“Why do you love me?”
A few months back I blogged about asking someone close to me this question. It probably didn’t take much detective work to figure out that that person was my now ex-wife. I asked her this at the absolute worst possible time. It was the worst because at the time she wasn’t in the space to give much of an answer and I was in a space when I really needed an answer. It was bad. Later I thought it was an unfair question. But now, now I feel like it is a question worth exploring.
When we think about the “why” of love, we tend to come up with lists of merits we love in a person or thing; beauty, intelligence, humor, strength, character. We may also think of what a person/thing does for us. “You make me feel beautiful”. “You make me feel safe”. “You make me feel important”. I guess where I’m struggling with these things, virtuous as they may seem on the surface, is that they are, at their core, transactional. You give me your beauty, I give you love. I give you my security, you give me love. You give me sex… you see where I’m going…
Can love be something other than a transaction? Maybe not. Human interactions on built on a certain give and take. But is there a “pure” love out there? Maybe. Stick with me for a little bit and I promise I’ll get to something kinda Christmasey.
I have one moment in my mind that sticks out for me as a moment of pure love. I remember the moment I first laid eyes on my son. I loved him instantly and I was overwhelmed. I had never felt anything like that before. I honestly didn’t know I was capable of feeling that. I’ve described it before as finding a new section of my heart that suddenly sprung into action. There was no transaction here. He couldn’t do anything for me, but I loved him. With every fiber of my self I loved him. And he would continue to do nothing for me. He was an awful sleeper. I’ve never known sleep deprivation like that, even after years of insomnia. He was expensive as all hell. And the constant diaper changes. He peed on me a lot at the beginning! But I loved him. Not a transaction, right?
Not so fast! He was giving me plenty! He made me into a father. He gave me fresh purpose. And he was beautiful. SO beautiful! His every face and gesture was a gift. Maybe I only loved him for what he was doing for me. Maybe…
But I don’t think so. When I looked into my son’s face then, and when I look into his and his sister’s faces now, I see something in them. I see me. Not me as I am now. I see the best of me. I see me untainted. I see without blemish. Without history. Without pride. Without ego. Without all of the trappings. I see me unfiltered. I see the parts of me that I love, what parts there are. I see in him the thing that I cannot see in myself. I see the face of God.
“May you see Christ see in all you meet, and may all you meet see Christ in you”
The incarnation is an amazing gift. In it, God comes to us in humanity unsullied. We recognize the Divine spark in babies because no parts of the ego get in the way of recognizing the image of God within them. We lose that so quickly. And here is where I see the real importance of who Jesus is. It is not that God comes into the world to show us how far away we are from being God. It is that God comes into the world to help us to see the Divine in each other.
We see God in this baby, and well we should, but this baby will grow into a man who sees the Divine in all. He sees the image of God in the blind man. He sees the image of God in the bleeding woman, he sees the image of God in the adulteress. He sees the image of God in those who crucify him. He even sees the image of God in the Pharisee and tells them to drop the facade that finds worth in the stuff of life to be greater than the worth of the human. We see God in the baby. The baby sees God in us.
What makes Jesus and Buddha and maybe Ghandi and Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King Jr. different was their willingness to see that of God in each person, even the least desirable among us. Yes, we see God in the baby, but do we see God in the centurion? Do we see God in the leper? Do we see God in the tax collector? Do we see God in the transgendered? Do we see God in the racist? Do we see God in the rioter? Do we see God in the police officer? Do we see God in the rapist? Do we see God in the raped? Can we see something wholly lovely and loveable in the least lovely and loveable? Can we see God in the obnoxious customer?
Can we see God in ourselves?
This is my struggle. I can see God in all of the above, but the God in me… well, I know me. I am fully aware of all of the things that I do to mar the image of God on myself. The best I can come up with is a fun house mirror image of God when I think of myself. And I believe this is where many of our problems lie. Because we cannot see the image of God, that which gives us infinite worth, in ourselves, we use other things and other people to give ourselves worth or to devalue others. This is where all manner of sin manifests. So how do we regain that confidence that we are infinitely loved and lovable so that we might find the loveable in the other?
My therapist has been talking to me about loving the child in myself. Maybe you think the adult you deserves what he gets, but do you believe the same about the child you? It’s hard to think of the young version of me and to believe that he deserved any of the abuse or neglect that he endured. I can love the Divine spark in him. I can begin to love the child version of me in the same way that I loved baby Thomas. Hell, we even look alike.
It’s easy to love God as a disembodied abstract. It’s easy to love God as a baby. It’s easy to love God as a miraculous provider of goods and services. Our worship becomes yet another series of transactions. But can we love the God that rabble rouses? Can we love the God that tells us to give up comfort and convenience? Can we love the God who tells us to detach from our shit and our titles? Can we love God when She’s hungry? Can we love God post op of Her abortion? Can we love God when He and his protesting friends shut down our mall? Can we love God when He’s late on His child support? Can we love God when he is hollering death to our country? Can we love God in the seemingly endless expression that God finds through humanity?
Can we love God when God’s reflection is looking back at us in the mirror?
“May you see the face of Christ in all you meet, and may all you meet, see the face of Christ in you.”