No, this post is not about romance. I told Marnell that I can’t be writing about him and/or dating all the time.
“People like romantic stories,” he said.
And oddly it seems like I start writing and he always fits the topic!
But. The kind of love Amy Carmichael was speaking of in her poem when she cried out “Give me the love that leads the way!” was not an easy kind. The kind of love Jesus meant when he said “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,” is hardly a fuzzy feeling either. The kind of love He demonstrated on Calvary, so recently celebrated with large Easter meals and bunnies, wasn’t fun, either.
This is the kind of love I find myself to be in short supply so often.
I copied Amy Carmichael’s poem (“Give me the love that leads the way!”) and I carry it with me in my black binder full of heart surgery patient information. There are times that I pull it out, and let my eyes fall across the page, and, if nothing else, a sense of solidarity spreads over me.
I think I know in part the desperation she must have felt for love in her own heart, there on the baking plains of India where she had gone to give her life to God and the children in her children’s home, and to the task of loving human beings. She speaks in her writings about fear that your love for someone is slipping, perhaps because they are being unlovely. “Then a fear worse than any pain has us in its grip: is the love of the years slipping from us? ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’-is that fading from our memory? ‘Love never faileth’-is love failing now? Shall we find ourselves meeting lovelessness with lovelessness?”
She shares a “desperate prayer” for love, then ends by saying, “Nothing ordinary is equal to this new call; nothing in me suffices for this. O Lord of Love and Lord of Pain, abound in me in love: love through me, Love of God.”
Nothing ordinary…No indeed! There is no “ordinary” formula, method, quick fix for meeting hatred with love. There is only the desperate prayer: Love through me, love of God!
I was thinking about this as I walked the long halls of the hospital.
And God showed me the maintenance men. I was approaching elevator H when a couple of maintenance guys in those unbearable brown pants and olive green short sleeve button-downs crossed the hall ahead of me into the elevator to the ER.
Have you ever worked in a building with elevators? If you have, you know the pain of holding the door open for someone else meandering toward you down the hallway. All you want to do, especially if you are in a hurry, which seems to be the condition of everyone in the hospital, is to dive into the elevator, and press the “Close Door” button multiple times. The fifteen seconds that are wasted on the courtesy of waiting for someone else to board seem like fifteen hours.
“Going down?” one called to me.
“No, but thanks!” I called back.
These maintenance men, black and yellow screwdrivers clutched in their hands, brown steel-toed shoes, and clattering carts toting tool boxes and step ladders and levels and scrap metal probably don’t have all the formal education and professional training that many of the people in the hospital do. But they are at the top of the elevator love scale, in my opinion. Almost always, they are pleasant, anxious to get you on their elevator, even if it delays them. Besides, they are such interesting people to ride with. I look over their carts sometimes and say, “What’s that?”
The second person God used to show me love that day was my neighbor Mary, in some ways the simplest person I know. My phone began to ring, and it was late in the day and the surgeons were gone, so I answered it.
“You at work?”
“What did I tell you about working them long hours, girl?”
Funny, coming from a woman with stories of working at Strauss Pies until 1 am some days (in her past), then catching a few hours of sleep and a hot chocolate before her 5 am shift at McDonald’s.
“Well, there’s only two of us so if she’s gone I have to work.” Usually, I work long hours, but then I get days off. So this week was an exception.
“Sometimes we got to take a rest, Katrina. You need to get yourself some food, and get in bed! And sleep and eat and not answer the door, and not answer your phone! Sometimes we need to disappear, Katrina!”
It sounded so lovely, I began to laugh, and I realized I hadn’t been laughing much that day. Mary went right on.
“I think I’m going to do that one of these days too. Next week, look like I’m gonna have a day off. I’m not gonna answer the door, I’m not gonna answer my phone, I’m gonna get in my bed and I’m gonna get some cold cuts and put them in my room and I’m gonna reach over and grab one if I get hungry and then I’m gonna go right on back to sleep, girl. Yes, I’m gonna go right on back to sleep!”
“Thank you Mary,” I told her. “It’s so good to laugh! That’s just what I needed!” After I hung up with Mary, I shook my head. Mary, of all people, always able to show me God’s love, no matter the topic.
Then, the third person God put in my path was the cleaning lady dressed in turquoise, working her way down a quiet corridor on the third floor with her cart. She was surrounded by broom handles and spray bottles and trash, at work on a Friday night at 6 pm.
I was aimed for the front door, my backpack over my shoulder, my lunch bag in my hand. When she saw me, her face lit up with a lovely smile, even though we don’t really know each other.
“You have a wonderful night!” she said.
If you’ve worked anywhere, you probably know how hard it is to wish someone a good night, when it’s clear that they are heading for the door, and you aren’t.
“Thank you so much,” I said, stepping into the stairwell.
I don’t know what God was trying to show me. The maintenance guys, Mary, the housekeeper.
Perhaps, He was reminding me that even though loving can be difficult, it is still simple. Even though I don’t think we have what it takes to love those who hurt us without the love of Christ, God can use the smallest things to help us show love. Sometimes, loving someone is just holding the door for them, or making them laugh, or congratulating them on getting to leave work when you can’t. Love isn’t dependent on education, or credentials, or “thinking it through”! Maybe this is what God was trying to get through to me.
I hate to come back to Marnell, when I said I wasn’t going to write about him 🙂 but the other day I heard him talking on the phone to a troubled young man who had been threatened with blackmail by another troubled person.
“Just remember,” Marnell said, “no matter what he tells me about you, I still love you.”
Such a short sentence! But I could tell from the other end of the line, that they were powerful words, the kind of love that leads the way. (And, if you ask me, hearing the man in your life show compassion to a hurting person is romantic. See what I meant about him fitting the topic?)
I wonder if I would live to be 1000 years old, if I would begin to unwrap the mystery of what it means to love someone, day after day after day, when it’s difficult. But perhaps that’s why Jesus died. Because He knew the mystery, and He knew we would never get it on our own.
Thank you Jesus! Give me your love! Love through me, love of God!
“Give me the Love that leads the way
The Faith that nothing can dismay
The Hope no disappointments tire
The Passion that will burn like fire
Let me not sink to be a clod
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God”