What does love say when we do not agree?

I love poetry. Every Lenten season I buy a book of poems from someone new and read a few a day as part of my prayer. I love the funny, the historic, the ordinary. I love words. And there are also poems or authors that aren’t my favorites. I was at a poetry reading recently, and some of the poets were fabulous, and some were… not my taste.

This is to be expected, and I want to be exposed to new things, to things I might not enjoy but should be open to hearing anyway. However, on my way home, I was thinking it might be hard to be married to a poet (or any artist really). What if they poured their heart and soul into a poem, and after the first line or two, you knew you were going to really hate it? And yet, there is your beloved, looking for affirmation. It could be so awkward.

What does love say in that moment? And isn’t it also true for religion or politics or anything potentially divisive. What does love say when we do not agree, when it is painful to listen, when your very heart says no? Isn’t it also true with friends and co-workers and the people at the gym. What does love say when the person you are sweating on the treadmill next to turns on Fox News or MSNBC?

This is the question for our time. And I would say it is a discipline that we continue to refine, a discipline of generosity and patience, of humility and investment. We model for others how we want to be listened to, how we want to be received, by the way we listen and receive. Sometimes, the most loving thing is to tell the truth boldly and sometimes it is to breathe deeply and believe in the good in each person.

What I know for sure is that the way is not violent or mean. I know that being right isn’t as important as being kind. I know that there are plenty of opinions which are not facts. I know that relationships are precious and ultimately our only hope. I invest in relationships, even when it is hard, or I have to bite my tongue. We have to build up community, and that requires love, and love always includes sacrifice.

God Intermingles Everything for Good

“We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose,  and turns everything to their good. ”  Romans 8:28, New Jerusalem Bible

In one of her Starbridge novels, Susan Howatch uses the phrase “God intermingles everything for good” and compares intermingling to sunlight and shade.  Sometimes we can have too much shade, or sunlight.   We need one to appreciate the other.   If I pay attention I see this intermingling in many places.   When I was diagnosed with cancer, my despair was intermingled with hope for successful treatment.   Everything changed, but everything was not gloom and darkness.

Each week in the hospital’s infusion room I meet people of faith and hope.  People from all around the Mahoning Valley, some who’ve lived here all their lives, others who came here from Puerto Rico, Palestine, the British Isles  (me), all of us fighting cancer, all, it seems, people of hope, of faith.  We offer each other hope, encouragement and prayers.  We don’t ask what faith we claim, we trust in God to hear and answer our prayers.  There are times of discouragement but also times of rejoicing–when a course of treatment is completed.  The nurses are beacons of light and hope, explaining procedures,  reassuring us through their skills and compassion.

The Chaplain reminds us of God’s presence and love even here.  A high school student, a recent immigrant from Nepal, is a breath of youthful fresh air.  She practices her English on us, and we exchange information about Nepali, American and British customs.  Everyone congratulates her when she passes her driving test,  and offers encouragement as she prepares for the ACT.

The infusion room is a microcosm of the world, and when I pay attention I see God’s intermingling of all things for good–the secret is to pay attention!