Loving the world into wholeness

This box is not empty.
There is love left in here... For you... For you...
You might even be able to pick some up and .... Surreptitiously...when no one is looking... Pass on some love of your own.

I spent all of last week in a beautiful place - Monterrey California. I was there with 400 American ministers. Monterrey is not just beautiful. It is stunningly beautiful. I'm not a big nature person. In fact, I have a strong tendency to worry about the bugs and the cold and the heat and the sun and the prickly plants. 

But I walked out of my room one morning and I realized that the world was alive - glowing with beauty. The air was crisp. The sky was clear. There was a delicious scent of wood smoke in the air. I began walking toward breakfast when I thought I noticed movement to my left. I turned quickly to see a deer - Perhaps 3 meters from me. I was stunned silent, expecting the delicate creature to bolt as soon as it noticed me. It didn't. 

I moved. It kept about it's business. Odd, I thought. So I dared to make a sound. I actually said "hi deer." yeah, I know how dumb that sounds. Not only did the deer not spook, but a second deer joined in to feast on whatever delectable plant the first one had found.

I felt... Filled, Inflated
I felt light
And I felt as though a stream of love was flowing from me toward these creatures

Well, enough of that stuff, really. So, I bid farewell to my deer friends and walked off toward breakfast. It wasn't over yet though. Now, it was a small red squirrel heading my way - right in my path. Remember my orientation to nature, right? I thought rabies! I though months of painful injections or even a horrible death frothing at the mouth. But no, he did not seem hostile. He stopped just a bit more than a metre away and just looked at me. And he raised one of his front paws. I really hope no one else was around to see or hear this. I said "what?" “what's this about?”

I half expected him to speak like the frog from that old fairy tale. You remember... A princess - me - is in the woods and loses her golden ball but a talking frog promises to get it for her if she will promise in return to take him home with her. Well, she's completely disgusted by the warty old slimy thing, but she really wants that gold ball, so she agrees. No - not just a kiss. In fact, she has to let the frog sit by her side, eat off her plate and even sleep on her pillow in her bed. After three days of this, she wakes up to find the frog gone and a handsome prince standing there. 

The hideous, unlovable frog had turned into a very loveable prince. Phew. What a relief for the princess who had been stuck in bed with a slimy amphibian who undoubtedly snored. Was he even housetrained? Whatever you do, don’t tell the original version of this creepy story to the kids! Anyhow... She fell in love with the handsome prince formerly know as frog and blah blah blah Happily ever after and all that. 

but the squirrel was neither fierce and rabid, nor did it have any story to tell or deal to make. The little creature just scampered off. But it didn't take a magical transformation to let me know that something was different. Something was up with me and the squirrel that morning.

Just as the frog had changed into something loveable, the squirrel - the whole of the world around me - had also become loveable.

And I think wow. Too bad the world doesn't do that more often.

Some beauty is clearly hidden in the world and it ought to appear more often so I can love it - so we can all love it.

You know what Michelangelo said about sculpting? "In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

What a lucky guy that Michelangelo that - like the deer and the frog prince - this hidden beauty just made itself visible.

Well, of course it wasn't luck for Michelangelo. It was how he was prepared to see. And it wasn't the world changing that made me suddenly love the natural world around me that morning - something had shifted in me. 

But this is the way we often look at love - it is our response to the proper stimulus. We don't play a role in that - we react: frog-revulsion. Handsome prince-love.

In his book "the art of loving" Erich Fromme tells us

"most people believe that love is constituted by the object, not by the faculty... one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object - and that everything goes by itself afterward. “

And Fromme likens this attitude to the person who wants to be a painter and says he will be a painter when the right subject comes along - rather than engaging in the study and practice need to develop that skill.

Love is not a response we have when the right object comes along or shows up in our beds where a hideous frog had been. Love is something we do - something we work at - something we practice.

Love is Michelangelo's sight that detects the beauty within the marble. Love is what I managed to do that lovely morning that allowed me to see what had been there all along.

But that is not all. Love is also the chisel in the master's hand and love is taking a hideous frog to bed for three nights and treating it as if you saw the prince.

Not one of us is a perfect as the handsome prince (or as rich). And not one of us has been freed of all the dross and excess stone as Michelangelo’s great masterpiece, the David. 

On the contrary, we have lots of excess material - and I don't mean the few extra pounds we might like to shed. We have been hurt and we have covered ourselves in stony scar tissue. We have been afraid, and we have covered ourselves with the stiff armour we think will protect us. We have been cruel and we cover ourselves with the rigid barrier of guilt. We feel we are inadequate and our shame builds a rocky shell around us… blocking off the beauty from sight.

Love is the chisel. Looking at a crude block of marble, love looks beneath the amorphous rough surface to see something gleaming within. And love begins to tap and chip away, gently and tenderly as that hidden essence becomes increasingly apparent. It is not love to adore the prince or the David or the perfect pair of deer. Love is action - faithful and trusting and generous.

We come together here because we believe in goodness. We believe that however hidden there is goodness in others and - sometimes even harder to believe - there is goodness in ourselves. And we err if we sit back and wait for love to show up. 

Love is what we do - what we must do - how we live our beliefs.

This box is not empty. It is filled - not by waiting for the right object of our love to come along - but by the faithful action that makes the loveable apparent. 

May it be so.