How powerful is love?
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7).
|I'm just strong!|
I know it’s true, because when my youngest nephew (4 years old) whom I love to absolute bits, broke my favourite necklace and said, “I’m just strong” I felt a pang of “darn it, why did you do that” but was more concerned that he felt bad about it, and gave him a hug, cautioning him to be more careful of other people’s stuff. A total stranger walked off with my pen, and I had invisible plumes of temper.
As a friend recently told me, “the power of love raises the mundane to the level of sublime because through love we see God's hand in everything we do”. I see this in action in two ways: when I undertake a task I’m not entirely overjoyed about and do it with reluctance or resentment, it remains a loathsome chore. However, if I perform the duty with love, the task is lighter, more pleasant.
Another way love raises the mundane to the sublime is in how we perceive people, from their personality and presence, to their appearance. An example of this came immediately to mind when I first started writing this article. I really (really) enjoy the Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers. Through the course of the series, Lord Peter Wimsey falls in love with Harriet Vane, and had to wait over five years for her to finally accept his proposals. Busman’s Honeymoon is the first story of the two as a married couple, immediately following their wedding. In a quiet moment, Lord Peter finds himself observing his hard-won wife, puzzling over the effect she has on him. He’d been quite a connoisseur of beautiful women, and while Harriet was strong of character, beauty is not the first characteristic people would apply to her. Here is an excerpt of his thoughts:
“He forced himself to examine his wife with detachment. Her face had character, but no one would ever think of calling it beautiful, and he had always – carelessly and condescendingly – demanded beauty as a prerequisite. She was long-limbed and sturdily made, with a kind of loosely-knit freedom of movement that might, with a more controlled assurance, grow into grace; yet he could have named – and if he had chosen might have had - a score of women far lovelier in form and motion. Her speaking voice was deep and attractive; yet, after all, he had once owned the finest lyrica soprano in Europe. Otherwise, what? – A skin like pale honey and a mind of a curious, tough quality that stimulated his own. Yet no woman had ever so stirred his blood; she had only to look or speak to make the very bones shake in his body. (Busman’s honeymoon, Dorothy L. Sayers) Elsewhere it is written his heart didn’t see the flaws his eyes observed.
Love is powerful enough to transform.
Peter Paul Rubens, in the portrait of his family titled, Rubens, his wife Helena Fourment, and one of their children, tried to make the nose of his beloved perfect. “From all accounts he loved her very much and considered her the embodiment of beauty and maternal goodness” The repeated attempts at capturing the perfection he saw in his wife are evident in the thick layers of paint and the slightly skewed result. By comparison, a portrait of Helena’s sister shows no such indecision, dissatisfaction, or hesitation. “The brushwork is marvellously smooth and easy looking.” Rubens’ talent was up to the task of representing Susanna in paint with the ease and confidence he lacked while painting his wife. (Quoted from: Raschka, Chris Jul/Aug 2012, ‘CaldecottMedal Acceptance by Chris Raschka’, The Horn Book)
Love makes us vehicles of grace.
The same friend also said, “The power of love dispels prejudice and increases our capacity to see misery in others. It is contrary to pity and makes us vehicles for God's grace... in a practical way we are extending God's mercy by seeking to alleviate suffering in those around us.” To look with love is to see the heart of another, and that is where their suffering resides. Love makes us sympathetic to their pain, and opens in us a desire, a willingness to reach out and lessen their burdens. As Thomas Aquinas puts it, when we think of love we think of charity; when we think of charity we think of the virtues involved and a main virtue attached to charity is mercy. Mercy is said to be a virtue influencing one's will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another's misfortune.
“Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” (1 Jn 4:16)
Love is perfect when it follows Jesus in His suffering, when it dies to self. When I am able to set myself aside, and trust that Someone Else is looking after me, I am able to serve others; I don’t dwell on their (perceived) flaws, but instead see them with compassion and patience.
Women safeguard the heart of the home, the soul of society. If we can look with love on those we meet each day, the world will be transformed.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 13:4-7