decay. In 1 John, the apostle says that perfect love casts out fear. My question is that if it’s love perfected that casts away fear then the what does that say about love imperfect? Does it breed anxiety, lack of trust, and more pain? Love imperfect sounds like a destructive, toxic mode of expression. And if I am honest with you, there are few things that I hate about being human more than the fact that we are incapable of extending perfection to one another. We wound those we love. It’s a nasty cycle that everything in me desires to see broken. But the truth is that imperfect love is the only kind of love that we are able to experience amongst one other and if we’re honest, we’d fess up to the obvious truth that imperfect love is terribly painful.

So where is the good news in that? Where is the hope in ceaselessly existing in a kind of human relation that hurts just as much as it nourishes? We are a broken people who wake and sleep in repetition trying to learn how to love and be loved. We are the hurting, the lonely, the fearful. We are the tired, the outcast, the jaded, and the longing ones. We just are! It’s our daily reality. If we’d open our eyes we’d find a world of people just as desperate as we are for love – which is unbelievably overwhelming and discouraging. What I am professing to you on this advent Sunday is a confession of the truth that I love the people that I have been entrusted with so imperfectly that I am discouraged at even the thought of trying to love the whole of humanity. Loving each life I encounter, each story, placing my hand gently over each wound, looking knowingly into each stranger’s eyes, and speaking words of life, grace, and peace in every passing interaction? HOW?! Is it possible? Is that kind of life and posture something that is actually attainable, or is it too etherial and utopic? I think that it might be slightly utopic BUT I also think that though perfection might be unattainable it shouldn’t discourage us in the here and now from giving ourselves entirely in love to brother, friend, and stranger alike.

Despite all of the discouragement that I feel in regard to loving my neighbors who crave even the smallest seeds of love, I am increasingly encouraged by that gentle, open invitation to faithfully learn how to love in the midst of imperfection. Because the truth is, friend, that we have what it takes to look, know and communicate solidarity with a single moment of eye contact with a stranger. We have what it takes within us to be the loving hands that heal physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds. For truly, what does love look like? Saint Augustine says that love simply has the hand to help others, the feet to hasten the poor and the needy, the eye to see misery and want, the ears to hear the signs and sorrows of men. And that very invitation has the divine power to inhabit our bodies and reengineer our minds and hearts to function differently which could and would, in turn, rewire our world. WHICH IS THE VERY THING THAT WE ARE CELEBRATING! Am I right?! The incarnation of love introduces words like unconditional and forgiveness, words that loosen bonds and break chains of callousness. Love came down and changed the world. It’s as simple as that. Love invaded and paved a new way to be human, teaching us how to be tender, compassionate, and hospitable to a broken and very weary world.

So I guess what I want to do on this Second Sunday of Advent is to humbly submit my resignation of defeat to the Creator. Committing to the repetitive art of speaking away my fear of ineffectiveness and inability to love in perfection and choosing to exist in the reality that the little seeds of love that I am able to sow as I walk this beaten ground are good seeds and they are seeds that are enough. I confess that I am not self-sufficient, though I oft like to think that I am. I confess that I myself, am poor and needy of brotherly love, affection, and belonging. I confess that I am desirous of the company of Emmanuel, The One who loves perfectly with no inhibition. I am desirous to learn from Him and way that He loves right in the midst of this imperfect and very broken here and now.

So tonight we light another candle. Reigniting hope, we confidently make way for love, and in expectation we wait and we watch the embodiment of perfect love slowly spark into that warm, holy, fiery flame that consumes all that is in its wake. Love came down and decimated the darkness with His Light. Love stayed and love lived. He was patient, he was kind, he healed, and he gave Himself up for the sake of obedience, pardoning the lost and broken. Love defied every vice that this world knows and teaches us how to live in this new way to be human. Let us anticipate and live into the healing that love brings. He has come and He is coming once again to redeem all things to himself and his perfect intention, even the very love that we imperfect. And you and I both know that all 7 billion of us desperately need that.

Come Lord, come quickly.
We need your restoration.
We are waiting.

Sincerely,
Kylie Shackelford