Need a good reason to hope in the local church – “that human solid place to be active in love”? The following is a guest post from an ardent young woman named Lizzie Apple. (Yes, I think she has the best name in the world, too.) Lizzie is an eighteen-year-old southerner headed off to college who loves reading, writing, playing tennis, and watching British period dramas. She works part-time in a fly fishing store.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
We have heard it said that active love is a harsh and fearful thing, compared with the love in dreams. Love in dreams wants easy things, wants a soft reaching eagerness, and, above all, wants to be watched. This kind of love we all carry.
But there is different love, and love to labor for. Uncomfortable love, love to be borrowed from. Love for the people in each of our corners of the universe not transcended by idea or by the dream to be kind. Love for the human places raking broken past us. Conscious, opened love. Broad, endless person stuffed of all pain and all good. Compassion for the crooked suffering broken things. Compassion in the ragged relationship between unlocked souls, compassion after the misdeeds, and compassion keeping with even our closest guilt.
I want this love, want it not for my good, but despite all fault. I want to be known from that secret, fragile core of me. And with it then, I want to know the world strung out around. I want questions, I want reality, I want God – and I do not want comfort. I want the voice of my own soul, its ghosts and blushes, all the fumbling spirit and kneeled down prayers. I want to cross that threshold like salt: weary, wind-roasted, whole to taste. I want to labor into loving the hard things and people around.
Carried through these lives we are a thousand faces in transit. And each one comes to us offering a chance at the vast consciousness of understanding. My hope for this day is to find good love.
To be vigilant with it.
To see the present beauty and to hold what has been given.
To love in action and to turn from spite.
Especially when that anger wants us.
Especially when we are tired and the roots are dry.
Especially when God feels far and the soul grows deep and crooked.
The word is if, the word is “For if you love…” This is the choice, the going onward and outward in conscious love not only for humanity but for the humans in each of our corners. For the tiresome friends and those begging time from us. For the ones who are hard to love. Slow-speaking, gum-smacking, pen-clicking, human, real, surrounding instruments of holy inherent good.
And so God offers a new world, saying FOR IF YOU LOVE! For if you love, such self-altering things will come.
And this is a promise.
We are here, here a human solid place to be active in love. A place I have been actively loved. And for that I am thankful. And from that we are grown of an early consciousness – steady, muddy, endless wading in our knowledge, wrestling all the night with God.
And from that we are alive to love.
This post was first preached as a sermon on Youth Sunday at Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis, TN.