February 22, 2022

From The Rector…

The puppies got to go to the beach this past weekend. They traveled really well in the kennel in the new SUV we had to buy for them. They barked at the water in the bay. They dug in the sand and played on the porch and were generally fun to be with. Puppies are cute and sweet and full of energy. And though they may wear you out, they also break open your heart and increase your capacity for love.  

Babies are like that too. When a baby looks into your eyes and grabs hold of your finger, the heart quickly melts. Children are always amazed by the response their parents have to their grandchildren. How often have I heard my sister or Steve’s siblings complain that they were never treated as well as the grandchildren are? Grandchildren can get away with things that children never could. It makes me wonder what happens to us when we grow older. Do our hearts begin to harden with time, only to soften and remember what it is to love so unconditionally when we hold a newborn?  

There is a sense of unconditional love that bubbles up inside us when it comes to puppies and babies. We don’t have to work hard or make a choice to love them—it simply happens. Those who cannot do for themselves often stir our hearts in love and we allow ourselves to become vulnerable in the presence of those who are most vulnerable.  

Paul tells us in I Corinthians that love is patient and kind, but he forgot to tell us it is also vulnerable. We don’t like to be vulnerable, and vulnerability is not a sought-after quality in our cutthroat world. Yet, it is the vulnerability of the cross that offers us salvation. To emulate Jesus in this world is to walk in the way of vulnerability—exposing ourselves to the possibility of suffering; exposing ourselves to love.  

Love requires vulnerability—for both parties. We have to be vulnerable to receive love. We have to be vulnerable to give love too. It is only in our willingness to drop our defenses and expose ourselves to the pain and the joy of love that we can truly give and receive it. Puppies and babies remind us of that. In a world filled with challenges, competition, and corruption—it is difficult to release our barriers. Instead, we are constantly building up walls that we think will protect us, even save us. What we discover is that they limit us and isolate us from others. Maybe that’s why the new grandbaby becomes an invitation back into relationship with our children—it is a hope and reminder of the love that we have always had but hidden away to protect ourselves.

It is a beautiful and yet, challenging thing to love. It puts us in the most uncomfortable and even, compromising positions. It leads us to the highest highs and lowest lows. It will cause us to weep for joy and cry in despair. It will rend our hearts in a thousand pieces a million times over. It is a flame, fragile in the breeze and vulnerable to those who would try to put it out. That flame is the lamp that we are warned not to hide under a bushel or let Satan blow out. It is the light of love that Jesus asks us to shine for all the world to see.

Choosing to be vulnerable, to let down our defenses, to love—can be painful at times but it will always be good and true and beautiful. In that way, love is the greatest mystery of all. Pain will come. Death will part us from those we love—though only for a while. We will weep at night, yet joy will come in the morning. There is no greater gift we can give to ourselves or one another than love and the vulnerability that is required to truly love another—be it God or puppy or grandchild or spouse or parent or friend or neighbor or immigrant or the poor or the sick or the imprisoned or the person who looks and acts different from you or (and most especially) you yourself.  

Jesus tells us to love one another as he loves us—a love given with such vulnerability that he chooses a cross to express it and a cross to receive it from us. If you aren’t sure how to love or wonder if you’ve been doing it well—be vulnerable. And when you get hurt, choose to be vulnerable again and again and again. And if you need a little reminder of what that vulnerability looks like, you’re welcome to come to my house and fall in love with a couple of puppy dogs.

Light and Life,