Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 30, 2004
Love's raindrops heal the heart
As the physical body changes, so does a lover's nurturing response
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
Can flowers bloom on a parched desert? Can love grow despite the slow destruction of love's object - say a child, a wife or a husband? Yes. And I have observed first-hand that, with God's help, it's not only possible for love to survive but flourish.
For more than 30 years (20 with degenerative multiple sclerosis) I have been the unworthy recipient of such human love from my wife, LaRee.
As I began to sink, the reality of incurable, unstoppable disease must have whispered in her ear, "Leave! Forget!" Yet she stayed. She is like a flower blooming in the midst of a desert of multiple sclerosis that is slowly destroying the object of her love: me.
Selfless loveIn a world where half of all marriages fail and all bets are off for love's chances to survive let alone thrive, it's good to know that romantic love can and does exist over decades of trials. In a world where self-interest rules hearts, lust is presented as love and commitment is pass‚, it's good to know that selfless love still springs in human hearts. The 21st century is an increasingly loveless landscape where payment is demanded for all goods and services, punishment for all crimes, revenge for all wrongs. It's so good to know there are saints of romance who still believe in love even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
LaRee bears quiet (but intensely shy) Christian witness for lovers everywhere to endure the unbearable, hope in what seems hopeless, and to rise above the waves of circumstances to choose love regardless of the odds. Though life crumbled around her, LaRee sought the Creator and essence of love and life, humbly placing the broken pieces of her heart in God's hands. She trusted her own capacity for inner growth.
So often LaRee saw terror in my eyes while hiding her own - then responded by creating an environment of tranquility, acceptance and unconditional love that filled the rooms of our little house. As disease slowly crippled my body, LaRee tenderly fleshed out new aspects of life and love's fullness. She adorned the walls of our home with pictures of those we hold dear, and art such as Morgan Weistling's sweet painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the infant Christ entitled Kissing the Face of God.
As each new phase of disability comes, LaRee unobtrusively, graciously, elegantly adapts our world to accommodate new realities.
She used God's natural d‚cor to transform our backyard into a wheelchair friendly and peaceful haven surrounded by trees and a tall hedge. God responded by providing an assortment of birds, an occasional rabbit, a panoramic view of the seasons, and an immense sky to ponder the celestial city where we are destined.
In the first century, St. Paul spoke of love. The 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians is a great and beloved passage of Scripture. His immortal words are often read at weddings:
Love is patient"If I speak in human and angelic tongues but have not love, I am a resounding gong or clashing cymbal. Love is patient, love is kind. (Love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it does not seek its own interests, it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remains, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
Love is not God - God is love. All spiritual gifts are subjugated to love. Spiritual gifts are nothing without love; even faith itself without love is nothing (Chapter 13:2). But that is not to say love is God. Love is not God - God is love.
Lonely-hearted people may see those blessed with the companionship of romantic love as the ideal to which everything else must be sacrificed to attain. But understand that St. Paul was not specifically addressing romantic love (eros). He was addressing brotherly love (n. agape) and its expression by Christians to others (v. agapao).
Agape love has God as its focus. Eros love is lover-focused. I'm not saying that Paul's description does not apply to romantic love. It does and can be used as a standard to judge romantic love's authenticity. Christian romantic love is bonded in the sacrament of Matrimony (Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 1641-1642) with a man and woman becoming "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-5). God's love is continually being developed in both lovers - or at least it should.
People starved of human affection may mistakenly believe romantic love is what affirms human worth - as though romance is a god of personal validation. People who behave as though love is God can become tragic and even treacherous figures. Desperate pursuits of romance can become illusive obsessions. Human validation comes from the author of love, not love itself.
Everyone is lonely hearted. Human craving to be loved is universal. Do not disparage the lonely hearted or champions of romance. We are all needy, lonely-hearted people. Those oblivious to God's divine love are the most miserable of lonely hearts. Fortunately, lasting human hope usually begins in a state of love-poverty. The God-who-is-love can become our lover and teach us how to truly love those around us.
Champions of romance dare to imagine flowers on parched deserts. They beckon to an increasingly dry and loveless human landscape to dream again about a lush world of love. People open to romance veer near the heart of God: They soften to a fuller relationship and understanding of the God who is love.
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