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  • Writer's pictureSt. Luke's

What Does Love Look Like Here?

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

Jack Bevilacqua

1 Corinthians 13, the LOVE chapter, almost became like a beautiful stitchery hanging on my wall, which I never notice or read anymore. The certainty of Paul’s what love is and isn’t; patient, kind, not proud or boastful, etc. left me with so many shoulds that I felt unable to live up to it all. You should just be ALL of this, Jack. Please Paul ~ don’t “should” on me!

Years ago, Rilke opened a new light-filled window for me, when he gave me, (a young poet), advice: “Live with the questions instead of the answers,” because, he cautioned, “you won’t be able to live the answers, but you can live in the questions, perhaps you will then, gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

So, out of 1 Corinthians 13, comes this question that I carry with me ~ hoping to one day live into an answer.

What does love look like here?

in this situation…?

in this place….?

with this person?

This question makes so much sense to me when I imagine Jesus living up to all Paul’s description of love. And then I read how Jesus lived. Things get real complicated, real fast. Paul says, “love is patient.” Jesus tells his upset disciples, “Let the little children come unto me ~ they make up the Kingdom.” Love is patient. Jesus makes a whip in the temple and turns over the table and drives out the moneychangers. And in another patient moment, Jesus does some creative name-calling; “you white-washed tombs full of dead men’s bones!” Love is patient and kind.

Christians used to be fond of saying: just ask yourself “What would Jesus do?” as a formula for knowing what love is. I end up asking: “Why doesn’t Jesus DO something!”

Or “how would I know what Jesus would do?” Which puts me in league with the disciples who were constantly saying things like: “don’t you know Lord? don’t you care, Lord? If you had been here, Lord…this wouldn’t have happened! Now, are we going to throw our enemies out, Lord?” And in response to what Jesus said and did; their most common complaint: “WHAAAAT??”

What does Love look like here?

To be the recipient of Love ~ being loved ~ has helped me learn more about my question.

When I was in high school, dyslexia was not a term that was known or used. “Stupid” is the diagnostic term that was used to describe my learning disability! Being dyslexic resulted in lots of abuse and name-calling and so I developed strategies to protect myself from being “found out.” I couldn’t spell or write. I wouldn’t turn in my work, I couldn’t write on the blackboard. (Remember blackboards?) I clowned around in class. I found out I could make people laugh. And got kept after school regularly. Which taught me to build up a healthy distrust of authority figures and grow in my defensiveness and anger.

There is a Buddhist saying that I think Jesus loves: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

One day Miss Francis, my English teacher, ask me to stay after class. I thought for the usual lecture! Instead, she told me, she had read a book that she thought I would understand more than most people. She wondered if I would be willing to read it and give her some insights into what I thought about it. I was quite flattered and said SURE!

She then produced it out of her desk drawer and handed it to me. It was called “Flowers for Algernon.” I read it into the night and finished it. The next day I told Miss Francis I was done. She looked surprised but made a time for me to meet her. When we met, she listened to my thoughts and ideas. (I had so many!) She asked me some questions, listened to my responses and then she thanked me for broadening her appreciation for the book.

I didn’t ask her what she thought about the book. It only occurred to me to ask her that 50 years later!

A couple of days later, Ms. Francis was walking the aisles of our classroom, passing back graded papers with her remarks. To my surprise she set one on my desk, (though I hadn’t turned one in!) It said “Flowers for Algernon” at the top. And it contained the questions she had asked me ~ along with a synopsis of the answers I had poured out of my soul to her. It was graded: “A” and she had written “Incredible comprehension, Good Job!”

The rest of that year “Saint” Francis handed me things to read, listened to my responses and ultimately gave me an “A” at the end of the term. The only “A” I’d ever received!

Receiving love like that is helping me answer my question; “What does love look like here?” Giving love, offering love, is providing everything I need to stay engaged with my question.

You see when I breathe out my question in prayer, I hear the Spirit’s response-offering me not an answer but an invitation. “C’mon let’s find out…together.” And so the invitations continue. My question has to be confronted with real life experience. And that’s what’s happened!

My daughter moves to Siberia with her boyfriend and gets away from my controlling grasp. I’m being invited to find out….

My friend Gail asks me to accompany her to an abortion clinic, when she finds out she is pregnant. I’m being invited….

Our friend invites us to her all-Lesbian Birthday party…we are the only “straights” there! I’m being invited to find out what love looks like here.

My friend Ron invites me to a agree with his perspective on Black Lives Matter and the conspiracy theories he believes in. Again, I’m being invited….

I’m invited to ponder my response when a young couple who own a bakery in Gresham, welcomes LGBT folks to their bakery but are not willing to go against their beliefs and make a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding ~ they are threatened, screamed at and sued. Another invitation….

I am invited to officiate a same-sex wedding ceremony against the doctrine of the organization I work for. I am being invited….

My grandkids, with partners they are not married to, coming to stay overnight (under my roof.) I am being invited to find out….what love looks like here….

These invitations have opened up new and surprising responses in me. They are helping me to recover my joy, wonder, amazement and faith, (I am in recovery). These invitations have brought relief in knowing I’m not being asked to agree or disagree, but to be present to listen and to understand what LOVE might look like here.

My question allows me to live with what life IS…not what I thought it would be, hoped it would be or what I thought I could make it be.

I will continue to ask my question because as St. Paul said: “the greatest of these is LOVE.”

So ends my reflection on 1 Corinthians 13. I’d love to hear what your reflection might be.

Musical reflection:

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