On Love

By Josef Walker
Religious Communities Coordinator, Harmony   

Susan and I had been babysitting our great nieces all day and by late Saturday afternoon I needed a breather. So, I retreated to the “bench,” in this case, the old rocking chair. But Bailey, who is almost four, had energy to spare as she raced around the living room, playing and chattering at light speed. Eventually, Bailey ran over to where I was sitting and scrambled up in my lap. She gave me a big hug, said, “I love you,” laid her head on my chest, and promptly went to sleep. A soft, warm glow washed over my spirit and illumined this familiar domestic scene. Savoring the sacred moment, I wrapped Bailey in my arms, rocked gently, and whispered, “I love you, too.” In the gathering dusk, I smiled as I wondered what a 3-year-old might mean when they say “I love you” and what I intended by my response.

I believe, as do many other religious people, that our ability to love is a gift from God. Many people (religious or not) would affirm that our capacity for love is infinite and that as we mature we can explore ever deeper meanings for the emotions and commitments we (sometimes too casually) lump together in the word “love”. Reflecting on that Saturday afternoon exchange with a sleepy Bailey, I know that every time that experience comes to mind the emotion of love for her wells up afresh in my heart. I can also say that love causes me to be more attentive to my desire to try and provide for her safety and well-being in immediate (home, school) and global settings. Those feelings, then, motivate specific actions to achieve the goal of her safety and well-being.

Now, that preceding paragraph may sound pretty academic and I recognize that because of my pastoral training I am perhaps more accustomed to (or, maybe, comfortable is the word) analyzing love than some folks might be. Still, I find it interesting how many people are reluctant to think about love and the possible depth of its meaning in their relationships. It is as if they worry that clarifying or defining love will devalue the emotions or commitments they seek to express. My experience is just the opposite; to reflect on how we love enriches the expression and the relationship.

Knowing some people’s discomfort with talking about love, I was especially delighted when Harmony was chosen to be the local contact for the national “Mystery of Love Project.” The Project invites people in existing groups (churches, organizations, neighborhoods) or new settings to come together informally to talk about what we mean when we say love and to deepen friendships or make new acquaintances in the process. I get to go out to gatherings and explain how easy the process is and deliver free materials to use in discussions. For instance, there’s a video with short interviews about love as expressed in families and neighborhoods; even combat and the animal kingdom. Some of the vignettes are tender stories of romantic love or faithful friends; others introduce us to loves that overwhelm the desire for revenge or survive long separation or illness. Questions in reflection booklets help guide the conversations and there are additional resources for teachers on the national site http://www.themysteryoflove.org/.

Earlier I shared my experience that reflecting on my love for Bailey helped me identify how I can express my love in tangible ways and then follow through on those action steps. I am convinced that as we all learn about love and talk about love we can better support one another in realizing our potential for love. And that is important because more fully living out our potential for love will create a world that is safer and healthier for Bailey and for all the little ones we love.


1 Comment »

  1. Janelle Lazzo said

    Joe. What a beautiful commentary on love! Thanks for having such lovely thoughts, and especially for sharing them.

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