“Mirrors and Marble Jars”

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” (Anne Dillard)   Head’s up…for those who have lost track of the calendar…Valentine’s Day is next Thursday.

You might wonder how in the world a holiday dedicated to love shows up on February 14, with cards at one of the spectrum and diamonds on the other. It all goes back to a widely recognized 3rd-century Roman saint who was celebrated with a feast on February 14 and who, since the Middle Ages, has been associated with the tradition of “courtly love”; the highly romanticized love which told stories of knights in shining armor doing great, heroic deeds for their “lady”. That image of love has sabotaged us in so many ways and distorted our expectations. Great celebration, but even though we say we don’t buy into the myths surrounding love (i.e., they lived happily ever after), we struggle every day with our most intimate relationships.

I believe that to be created in the image of God (Genesis 1) is to be created to love and be loved. Sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but by the time of the Greeks, their language indicates the nuances that were developing. There are four Greek words for love that show up in the Greek translation of the Old Testament and the New Testament. These four words are…

1.   The love of family: storge

2.   The deep love of friendship: philia

3.   The romance of passion and sexuality: Eros

4.   The promise of unconditional love (God’s steadfast love): agape It turns out that while these four have been the focuses of Christian writers through the years, they were leaving out two other dynamics associate with love in Greek thinking.

5: Long lasting love: Pragma

6: Love of self: Philautia Loving relationships are complicated. Erich Fromm highlighted the struggle in our marriages: There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love. But the struggle to connect extends to our relationships in every arena of our lives: parents, children, extended family, friendships, neighbors, co-workers, fellow spiritual pilgrims…the list goes on and on. The more intimate the relationship, the more is at stake.

Just as I believe that we are created to love, I also believe that learning to love is the great purpose of life. I’ve taken to reading a portion of Paul’s chapter on love at memorial services as well as marriage celebrations. For me, love is learned in the little moments of every day, as I learn to balance my ego and who I am with the selfless, unconditional love I experience through God’s Holy Spirit. It is in the midst of everyday living, in the daily transactions of life, that love is practiced. Sure, there are the mountain-top moments, but inevitably we come down the mountain and struggle to love real people in the midst of real life. Here’s what Paul said about love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

The great commandment to love God and my neighbor as myself (Luke 10) starts with my acceptance of God’s love, so I know I am loved. It starts every morning with who I see myself to be in the mirror. Then I reflect that image to the people around me, and in the process “mirror” God’s love in the little moments of life through the little gestures of love. Trust, and ability to be vulnerable with one another are essential to loving relationships. This is how Brené Brown described the process of building loving relationships: “It is very clear,” she said, “trust is built in very small moments.” Trust is not an event; it collects/develops over time like marbles in a jar.

How do I mirror love in the moments that make up my every day?
 That is the question for us to ponder as we gather Sunday. Hope to see you then.