If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
Over the weekend I was at a baby shower for a friend I’ve known since I was 14 years old. We went through our awkward teenage years together (one of us is still a bit awkward), drank frozen cokes and ice coffees in blizzards, ate our hearts fill of pizza bites, learned to cook together, babysat together, had movie marathons together. We went on day trips, argued in card games, and even cheated off one another a time or two in high school. We served alongside one another in college, stayed up late dreaming of being missionaries together. I was the friend that rolled my eyes when she died her hair pink, then black, and and wanted plugs in her ears (the Emo phase). She was the Emo looking 17 year old girl that gave me her bible.. the same bible that eventually lead me to understand who Jesus was, and two of my biological family members as well.
It’s a warm, special feeling to have known someone for a chunk of time. This friend of mine married into another family I have known almost as long. And at the baby shower, I was on my way out when her mother-in-law grabbed hold of me and embraced me. It was the kind of embrace that communicate, “let’s sit and catch up”. So we did.
Mother-in-Law has never shied away from the realities of her struggles before Jesus and as a Christian. I have always respected that about her. Life’s hard. She knows it and feels it too. And in the course of our conversations I said, “I’m starting to care less about what I know, and care more about knowing who I am.” And she looked at me straight in the eye, grabbed my hand and said, “That’s wisdom Syndal.”
If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
So here’s where I am at. Here’s what I am learning. I never shy away from sharing what I am learning and not learning. Theology and philosophies and knowing the answers could only take me so far. And I know they turned people away from me. And probably away from Jesus. So I have been starting to care less about what I know and more about who I am. Because I must first know how to love myself through Jesus before I can love my neighbor as myself in Jesus. And if I do not love, I’m nothing.
If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Maybe the way I love isn’t efficient. I don’t think I will win any awards. I am not doing anything spectacular. But I show up for people. I have enough margin in my life and schedule for others. I make my time my most valued resource, the thing I give the most. I don’t speak to an audience of 1,000 or 100, or even 10. Maybe I get together with 1-2 women a week, mentor a student or two. I cook dinner for my housemates, write a few letters to people I know could use some encouragement.
Maybe the way I love seems too fluid, too unstructured. Maybe it is. But I’m not sure. I just know this was not who I was a few years ago and I am confident I am more like Jesus now. And I am so thankful for this learning process. I’ve had to unlearn a lot, and in the process I am learning more about who I am, and as I know more of who I am, I am far more able to love others as I would myself, in ways that might actually bring about restoration and healing, for me and them.
And maybe the older we get, what we know is far less important than knowing who we are.